MULEGE, Mexico – The Mexican coast of the Pacific Ocean received on Friday the first whales of their migratory season, during which these cetaceans swim some 18,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) from the frigid Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska.
In the five whale sanctuaries of the northwest Mexican state of Baja California Sur, it is now possible to sight some of the 3,000 whales that each year come to spend the winter and reproduce following the most massive migration of mammals in the world.
The high salt content in the sanctuary waters allows these marine mammals to float without effort, which helps the newborn whales learn to swim very easily.
During the whales’ five months stay on the Mexican coast, around 70,000 visitors from around the world come for the whale-watching season, which provides a significant economic boost for the region.
The visitors are traditionally Mexicans and Americans, though in recent years the number of European tourists has notably increased, attracted by the immense size of these cetaceans, tourist guide Antonio Choy told EFE.
“When people come up against these creatures the size of a bus, many tell me it changes their life because it’s a contact between the terrestrial world and the submarine world,” he said.
The visitors, dressed in life jackets, take a motorboat that holds six people for a ride on the high seas, where they can watch and even touch the giant whales.
“Our first experience was five years ago, when we saw a lot of whales and we also saw even bigger ones swimming at a distance, plus there were many pelicans,” German tourist Ken Fisher said, adding that he enjoyed the experience so much he decided to come back again this year.
Many tourists appreciate the fact that these tours are very careful to protect the natural state of the whales and other species in the gulf.
“It’s worthwhile coming because it’s so beautiful and so well cared for, so clean. They respect the animals and turn off the motors so the whales stay calm and don’t get scared or hurt themselves,” Mexican tourist Lennis Salcedo said.
Salcedo said he was surprised there are “whales of many colors,” some grayish and some more like blue, as well as dolphins that leap out of the water and all kinds of birds swooping over the boats.
The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is a species that dwells in the North Pacific and which, when fully grown, can reach a length of some 15 meters (50 feet) and weigh 20 tons.
The season extends from December to the first days of April and the price of a whale-watching tour can be as much as 800 Mexican pesos per person (a little more than $40).