There are a few things in the world that we can look forward to once a year. These are mostly events like holidays, birthdays, and vacations from school and work and aren’t always acts of nature. But maybe it should be! One of our favorite times of the year comes around every February in Baja— when one of the largest whale migrations takes place. Getting close to the curious, friendly, enormous gray whale is a very special experience that people don’t just forget and can make a family vacation spectacular. What is as amazing as seeing these animals is learning about why thousands of them make this journey each year.
The Gray Whale
Let’s start with who. The gray whale is an amazing animal. Fully grown they can be over 50 feet long, although the average length is around 44-48 feet, and they weigh nearly 40 tons (80,000 pounds!).To put that into perspective, one gray whale generally weighs as much as five grown elephants. Gray whales are, you guessed it, gray in color and are often covered in parasites giving them the look of crusty ocean rock. This helps them hide from predators and they’ve done a pretty good job considering the gray whale has existed for over 30 million years!
The Migration Route
Gray whales spend most months of the year in the North Pacific Ocean as far west as Korea and as east as Alaska. October is when the migration from Alaska down to Mexico begins. Whales will travel in small groups called pods to make the journey. They will travel day and night, sticking close to shore lines for protection, at an average speed of five miles an hour. Most whales travel close to 6,000 miles one-way over 3 months to get to Baja! This is one of the longest migration trips of any animal in the world.
Why do they make this Trip?
There’s mainly one reason the gray whales head to Baja, it’s mating season. Nearly 20,000 gray whales make the trip for mating and calving season. The waters around Baja are a protected and safe space for these marine mammals— which makes it the perfect place to give birth. The curious baby whales often will swim right up to boats to say hello, giving lucky travelers a chance to pet them! There are so many whales in Baja in February that it’s hard not to spot one.
This happens once each year and the best time to go is in February. With this information your family can go into Baja sounding like season pros on the gray whale migration!