Pachio's Grey whales
Trip Start Dec 03, 2012
54Trip End Aug 25, 2013
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Pachio's son, Jesus, now runs the only locally owned whale watching tour operator in San Ignacio lagoon. His small camp consists of 4 cabanas, shared compost toilets, showers and a dining-come-meeting area made from recycled tyres and rammed earth. From the huge windows we watched a dolphin hunting just metres from the shore and spotted the spouts of whales in the distance
Getting to camp is an adventure, entailing at least a day's drive first through lava-strewn cactus desert, then salt pans and sand dunes, the last hour on unpaved road. Getting into the small whale watching panga for the is also an adventure, wading knee-deep through icy seawater. But nothing compares with the adventure of first seeing the giant backs sliding along the horizon and then towards the boat, and finally surfacing right underneath, spraying salty mist over everyone in the boat.
Up close these animals are awesome. You can see their outline deep underwater, faintly at first, then the white of a fin, tail fluke becomes clear. Finally with a huge sigh and a spray of water the massive head very gently rests just within reach of the tiny human hands reaching over the edge of the boat
No-one knows why some of the whales do this (about 10%2525) and why they particularly encourage their calves towards people. We saw mothers twice the length of our boat supporting calves on their backs, on the surface of the water, and swimming together to the edge of the boat to be patted and stroked.
What does a whales' nose feel like? Surprisingly soft and smooth, in between massive bristles and patches of sharp barnacles. Their skin is so tough and strong I wonder that they can feel us touching them at all, but for whatever reason, they keep coming back more - and so did we.
We were able to stay at Pachicos for four nights, giving us three whole days on the water, with magical encounters ever day. At first Izzy said there was no way she was touching sometng that big, and she was scared they would tip the boat over, but once the first calf looked at her that was it, she was at the edge of the boat splashing and calling them with the rest of us! Somehow the whales know to be gentle. They come to the edge of the boat for pats, enjoy the warm water from the engine at the back, scratch themselves on the bottom of the boat ( everything rocks!) and even lift up part of the boat with their head or back (everyones sits very still!) but in the 40 odd years of close contact with people there have only been one or two instances, early on, of whales attacking a boat, in response to a calf being hurt by an engine
We were also able to watch the whales spyhopping, where they stick their noses out of the water, posibly to cool down, possibly to look around, and also saw some mightly breaches, where a whale throws its whole body out of the water. As well as the whales we all enjoyed having some company (gets a bit boring talking to the same three people) in the communal dining area, and catching sweet little desert mice to play with. A huge variety of birds, including white pelicans and american oystercatchers kept us entertained when there were no whales, and we saw coyotes foraging far of on the mud flats. All in all our favourite location so far!