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Where to get up close and personal with gray whales

Whale watching in Mexico

NEAR SAN IGNACIO, Baja California Sur (3TV/CBS 5) -- On a recent Sprinter van trip through Baja California Sur, my husband Kenn and I made a little detour to do something you can’t do in many places -- hang with the gray whales. Each year, the whales make the long trek (swimming about 10,000-14,000 miles!) from the cold seas of the Arctic to the nutrient-rich warm waters in Mexico. There are a few spots that seem ideal for birthing and nursing young calves, and San Ignacio Lagoon on the Pacific side of Baja happens to be one of them.

I had heard about José Sanchez from my new friends at Todos Santos Eco Adventures over a year ago. He’s a staple in San Ignacio and recently started his own whale-watching eco-camp called Pure Baja Travels. Because whale-watching season was winding down, José had an open spot and let us stop off on the way home to Arizona.

Spyhopping! (A spyhop is when a whale pokes its head out of the water to have a look around....
Spyhopping! (A spyhop is when a whale pokes its head out of the water to have a look around. They position themselves vertically sort of like a human treading water.)(Tara Hitchcock)

From Loreto, it’s about a 3.5-hour drive northwest, past the charming small town of San Ignacio. You end up on a dirt road that looks like you’re heading to nowhere! The camp is simple. The food is great. And the whale-watching? What can you say!

Check out some amazing photos from Pure Baja Travel

José and me
José and me(Tara Hitchcock)

José's whale-watching packages usually include several days of whale watching. He recommends at least three nights in the lagoon, arriving the same day as the rest of the group if you choose to drive. Tijuana is the only location where you can pick up the charter flight included in most of the Pure Baja Travels packages. It’s a short flight into a small sand airstrip and is its own experience. A suggestion: Bring a book or cards as there is some downtime and you’re a ways from the town. Be prepared to truly relax and experience the whales!

Sunset at Pure Baja Travels
Sunset at Pure Baja Travels(Tara Hitchcock)
Pure Baja Travels eco-camp
Pure Baja Travels eco-camp(Tara Hitchcock)
Sprinter van at Pure Baja Travels eco-camp
Sprinter van at Pure Baja Travels eco-camp(Tara Hitchcock)