Blue Whales: How to See the Biggest Mammal on Earth in Baja California Sur
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to see a Blue Whale’s blow in the distance and marvelling about being next to the biggest animal on Earth? Mexico is one of the best destinations in the world to spot this magnificent animal right next to the coast in Loreto, Baja California Sur. In this post I will share tips on the best season to visit and the best way to do it!
Blue whales are the largest animals that have ever roamed the planet, isn’t that unbelievable? It has been a crucial species for ocean conservation for years and the interest and love for them keeps growing across the world. You can spot the biggest mammal on earth in the coast of Baja California Sur during the winter and it definitely is a once in a lifetime experience that you should do someday!
Blue whales are found across all oceans except on those in the Arctic. They are seasonal migratory animals during the summer and winter months for feeding and breeding.
Every year from January to April, Loreto’s National Marine Park in Baja California Mexico, becomes the temporary home to the largest mammals on the planet and the biggest animals that have ever existed: the Blue Whales. They pass through the protected marine park because of its nutrient-rich waters where they are able to feed after they have spent the summers feeding near the rich arctic waters. But once temperatures start getting colder and the and sea ice returns, the blue whales head to regions in the south such as Baja California Sur where the warmer waters are more suitable for mating and for raising their young.
Extensive research and conservation programs are held throughout the season and as a visitor, you can go to the marine park and look out for them with a local panga’s (a small fishing boat) that has the permits for going out for whale watching.
After talking with diverse tour operators we finally decided on taking the Blue Whale tour with Sea and Land Loreto during a Friday early morning in the beginning of February. We woke up early after a bad night sleep (our inflatable mattress exploding, dogs barking all night and finally sleeping in the car) but we were so excited about the adventure that we did not even care. We got some breakfast to go in a small cafe on the way and drove 25 minutes to the Marina of the nearby town of Puerto Escondido where our Blue Whale adventure started.
We met with other 7 travellers, and with Elena our guide and Fabio our captain we left the marina and started our adventure out in the ocean. Just after a few minutes riding, we got notified that there was a humpback whale where we were heading and it got us extremely excited! After a few moments of trying to spot it, we had no luck and continued on our way. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t seen the humpback, by just knowing how fast we were almost able to spot a whale, we knew why they called it the Aquarium of the World. And now it was time to start our search for the biggest animal on earth!
Like many whales, Blue Whales were almost hunted to extinction, but today, diverse laws and conservation projects protect them, given them and also us a bright future for years to come. Our tour guide, Elena, explained to us many facts about the blue whales that completely amazed me:
- They can live up to 90 years, so their life span is very similar to us humans.
- They reproduce every two or three years and carry their young for twelve months before giving birth.
- A baby blue whale can drink up to 250 liters of milk every day.
- They feed mostly on krill and can eat as many as 40 million a day.
- The heart of a blue whale can weigh 450kg and its the size of a car! This just simply blows my mind.
- They are still considered an endangered species with an estimated worldwide population of 10,000 – 25,000.
- Their tongues can weigh as much as an elephant. Another crazy fact about this awesome animals.
- The blow of a blue whale can be up to 10m high!
And that is exactly how we spotted our first blue whale in the distance! It was a beautiful sight, in between the bay’s small waves we saw a blow of water high up and knew immediately it was a blue whale, and when it was confirmed by our guide and captain we headed there with the panga on full speed to catch up. In a matter of minutes we saw it coming up for the first time. When it started coming up, you could see it was huge— the water turned into a light blue colour, hence their name ‘blue whale’, but the crazy thing is that the part that you can actually see come up accounts for only 10% of their whole body, which is insane! It would continue breathing for a few minutes and then dive down again, but not before it showed us its magical tail with the ocean and the mountains as a backdrop. A truly magical experience, I even cried…I could not believe I was actually there witnessing this unique moment that I’m sure will stay forever in my heart. Our planet amazes me everyday.
