Editor’s Desk: First Thoughts From My Trip With The Whales

POSTED May 1, 2024 IN

This piece comes from my notes that were taken after my first of two trips to San Ignocio Lagoon, in Baha, Mexico. These took place in 2006 & 2007.

I’m still out of my body, trying to integrate this extraordinary experience. I keep asking myself, did I really go, did I really touch whales, did I really commune so deeply with nature that I will be forever changed?

The trip was what I hoped for and more, much more.

With a small group of fellow adventurers I left San Diego in a small plane, arriving on a dirt airstrip near the San Ignacio Lagoon about two-thirds down the pacific coast of Baja, Mexico. We numbered sixteen in all ranging in age from Pat, an 83-year-old woman whose son had given her the trip as a present (he and his wife had been before) to a 13-year-old girl and every decade in-between. There was also a 5-month old baby in the camp. Our hosts were Doug Thompson and Robin Kobaly and their colleagues from SummerTree Institute. There were at least eight “single” women, (myself included) who were the “wild darlings” of the trip. There was a phrase applied to us (with great humor I must add), “they came from the 60s, they’re post menopausal; be afraid, be very afraid.”

SummerTree Institute teamed up with the Mexican crew of Baja Expeditions. The Mexicans were charming; they were quick to laugh and sing with us and took good care of us both on land and on sea. Most of the Mexicans actually reside in the area. Renalfo is fifth generation in San Ignacio Lagoon. We felt highly blessed to be invited into their dwelling place. They were a wealth of experience and first-hand information about this protected area.

We stayed at what I’d call the Hilton of camping–However, the service was better. We had very comfortable cots in tents that sleep two. Each morning instead of looking into a bathroom mirror while brushing our teeth, we would look out over the lagoon and watch whales breach and spout, dozens at a time. The camp was powered by solar and wind. The bathing facilities got their hot water from water tanks painted black to help absorb the heat of the daytime sun. The food was an epicurean delight. We sampled many local dishes including tasty seafood. They had a cat and dog that kept us entertained by chasing one another as we watched the sunset while sipping our margaritas on the beach after a deeply satisfying day on the water.

Of course, the highlight was the whales. It is hard to wrap the mind around the gentle approach of a 200-year-old, 40-ton momma, with a 20-ton baby, sticking their noses in our 15-foot skiff.

As they would raise their heads you find yourself looking into the eyes of an ancient consciousness. Whales have been on the planet for 60 million years. Humans are mere upstarts compared to them. We are tiny squeaky toys to them reduced to yelps and squeals and one-syllable words like “wow,” “oh my,” and maybe an “awesome” thrown in. We sang to them, kissed them, laughed, and were silent in their presence.

San Ignacio Lagoon is the only place on the planet where whales come in numbers to interact with humans. This is their nursery, one of the birthing places of their calves. It is where the mother whales feed their young, teach them, and get them ready for the 5000 mile journey up the coast to the feeding waters of Alaska. It’s a wildlife preserve and only a few of the local Mexicans hold licenses to take people out to a very small part of the lagoon where petting is permitted. So, there are never more than 96 people in the lagoon at a time. The season is only three months long and is one of the most unique activities on the planet.

For me, since I was a young child I haven’t experienced such boundless, exuberant, and delighted energy for days without end. I was truly a kid again. Not since I was a toddler have I been in uninterrupted, orgasmic, ecstasy for five days in a row.

If you want to see a short video of this trip that was posted by my dear friend and guest on New Dimensions, Brenda Peterson, here is a YouTube of one of those trips. That is Brenda in the blue hat and me in the pink hat and later in a black hat.

Although Summer Tree Institute no longer conducts expeditions to San Ignacio Lagoon, they have on-going programs that provide both environmental education, experiences, and knowledge-based products to the public to enhance environmental awareness and promote a healthier environment for all living things.


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