FUN-travel: Baja Wilderness & Whale Adventure – Guerrero Negro to San Diego

March 21, 2015 by · Comments Off on FUN-travel: Baja Wilderness & Whale Adventure – Guerrero Negro to San Diego 

Our Last Day

  • We awoke at 7:15 to a good sign; the morning sky had patches of blue mixed with the clouds. That gave us a better chance of flying out early with no glitches. This morning Sophia had prepared scrambled eggs, refried beans, and cheese quesadillas.
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Our Motley Group

  • We got packed up and departed at 8:30 for the short drive to the airport. When we arrived I started shooting video of the airport and a soldier came over and wanted to take my camera from me. Apparently that was a “no-no.” My camera read that my card was full and I showed him and shrugged my shoulders. That was good enough and I sheepishly walked over to our plane. (As it turned out, when you view the video, it actually did film the vibrant painting on the hangar).
  • By 9:15 we were airborne and quickly got above the clouds. We moved our watches back and landed in San Felipe at 9:45 to gas up and clear customs. Once gain we had a relatively smooth flight and at 11:45 we safely touched down in San Diego. It was great to be home and six days felt just perfect for our getaway.

Trip Recap – Las Animas is located in one of the most remote, untouched, unspoiled 70 Baja California Adventure 2.15locations in all of Baja Mexico. To have your own private beach and hiking trails is rare these days. Not to mention how so much of Baja is overflowing with massive hotels that eat up every inch of land. Baja Airventures is the only provider of trips to both sides of the Baja peninsula in one trip.

  • That being said, this is a wilderness retreat, not a resort. That would be an oxymoron. Only two of the eight yurts have actual stucco walls with nice laminate flooring and ours was pretty soundproof. The others have plywood floors and a canvas cover with a domed skylight. We were told they were noisy when it is really windy. There is no running water and a shower consists of a 5 gallon bag, filled with heated water that you pump with your foot. There are no flush toilets. We did have a porcelain one, however, it was not working so we had to pour water into it to make it flush. The other yurts have dry composting toilets. The power comes from solar energy or the backup generator.
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Slice of Paradise

  • All in all, it was very comfortable and the food was very tasty. We love Mexican food and I am sure they would cook anything you asked them. Having wine as an option would have been nice.
  • As far as Guerrero Negro, you really need to go out in the lagoons more than once to get the full experience. If we were on our own we probably would not have done that, which would have been a shame. There are plenty of hotel options if you choose to do that.
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Pangas

  • In case you missed the news, the week after we returned, a Canadian woman was killed near Cabo San Lucas when a gray whale breached. And that seemed to validate why the lagoon is better than the open ocean for viewing.

Lessons Learned

Travel is VERY personal!

  • My Two Travel Motto’s:
  • – I want to be surprised and not PO’d
  • – It’s 5 o’clock somewhere and I want to be somewhere by 5 o’clock
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Regina Up Close & Personal

  • For Surprised – We knew we were going to see an abundance of gray whales but had no idea they came right up to the boats so you could pet them.
  • For 5 o’clock – I don’t want to have my entire day planned and filled from early morning until night. It’s just too much. And we had to option of doing any or all of the planned activities.

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  • Stuff happens – You have to go with the flow so “planned spontaneity” is key on trips like this.
  • Size matters – When it comes to rooms, cabins & beds. I now check on those prior to making reservations.
  • Over the top – We have been fortunate to have been able to travel as much as we have. Now we are only looking for trips that are “on steroids” and out of the norm. This definitely qualified!

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FUN-travel: Baja Wilderness & Whale Adventure – Guerrero Negro – Day 5 – PM Tour

March 20, 2015 by · Comments Off on FUN-travel: Baja Wilderness & Whale Adventure – Guerrero Negro – Day 5 – PM Tour 

Laguna Ojo de Leibre – Afternoon Excursion to Inner Lagoon

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  • The vans arrived at 1:00 for our afternoon tour, this time back to the inner lagoon. By now we had the drill down, rolled up our pants, walked out, and quickly got settled into our panga. Once again, we had a seasoned captain who drove us out for about thirty minutes and turned off the motor. And shortly thereafter two females appeared, swimming in unison. They seemed to keep their distance while surveying us.

