San Ignacio Whale Trip Recap 2023 - Bluewater Dive Travel
San Ignacio Whale Trip Recap 2023

San Ignacio Whale Trip Recap 2023



Words and pictures by Tim Yeo

Camera Equipment Used: GoPro Hero 11 and iPhone 13 Pro Max


Gray Whales San Ignacio Gray Whales San Ignacio Gray Whales San Ignacio


Guests going to San Ignacio with Bluewater Travel have to arrive a day before the trip’s official start date. The reason for this is that the private charter plane takes off at 7 am in the morning from San Jose del Cabo airport. In my experience, however, this early arrival proved to be a delightful opportunity, as San Jose del Cabo boasted not only a picturesque Mexican landscape and excellent restaurants, but also a variety of activities. Among the options available, divers could pay for a 2-tank morning dive or enjoy a complimentary 2-hour humpback whale watching tour. Not wanting to bring my dive gear and underwater camera setup for this particular trip, I eagerly selected the whale watching tour.


Gray Whales San Ignacio Whale Breach San Ignacio Whale Breach San Ignacio

Whale watching in Cabo before heading to San Ignacio


The captain found our first humpback whale and calf 15 minutes after leaving the marina. The mommy and baby whale soon came up to breathe no more than 50 feet from the boat. We followed them for about 30 minutes until the captain spotted a pod of 4-5 whales. We motored in the pod’s direction to check them out, and stayed with this pod for almost another hour until returning to the marina at 3 pm. 


Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio


All the humpback whales we encountered gracefully glided through the azure waters in a calm, relaxing manner. Their majestic presence, mere inches away from the boat, left us in awe as they playfully swam in circles and engaged in breathtaking surface interactions. The rhythmic dance of their tail slaps on the ocean's surface created an entrancing spectacle, making the entire experience nothing short of unforgettable.


 - Find out abour our upcoming Ultimate Whale Safaris in February 2024 and February 2025 - 


San Ignacio Luxury Bus San Ignacio Private Airplane San Ignacio Private Airplane

First class all the way to San Ignacio


As dawn broke the following day, we eagerly embarked on our journey to San Ignacio. Our group was conveniently collected from their respective hotels between 6:45 am and 7 am, aboard a plush bus designed for comfort. With appetizing packed breakfasts in hand, we enjoyed a brief 20-minute ride to the private airstrip of the international airport, where a cozy 12-seater aircraft awaited. Our excitement soared during the mesmerizing 2-hour flight to San Ignacio, as we marveled at the captivating vistas unfolding below us. We traced the shimmering Sea of Cortez coastline, traversed the rugged mountains of the Baja Peninsula, and followed the breathtaking Pacific coast to reach our destination.


Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio


After touching down at the quaint, charming "airstrip," we were immediately greeted with effervescent champagne, served by the amiable crew who warmly welcomed us. As we sipped the bubbly refreshment, they provided a concise yet informative briefing, setting the stage for the exhilarating day that lay ahead. We next received our complimentary rentals for the trip: rubber boots, a personal flotation device, and, if needed, a jacket for the short boat ride to camp. Upon arrival at camp, we were promptly served lunch. We were then ushered off to our first few sessions on the water in search of gray whales. At first, I was not expecting much. I knew this was the season's final trip and that many of the majestic creatures had already commenced their arduous migration to the Arctic. To my sheer delight, however, within moments of reaching the observation area, we began to spot plumes of whale spouts. Much to our amazement, a frolicsome baby gray whale soon emerged, playfully approaching our boat as if inviting us to gently stroke its smooth skin. Indeed, the whale wanted to be petted like a puppy.


Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio

 Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio


She stayed with us and another boat for almost an hour, spending time between the two boats, spy hopping, swimming around the boat, and coming right up to us, lifting her head out of the water so we could pet her nose. All this was happening while mommy whale was hanging around on the surface about 50 feet away supervising. What an incredible experience. 

Park rules state that boats can only stay in the observation area for 90 minutes. After that, boats must leave for at least 30 minutes before returning to the observation area for another 90-minute session. For our “surface interval,” we stopped at a nearby beach, where we walked the sand glimpsing seashells and whale bones. We also watched dolphins swimming in the distance. 


