california grey whale
Eschrichtius robustus | Observed: January - April
California grey whales, along with humpback whales, are characterized for being the most social species of baleen whales. One of the longest migrations of any animal, these whales travel 10,000 to 12,000 miles (16,000 to 19,000 km), from Alaska to a few specific lagoons in southern Baja California, Mexico, for the main purpose of females giving birth to their calves, nurturing them in shallow protected waters. There are also male grey whales in these lagoons attempting to mate with females who have just given birth. These lagoons are the only locations on earth where you can have up close and extremely personal encounters with these whales. These gentle giants are the ones initiating the contact and dictate the action. There is no doubt they seek out the attention from us humans. Mother grey whales will often nudge their calves towards the boats, sometimes going under their young and lifting them up to be touched. Generally these whales begin arriving in early January and can often be observed until mid April. Early February is when the population in the lagoons are at their highest count, record numbers have been over 2,000 whales at Ojo de Liebre Lagoon in Guerrero Negro. It's not uncommon to have counts of 1,000 whales or higher during this time.
Grey whales can attain a maximum length of 50 ft. (15 meters) and weigh up to 80,000 lbs. (40 tons). They are distinguished by grey patches and white mottling on dark skin. Grey whales lack a dorsal fin but bear 6 - 12 dorsal “knuckles” leading to their fluke (tail). They are opportunistic filter feeders feasting on an array of amphipods, crab larvae, krill and shrimp.