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  • Then ever so quietly one reappeared and rose from the water on my side as if to say, “Hello, here I am, please pet me.” She was so graceful and elegant; she seemed to just flow through the water with ease. She circled and dove, disappearing for minutes at a time only to reappear again. Spray from her spout sent drops of water like rain over our entire boat.
  • At one point I could see her whole body stretched out just below the boat with her head 10 ft on the left and her tail 10’ on the right. I thought to myself, “Boy, if she comes up, I’m dead in the water.” But she was sweet and ever so gentle. Regal, majestic, and queen-like; it sounds bizarre to say this, but I felt a real connection with her.
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Regina del Mar

  • But then another panga showed up and tried to invade our space. They got so close it barely scraped the side. They were desperately trying to get her attention so they could pet her; she clearly didn’t like that and swam off. I was bummed, but on this third trip out I had had the best whale experience ever and was really happy for that.
  • Our captain was ready to move on thinking we had gotten all we were going to get. And then out of nowhere she surfaced again right next to our boat. She came back for more love! She kept diving and coming up on my side giving me the most pets. I named her Regina del Mar (Queen of the Sea) which only seemed fitting. I had found my favorite whale! I thanked her for that and said, “You are the reason I came on this trip.” I was grinning from ear to ear when we headed back. Regina had made my whale adventure truly magical and the best ever!
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Regina’s Blowhole

  • Happy hour was a nice cold Pacifico, with a toast to the captain and our cruise mates, on the outside deck before driving back. When we arrived at Casa Laguna, Sophia was busy cooking up our “last supper.” She had laid out a spread of more wonderful guacamole, chips, and salsa for starters. Not everyone from our group chose to do the final whale watching tour, so we sat around the table and shared our day’s adventures.
  • Our pilots were outside discussing the latest weather update, as a big storm was headed into San Diego, and their strategy to miss it. We poured a big glass of wine, and then went to freshen up, before sitting down to our dinner of chili rellenos, enchiladas, tamales, rice, and refried beans; topped off with another delectable dessert.
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My Favorite Captain

  • We all decided we were okay with “going with flow” and missing our final excursion in the outer lagoon the next morning to fly home early. The possibility of having to land in Calexico, and driving four hours to get back to San Diego, was pretty motivating to say the least.

FUN-facts – Mexico was the first nation in the world to create a gray whale sanctuary n 1972 in Laguna Ojo de Liebre, and later on in 1979 in Laguna de San Ignacio.

More FF – Laguna Ojo de Liebre is 9 km wide and 48 km long. The water in the inner lagoon is more salty and creates more buoyancy for the calves. Plus the small inlet provides protection against predators which it is why is has become one of the most favorites spots to birth.

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Tom, Channing, Ophelia, Melinda, Peter & Me

 

FUN-travel: Baja Wilderness & Whale Adventure – Guerrero Negro – Day 5 – AM Tour

March 20, 2015 by · Comments Off on FUN-travel: Baja Wilderness & Whale Adventure – Guerrero Negro – Day 5 – AM Tour 

Laguna Ojo de Leibre – Morning Excursion to Outer Lagoon

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  • The cloudless skies with endless bright sun escaped us this morning, as the marine layer was thick and dense when we awoke. And when we realized that it was 7:15 and not 6:15 (my phone never registered our location) we flew out of bed. We were scheduled to leave at 8:00 and fortunately Sophia was still preparing our breakfast of huevos rancheros and refried beans.
  • By 8:30 our van arrived and we were headed to the outer lagoon for our first boat tour of the day. On the way we had to stop to get wrist bands and were required to sit through a presentation about whales.

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  • It was a much shorter drive than yesterday and we had a dock today. By 9:30 we were motoring off. Sand dunes hugged the shoreline and rose higher and higher before abruptly dropping off to sea level as we ventured farther out into the vast lagoon. One lone sea lion on the shore provided a stark contrast.
  • Once again our boat captain used his gut and decided when to shut the motor off. We sat quietly and waited to see if any whales would appear close by. Every 10 to 15 seconds you could see spouts and whale’s spyhopping in every direction as far as the eye could see. It wasn’t long before we were treated to another mother and her inquisitive calf. They teased us for well over thirty minutes circling around and under our boat with the occasional popping up for a pet.