Whale Watching Map San Ignacio San Ignacio San Ignacio


We returned to camp around 4:30 pm and our bags had already been delivered to our assigned tents. Some of us took short naps, while others headed to the bar to swap stories over drinks. I learned that  all three boats in the group experienced great interactions, and everyone had an opportunity to pet a gray whale. 


San Ignacio San Ignacio Whale San Ignacio Whale


There was a nightly presentation from one of the guides, and that evening's topic delved into the fascinating realm of turtle conservation in Baja California. After the presentation, we alighted to the dining room for dinner. As it had been a long day of travel, many of us decided to retire early. However, a spirited few returned to the bar for more camaraderie, while the photographers among us seized the opportunity to capture the resplendent night sky, with its tapestry of twinkling stars adorning the vast, clear expanse above.


San Ignacio Glamping Tent San Ignacio Glamping Tent San Ignacio Glamping Tent

My wonderful glamping tent, which I had mistaken for the luxury tent


There were two types of accommodation options at our camp. There was the glamping tent and an upgraded luxury tent option. When I arrived at my glamping tent, I thought I had received a free upgrade to a luxury tent. It looked like a pop-up boutique hotel. The glamping tent included a king bed, 2 bedside tables, a lounge chair, and a footrest. The floor of the tent was carpeted, and there was even a painting hanging on the wall separating the bedroom from the bathroom. The ensuite bathroom had a sink, a hot and cold shower, and a modern personal portable toilet, which was extremely clean and easy to use.


 San Ignacio Glamping Tent San Ignacio Glamping San Ignacio Glamping Tent Camp Map

Sunrise and sunsets were gorgeous!


If this was the glamping tent, what was the luxury tent like? The luxury tents, it turned out, were akin to hotel rooms, with square footage about triple that of the glamping tents. The luxury tent sports a king-size bed, two couches, a coffee table, and even double sinks in the ensuite bathroom! 

Meals were served in the dining tent, which seated over 30 guests at five large tables. Coffee and water were available 24 hours a day. Breakfast consisted of a buffet that included an omelet station. Lunch and dinner involved plated service. The chefs conveniently catered to any dietary restrictions.


San Ignacio Glamping Tent San Ignacio Glamping Tent

The spacious bar tent where nightly presentations were held.


The bar tent was the same size as the dining tent and split into two sections. The front area included a lounge area with couches, recliners, and a TV. The back area included a fully-stocked bar with beer, wine, various hard liquors, and cocktail mixers. There were a couple of large bar-height tables where guests and staff tended to congregate at the end of the day. The entire inside of the tent was carpeted, and even though I was on the last trip of the season, the carpet looked new. Outside the bar tent was a little patio with astroturf and a pool table. A few feet away were some lounge chairs circling a large fire pit. Truly, this was camping at its finest. 


San Ignacio Glamping San Ignacio Glamping San Ignacio Glamping

The fully stocked bar area


With so many comforts in the camp, one might be tempted to stay and enjoy the camp all day, but the gray whales were waiting to interact with us. So every morning after breakfast, we headed out for a double session with the gray whales, with 30-minute breaks between sessions. After the double morning sessions, we headed back to camp for lunch and enjoyed some siesta time before another whale session in the afternoon. 


Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio


For guests who chose to skip a session, there were plenty of things to do in camp, including hiking around the island and kayaking in the mangroves. 


Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio


Thankfully, all whale species are protected in Mexican waters. This is absolutely essential for the health of the gray whale population, as they are coastal whales that do not often venture into international waters. Gray whales have one of the longest migrations of any animal on earth, traveling from their feeding grounds in the Arctic region all the way down to Baja California Sur, where they mate and give birth. Thanks to protections they enjoy from Alaska down to Baja California Sur, the Eastern Pacific Ocean population of gray whales has recovered back to pre-whaling times. Unfortunately, the Western Pacific Ocean gray whale population, which does not receive such protections, is still in danger of going extinct. 


Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio


During my numerous travels, I have been privileged to encounter several whale species, from the awe-inspiring humpback and the vast blue whale to the enigmatic Bryde's whale. Yet, my expedition to San Ignacio stands unparalleled in its uniqueness. The palpable sense of mutual curiosity and respect that blossoms between humans and gray whales in this enchanting corner of the world transcends mere observation, forging an unforgettable bond that leaves an indelible mark on the heart and soul.


Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio Gray Whale San Ignacio

Thank you Sergio Gonzalez and Rod Long for capturing me in some unforgettable moments


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