Whale watching in Bahia Magdalena

Puerto Chale is a quiet town on the Pacific side of Baja, only 2 hours from La Paz. During the gray whale season, the town springs to life, offering daily boat trips to the bay in the hopes of getting an experience with the gentle giants.

Why do gray whales go to Baja?

Gray whales embark on an epic journey to spend the winter in Baja, marking one of the greatest mammal migrations on our planet. After spending the spring in their feeding grounds in the Arctic, gray whales make the move to warmer waters in Mexico in the winter for mating and birthing. 

Because of this predictable pattern, their journey wasn’t always as safe as it is now.

Commercial whaling and the devil fish

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, gray whales faced a grave threat from commercial whaling. Hunted mercilessly for their oil, their populations dwindled to near extinction. But these resilient creatures fought back. With their fierce reputation, they earned the nickname ‘Devil Fish,’ and they weren’t afraid to take down boats while defending themselves and their calves.

The beginning of conservation efforts

Thankfully, commercial whaling was banned in the 1940s, and gray whale populations began to recover. However, fishermen and locals maintained a deep-seated fear of the ‘Devil Fish,’ until gray whale behavior started to change in the 1970s. Much to the disdain of locals, the whales started approaching boats. What first started out as rubbing on the bottom of the boat led to full blown human-whale interactions. The whales would poke their heads out of the water next to the boats allowing, and seemingly encouraging, the fishermen to touch them.

Tourism in Bahia Magdalena

That was the end of the feud. Since then, a booming tourism industry exploded in Bahia Magdalena, providing financial support to the local communities. And here’s where conservation efforts come into play. Baja’s coastal communities recognize the importance of protecting these creatures and their habitats. Therefore, all of the boat operators follow the strict guidelines which limits the number of boats per whale, the maximum distance at which boats can approach, and appropriate client behaviors. 

For example, people are allowed to touch the gray whales IF they approach the boat on their own. People cannot get in the water with them to snorkel.

Should you touch a gray whale?

During my experience, no whale approached the boat, and honestly, I’m kind of glad. I don’t know how I feel about touching whales and I wasn’t interested in being tempted. I’m of the mindset and humans need to keep their hands to themselves when interacting with the ocean. What do you think?

Join me on upcoming Azul Unlimited dive expeditions

See what trips are coming up. I always give my community first dibs on spots, so you can sign up for Patreon (and get trip discounts) or my email list to be the first to know about new expeditions in the future.

scuba diving trip to los cabos
whale shark snorkel trip to la paz

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