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  • By 11:30 we were headed back with a stop at the salt factory for a quick tour. Then it was a short drive to Casa Laguna. We were so ready to chow down on our lunch of “just caught” fresh fish tacos with hot homemade flour and corn tortillas. More sumptuous salsa too!

FUN-fact – When spyhopping, the whale rises and holds position partially out of the water. It is controlled and slow, and can last for minutes at a time if the whale is sufficiently inquisitive about whatever (or whomever) it is viewing.

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FUN-travel: Baja Wilderness & Whale Adventure – Guerrero Negro – Day 4

March 18, 2015 by · Comments Off on FUN-travel: Baja Wilderness & Whale Adventure – Guerrero Negro – Day 4 

Whale Watching on Steroids!

  • After another spectacular sunrise, we packed up, then savored our final meal here of mushroom cheese omelets and refried beans before embarking for our next big adventure. At 9:00 we boarded our boats and headed over to the Bahía de Los Ángeles airstrip for our flight to Guerrero Negro, located on the Pacific side. We made good time crossing the calm flat sea, so when we arrived in town we had time to explore. We walked over to the small museum that houses artifacts from the gold mining days. (Actually, yesterday those of us on the fishing boat had come here because Tom made a stop at the store)

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  • The local taxi van picked us up and by 10:30, after the federal soldiers checked our paperwork, we were airborne for our short one hour flight. Again we were lucky, as it was a nice, relatively smooth ride. We arrived at 12:30 (time change to MST) and after passing through security, which consisted of more armed federal soldiers checking bags on a folding table on the tarmac, were taken by van to see the gray whales in Laguna Ojo de Liebre (Scammon’s Lagoon).
  • They packed us a lunch, which we ate on the way, so we didn’t waste precious time of our afternoon boat tour. Where we boarded was approximately 18 miles from the town and the gravel road took us through the largest salt-making facility on the planet. It produces more than 7 million metric tons of salt each year. The salt here is not mined, but extracted from ocean water by evaporation.

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  • Laguna Ojo de Liebre actually consists of two lagoons – an inner and an outer – which are part of the Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve UNESCO World Heritage Site. We arrived at the inner lagoon shortly before 3:00 pm for our first gray whale experience.
  • After walking out in the shallow water to hop on our panga boat (the pier was damaged in the 2014 hurricane) we motored off to the middle of the massive lagoon to sit and wait for the whales to appear.

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FUN-fact – Twenty-foot panga boats await you each day to take you out among the whales, which are often just offshore. These Mexican fishing boats are about half the size of a full grown gray whale, and enable you to be at water level in order to have direct contact with the whales as they swim in these pristine waters.

  • Tom said, “You have to have good boat karma, and the whales will come.” And that they did! After a short wait, mom and her calf appeared. They dove and surfaced circling within 30 feet of our boat before venturing closer. It was apparent at that point they ready for us to pet them. For the next hour we sat in amazement as they splashed, sprayed, and played around us; returning repeatedly to every side of the boat for more pets.

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  • By 5:00, after an ice cold Pacifico, we were headed back to get settled in at the Casa Laguna B & B in downtown Guerrero Negro. We made one quick stop at the liquor store nearby to stock up on wine. We had all pretty much had our fill of margaritas at this point and they had a fairly decent selection.
  • We were greeted warmly by Sophia, who was preparing our dinner, and given our room assignments. Ours was at the very end with a king size bed and private bath. We were so ready for a real shower! Only one small glitch, the power was out and there was no hot water. So we uncorked our wine, gathered around the table, and feasted on fresh guacamole, chips, and salsa.

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  • Fortunately the stove was gas and they were busy cooking up more delights for us. We started with carrot soup, followed by more local fresh fish, rice, and a lovely dessert. By then the power had been restored and we retreated to our room for a nice hot shower.

FUN-facts – Gray whales measure from 16 ft in length for newborns to 43–49 ft for adults (females tend to be slightly larger than adult males). The gray whale has a dark slate-gray color and is covered by characteristic gray-white patterns, scars left by parasites which drop off in its cold feeding grounds.

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