I’ve never been patient enough to beach-comb. As a kid, after I’d exhausted all other activities that I deemed more entertaining, more substantial, I’d spend a token ten minutes searching for the best shell I could find. That shell was usually chipped. Or miniature. Not worth collecting. That was certainly, however, due to lack of effort.
The shoreline at Bahia de Magdalena — at least the section in front of the Mar y Arena campground, where we stayed — was shells. Buckets and buckets of shells. Combing was not necessary. Large, intact shells were just a shoe crunch away. Serious combers would be bored, since I imagine part of the enjoyment is the hunt. Yet I could hardly muster a minute to search. But, of course, I’m not that serious.
But we didn’t venture off Mexico 1 to search for shells. We were there for whales. Gray whales in particular, who spawn this side of Baja from January to March. Everywhere we’ve stopped, both on the Sea of Cortez and Pacific side, we’d be whelmed with whale stories from the campers that preceded us. Just yesterday folks spotted shark whales on their kayaks. A pod of gray whales came through the bay a few hours before you arrived. So went the stories. Hence, when confronted with the $185 USD price tag (later negotiated down to $150) for a tour in an oversized canoe with a motor, I was skeptical. Darn near obstinate. I’d been on one whale tour prior in my life, as a teenager on the Oregon coast, and all we saw was ocean — though at one point I think I convinced myself and my family that an errant pelican was a fluke (pun intended). But there we were, in Bahia de Magdalena, and there didn’t seem much else to do. I wasn’t going to beach-comb.
Fog blanketed the bay the morning of our tour. We’d also heard that prime spotting hours were between 7am and noon. The fog didn’t lift until 12:30pm — I was feeling pessimistic about our chances — but after it did, the bay emerged glorious. If there was a day to die in a canoe that shouldn’t be powering the seas, that day seemed as good as any.
We skated across the ice-like ocean to the mouth of the bay. Took about a half hour. We saw one blowhole in route. My pessimism veered toward optimism. Then, seemingly as soon as we arrived, a chorus of blowholes sang from nearly every direction. Then a whale jumped and crashed into the ocean in front of us. Then tails waved. Then backs breached. We were surrounded by dozens and dozens of these massive mammals (see videos below). It was awesome. Once-in-a-lifetime. Even Everett, who had buried his head in Andrea’s lap the entire boat ride to the mouth of the bay, citing fear of sinking, was jumping about the boat and yelling “this is phenomenal!”
As soon as we headed back to campground, the sea, that temperamental temptress, blasted us with wind and waves. The vertebrates in all our spines are closer as a result. However, nothing could damper our mood. Everett kept his head up the entire ride back. Paheli was so excited she practiced her sign language without prompting. And Andrea and I exchanged some rather adult glances. I even picked up a few shells after we returned.