We spent around one hour with this whale with a few other boats near us, one of them a research vessel. Elena explained to us how their research has help blue and other whales be protected fully in this marine park and how there are many strict guidelines on tour operators that offer this services: you need to have an approved boat that has a licence to offer blue whale tours that is renewed each year if complying with the regulations which include staying at least 100 metres from the whale, turning off your boat when close to one as well as not chasing them aggressively.
This blue whale came really close to the boat and we were so surprised when we heard the blow just right next to us! You get surprised because they actually dive for between 7 and 10 minutes and then come out of nowhere to the surface and suddenly blow very loudly that you can hear them very clearly especially when it is quite close.
So after spending some time watching this beautiful creature we were off to look for another one. On our way, we saw many of the nearby islands, some of which you can visit for the day and others only with a special permit. We also came across a couple pod of dolphins and a sea lion! We then spotted our next whale in the distance and got to it a few minutes before it came up again. It is unbelievable to grasp the size of this creatures, I cannot even image how it would feel to be able to see them entirely! It continued coming up every few minutes, but unfortunately this one did not want to show its tail at all. It was still captivating though!
A blue whale is easily recognizable as it has a long body, a pattern of dots on their backs and a light gray or pale underbelly. Their heads are quite long and have a distinctive U-shape which can reach up to account 25% of their total body length! They are called Blue Whales because their colour appears light blue under water during the day, especially when being closer to the surface.
These majestic animals can grow up to around 30 meters long– that’s the size of two regular yellow school buses, which is an impressive size! Even their calves measure around 7 meters in length and they can weight the same as an elephant!
We all felt so amazed by what we were experiencing. And kept getting shocked with the facts Elena kept telling us— she said that in 2021, they spotted over 80 whales inside the bay during the season, which is just incredible! We were so lucky to see two of them in a short span of only two hours.
Our ride back was spent in awe of what we had witnessed, I definitely needed some time to process this experience that had been on my bucket list for years. I kept thinking about how we have the most wonderful planet full of incredible and majestic creatures, with such unique and diverse landscapes and sometimes we, as humans, do not realize and cherish that enough. It is important to have more contact with nature in order to build a more genuine and loving relationship with the natural world that surrounds us wherever we go— it is important for them but it also critical for us, as we completely depend on having a stable, thriving and resilient world as a whole.
This may be only one of those unique and magical experiences in the world where we can marvel at its wonders and I am convinced that the more we build conscious and willing connections with the natural world, the more we will have a better understanding on how we fit directly into it and how important it is to us. So go out there, explore the world wherever you are! And if you can, plan your trip to Loreto to experience this extraordinary feeling of seeing the biggest animal on earth.
Tips for Planning your Blue Whale Tour in Loreto
I highly recommend booking a tour with Sea and Land Tours Loreto as they have the necessary permits for whale watching, as they have the required permits that you need to go out and look for blue whales, their operators are very knowledgeable and will explain to you all you need to know about this amazing animals, as well as having a big respect for the ocean. We saw two blue whales during our trip as well as a mother and a calf mink whales! It was a truly magical experience.
- Tickets costs 2,000pesos/$100USD per person with them.
- Remember to book in advance and stay at least 2-3 days in Loreto in case the weather does not allow boats on the ocean, you still have other days to be able to make the tour.
- You can either join the Sea and Land Tours van that takes you directly to the Puerto Escondido Marina or arrive at the marina on your own. (Keep in mind that taking the van has an extra cost)
- Remember to be there on time, as the van and boat depart at the marked time stated on your tour.
- The boat sails off from Puerto Escondido Marina, roughly 25 minutes distance from Loreto.
- Eat something before heading to Puerto Escondido Marina, as they will give you some light lunch at the boat but only after a couple of hours.
- Bring a warm waterproof coat. The wind during this time of the year can be very cold, especially when being on a moving boat.
- Bring your camera and make sure it is charged for the whole trip!