The waters along the Pacific Ocean off the Baja Peninsula and the Sea of Cortez transform into a bustling pathway of giant migrants during the winter months. Large cetaceans, like Humpback Whales and Gray Whales, travel thousands of miles each year from the northern side of the planet such as Alaska to the southern warm waters which include Cabo San Lucas to mate and give birth to their young. So if you’re dreaming of seeing majestic whales up close and personal, the best time to go on a whale watching adventure in Cabo San Lucas is from December to April.
Whale species in Cabo
Here are some of the whale species that may be encountered along the waters of Cabo San Lucas.
Nothing beats witnessing a 90,000 lb or so humpback whale rise and break through the bright blue surface of the sea and getting a good splash in the process. These amazing giantsare one of the seasonal showstoppers that grace the waters of Cabo San Lucas.
They may not be the biggest whales but humpbacksare still enormous and reach about the size of a school bus. These gentle giants can grow up to 60 feet (18 meters) long; in fact, their flippers alone can grow up to 16 feet. Just imagine how massive that is; no wonder it’s the largest flipper in the world!
You can recognize humpbacks by their rounded and broad heads that are usually covered with large bumps, called tubercles. Their name is inspired by the large hump that appears when they arch their backs prior to diving into the ocean.
Of all the whale species, they are probably the most attention-seekers of all because they are known to show off their acrobatic abilities to eager spectators. That’s why it’s good to bring extra clothes during your whale watching trip because you might just get lucky and witness one breaching in the water.
They usually make their way to Cabo in the middle of November until early December to breed. Calves usually make an appearance by early February and they begin their journey back to the North between March and April.
Gray whales are often seen in Cabo San Lucas because they travel along the Baja Coast of Mexico to mate, give birth, and nurse their young. They are often spotted in shallower waters where they feed on small crustaceans on the seafloor. Shallow coves are also ideal for giving birth and nursing their calves.
As their name suggests, they have dominant dark grayish color bodies with white patches. A fully developed gray whale can grow up to 44-48 ft long and weigh as much as 40 tons. Another notable characteristic about them is their skin that is often covered in parasites and other organisms which give them a crusty look.
These great migrators of the animal kingdom travel in groups called pods and they can swim as much as 12,340 miles back and forth to escape the cold temperatures of the north to the warmer waters of Cabo.
Gray whales are known for their friendly nature so don’t be surprised when they approach your boat to check out the passengers.
Whale watching tips
First of all, you should check the weather and marine forecast so you can schedule your trip during the calmest day possible. This way you can avoid days with projected high winds and rough seas which can trigger seasickness and ruin your whale encounter. If you’re prone to seasickness or not sure how you will react to the rolling motion of the sea, you can prevent it by taking over-the-counter medicines or other natural remedies like dried ginger capsules or ginger candies.
Preparation is also a key in the success of your trip and part of this is dressing appropriately. Since it can be 10-15 degrees cooler when you head out to sea, it’s good to dress in layers and you might as well bring a hooded jacket in case it suddenly rains. Don’t forget to pack a small towel and a change of clothes in case a whale greets you with a splash. You will be exposed to the sun so better wear a hat and sunglasses and put on some sunscreen to avoid getting sunburned. It’s also advisable to wear rubber-soled shoes to give you stable footing especially on wet and slippery surfaces.
You also might get hungry during the trip so remember to bring some snacks and drinks especially when you have young children with you. Some charters include beverages and snacks in their whale watching packages but it’s better to bring your own just in case.
Another equally important thing that you should not forget is your camera or smartphones so you can take photos and/or videos of your whale encounters. It is advisable to protect your gadgets by placing them in waterproof housing so you don’t have to worry in case they get wet.
Should a whale gets too close to your boat, do not attempt to touch it because you do not only risk getting hurt but touching them can transmit harmful diseases. Do not feed them either because it could make them sick or alter their natural behavior.
The best way to approach the whales is from the side so that the boat is positioned parallel to them. Your experienced captain knows this and would not cut them off or block their path. Keeping a safe distance is also essential for the protection of both whales and humans. You can coordinate with the whale watching operator to find out more about their safety regulations.
Aside from Gray Whales and Humpback Whales, you may also spot other interesting species like Sperm Whales, Fin Whales, and Blue Whales. You might even see Orcas, also known as Killer Whales and a variety of dolphin species like Bottlenose Dolphins, Spotted Dolphins, and Spinner Dolphins.