Gray whales have one of the longest migrations of any species, with only humpback whales sometimes traveling longer distances.
The longest-ever recorded journey was that of a 9-year-old gray whale named Varvara that made a 172-day journey from eastern Russia to Baja California in 2011 and 2012, covering a total distance of 13,987 miles.
Western North Pacific gray whales are critically endangered baleen whales, with only 100 remaining due to whaling, fishing and boating. They migrate between their winter breeding grounds off southern China to their summer feeding grounds in the Sea of Okhotsk.
The Eastern North Pacific gray whale population is significantly more robust: There’s an estimated 20,000 of these whales still around. They spend summers feeding in the Bering and Chukchi Seas between Alaska and Russia. In the winter, they travel south along the west coast of the U.S to Mexico to breed and have their calves.
Some of these whales can be found on the west coast of Baja California in the shallow waters of Magdalena Bay and its surrounding lagoons. Here, the females raise their young and teach them the ways of the ocean before heading back up north beginning in May.
Magdalena Bay allows only local boat tours to go see the gray whales, which are considered “friendly,” as the curious moms come right up to the boats. They even let whale-watchers touch them.
When to Go: December to March
How to See: MAAR Experiences organizes tours to Magdalena Bay that include round-trip transportation from La Paz and 2-3 hours on the boat to watch whales.