Magdalena Bay

Feb 05, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Bird


We awoke to a drizzly morning, but that didn’t dim our enthusiasm for getting out in small boats to look for wildlife. It was a strong start to the day when we spotted gray whales and bottlenose dolphins during the pre-breakfast yoga/stretch class. We donned raingear, got in our boats, and headed out into Magdalena Bay.

We were only a few minutes into our adventure when we spotted whale blows, and once we saw the heart-shaped blowholes, we knew the animals were gray whales! Gray whales have one of the longest (if not the longest) migrations of any mammal—around 10,000 miles round trip. They spend summers feeding in the Arctic to build fat reserves to for their winter breeding season. As winter approaches, the whales travel south to Baja California Sur’s shallow lagoons to birth calves and mate. Today was our lucky day because we saw a mother and calf pair! Though the calves are 15 feet long, they are incredibly tiny compared to their mothers. Gray whales are curious and intelligent animals, and they spent some time investigating our small boats. Outside of seeing the whales surface to breathe, we witnessed unique behaviors such as breaching and spy-hopping.

Though the gray whales stole the show, there was other wildlife present in the lagoon. Throughout the day, we had close encounters with different pods of bottlenose dolphins. They swam circles around our boats and we could even hear them making high-pitched sounds. For those who prefer feathered friends to cetaceans, in the surrounding mangroves and on the sandbars, we saw many different bird species—cormorants, brown pelicans, great blue herons, and more. It was great to spend the entire day in one bay appreciating the wildlife and ecosystem.

To finish up our lovely day, back aboard ship we enjoyed a Mexican fiesta with tacos, sangria, and local musicians. Dulces sueños!

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About the Author

Shaylyn Potter

Undersea Specialist

Shaylyn was born and raised in small-town Oregon, which she credits for her unwavering love and respect for the natural world. Her passion for the outdoors and exploration began at a young age, and she spent her childhood taking full advantage of what Oregon had to offer—waterskiing, snowboarding, hiking, and camping.

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