There’s whale watching, then there’s whale touching.
Magdalena Bay, Mexico I’d been on my share of whale watching trips from Southern California all the way up the coast to Alaska and never spotted more than a blurry gray mass through binoculars.
This was different. The trip marked my last chance to travel kid-free as once I returned, I was to embark upon the arduous journey of trying to conceive via the fertility path as a single mom. (Read Last Call). It was an opportunity to not just whale watch but actually reach down and touch one from a small skiff boat in Magdalena Bay near Baja, Mexico. A photo opportunity for sure and I came armed with both still and video cameras.
We’d gone over how to operate my video camera again and again. The plan was I’d operate my still camera, my friend and kayak partner Lori, my video camera. This must-do add-on excursion was what I was looking forward to more than the week-long kayak trip with Sea Kayak Adventures in Baja we’d just finished up.
Don’t get me wrong, the kayak trip was great insofar as sleeping out in the blistering heat of the desert, not bathing for a week, and having to pack up your loo in a kayak goes. No one organizes a trip like SKA. Guides are great. Food terrific.
You’re given a packing list that if adhered to, covers all the bases and fits neatly in the provided waterproof bags. And even if you don’t know which end of a kayak paddle is up, the instruction given allows you to hold your own for a week out on the water without worry.
Sea kayaking the clear turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez
My friend I’d gone with, Lori, greeted each day with something along the lines of, “this is the best vacation I’ve ever been on.” And me, “I’m too old to camp, my back is in agony.”
I was just biding my time until we got back to Loreto and could venture out to finally see a whale. While kayaking, in the Sea of Cortez side of Baja, we could see whale mist off in a distance but no close encounters.
Finally back in town, showered, rested and off to the other side of Baja’s narrow strip of land, to the bay we headed. What was explained to me is that the whales are motivated to come up to the little skiffs to scratch their itchy barnacles on the boat’s bottom. Kind of like a floating back scratcher. It apparently brings some relief to the long journey these gray whales make 5000 miles from the Bering Strait to mate and bear their young in the protected waters of Magdalena Bay.
A Baja sunset never disappoints
Not 20 minutes into the excursion, as we neared the deeper waters, like a slow-motion ride at Disneyland, this massive whale surfaced and floated almost stationary for several minutes. I snapped away on my Nikon camera, entrusting Lori to follow suit with what could only have been the best footage ever captured on my video camera.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my trusted friend toss my video camera onto the boat seat, lunge towards the whale giggling like a schoolgirl to touch the whale. She’d completely aborted any plan of capturing this moment on film and even sat on my expensive sunglasses in the giddiness of the moment, bending the frames.
After the whale dipped back under Lori went on and on. “Did you feel how spongy the skin felt? Wasn’t that cool?” She asked, grinning ear to ear.
No I hadn’t. I sulked the whole way back miffed she hadn’t captured so much as a nanosecond once-in-a-lifetime footage on my camera.
Me (blue visor, left) fiddling with my camera missing the sheer joy of the whale experience
Then, this past week I was reading a touch-n-feel book to my precious three-month old son that involves uncurling his little fist to touch the smooth, slippery skin of a whale. Ames kicked his legs and waved his arms up and down squealing in delight. The movie that played in my mind was of me in Magdalena Bay and now wondering if I’d been the one in the wrong. I’d been stuck behind my camera lens trying to harpoon a photo but missing the childhood delight of feeling the skin of a rubbery spongy gray mama whale.
IF YOU GO: Seakayakadventures.com
Magdalena Bay & Sea of Cortez Combo Trip
$1575 adults, $1417 children 12+
This story originally was published on divinecaroline.com. I have to chuckle looking back at stories I wrote right after having my son are in an altered state of pospartum nirvana.