Once known as “devil fish" for attacking skiffs used by whalers that hunted them, gray whales are now viewed as docile, sometimes attention-seeking creatures by those who have been up close during whale-watch trips to calving lagoons.
The three lagoons are in Baja California Sur, on the Pacific side of the peninsula: Ojo de Libre lagoon, near Guerrero Negro at the top of the state; San Ignacio Lagoon just to the south of Ojo de Libre; and Magdalena Bay, the southern-most calving lagoon near the bottom of the peninsula.
All calving grounds are a long drive (12 to 18 hours from San Diego) but can all be reached by vehicle within a few hours from the international airport in Loreto, which is a two hour flight from San Diego or Tijuana.
The grays’ migration will continue through the next few months until the calving for the year is done. From Shari Bondy of Whale Magic Tours, January 17: “According to the census, they counted 74 whales in Laguna Ojo de Liebre. 21 mothers with their calves and 32 solitary whales. In San Ignacio there are five whales. The migration seems to be a bit late this season, but more whales are coming into the lagoons every day.”
If going to the lagoons is out of reach, there are several options to see migrating grays from San Diego through winter and spring. As the whales tend to cruise the coastline for food, sightings from coast are common.
To learn about gray whale migration, attend Whale Fest at Birch Aquarium. The event is mostly tailored for youth, though there are family activities, including an opportunity to meet Scripps Oceanography scientists and join a special whale watching cruise.