One of the reasons we love Cabo is the opportunity to see whales in the winter months. In past Cabo visits we’ve tried different whale watching excursions including a replica pirate ship (The Buccaneer Queen) and a catamaran. We’ve always seen whales on these excursions, but frankly, I was always envious of the people who were whale watching from Zodiac boats. I love how small and fast those boats are, but Mona has always wanted something more solid between her and the ocean so I was sure a Zodiac ride was out of the question.
Much to my surprise, this year Mona decided we would try a Zodiac excursion. I don’t know if it just a part of her growing familiarity with water or the fact that we got the excursion tickets for free after we attended a timeshare presentation. Regardless, I was thrilled!
Our tickets were for Ocean Rider’s two hour whale watching tour on a small zodiac style boat that seats sixteen….fourteen guests and two crew. The boats are tiny compared to any other whale watching vessels we’ve been on. In fact, they are so small that you really don’t have a seat. Instead, you straddle/sit on a long pommel-horse like seat with just enough room for you between your handles and the handles for the person behind you. The seat is about 15 feet long and seats seven on a side with everyone facing forward. It’s a little cramped as everyone has to have a life jacket on even before getting onto the boat.
Our boat captain was Louis and our guide was Alejandra. They helped us all get situated on the boat and soon we motored out of the marina and out to El Arco. El Arco is a natural arch situated at the end of the Baja Peninsula. It’s also known as “Land’s End” because if you go straight south from there you don’t hit land again until Antarctica.
While we motored around the rocks our guide, Alejandra, told us about how this is where the Pacific Ocean meets the waters of the Gulf of Cortez and she told us about the yearly whale migrations from Alaska to these waters. Whales are here from December through March as they come down here to mate and to bear their young. The whales spend their summers and do all their eating in the North Pacific.
After getting our briefing and looking at the sea lions on the rocks it was time to really start our excursion. Luis fired up the boat and off we zoomed to search for whales. And note that “zoomed” is a totally appropriate word for our travel. The boat we were on was about 25 feet long and equipped with two 200 horsepower motors. When Luis hit the gas it felt like we were flying on top of the water, leaping from wave to wave as we shot eastward searching for whales.
It didn’t take long to see some other boats who were obviously following whales. The boats were clustered in the same general area and were all going in the same direction. We joined the cluster and started looking for the tell-tale blow. We would spot a blow (where the whale exhales creating a spout) and start following the whale. Typically we would watch the whale breach a couple times before it would dive and show us its tail. During the dive we’d motor along with the other boats in the direction we hoped the whale was going. When the whale came back up for air we would repeat the process.
This was very exciting since we were so low to the water and the whales came very close. One whale even swam directly beneath our boat! We stayed with the cluster of boats for about an hour watching for the blow and the dives…very cool! All of a sudden Luis zoomed up to full throttle and sped away from the pack of boats and went farther out into the ocean. We had no clue as to why but the ride was thrilling as we skimmed along the water at 50 mph.
After about fifteen minutes of a thrilling and bumpy ride we slowed almost to a stop and our guide,Alejandra, told us to look to our 11:00. There we saw a huge fin raise up out of the water and smack it down. This was a huge humpback whale who was floating on top of the water and repeatedly smacking that huge fin down! His fin was 15 to 20 feet long. Alejandra said this was a male who was putting on a display to impress the nearby female whale.
After about ten minutes he stopped and I thought the show was over. But no! Now the whale leapt into the air with about about half of his body out of the water and then crashed down. What an incredible sight! He did this several times creating huge splashes as he slammed back into the water. Then he raised his huge tail out of the water to sweep it around making yet another huge splash. I’m not sure how well he impressed his potential mate but he certainly impressed me and everyone else on our little boat!
We got to watch this incredible behavior for about 20 minutes before we finally had to head back to port. Those 20 minutes were among the most break-taking of my life and the image of that huge whale rising out of the water will remain forever in my mind’s eye!
I have to give special thanks to our eagle-eyed crew: Alejandra and Luis. They spotted this whale from miles away and rushed us over to watch one of nature’s prime spectacles. Alejandra and Luis definitely made a wonderful difference in our trip and gave us memories of a lifetime!
Interested in Cabo Whale Watching?
Prime season for whale watching is December through March. We actually arrived on April 1st one year and all the whales were gone.
During prime season you can even see whales from shore. On this visit we saw two whales breech side by side from our taxi on the highway. On other visits we’ve seen whales as we were sitting outside having a beach-side meal.
There are lots of choices and prices for whale watching excursions. If you want a bigger boat try the Buccaneer Queen: Buccaneer Queen You’ll have a solid deck under your feet and you can still see some great whale action. There are also several companies offering excursions on catamarans, which are a nice mid-sized choice. We’ve also seen the little glass-bottomed boats out there chasing the whales. (Can’t recommend this option because we haven’t tried it.)
However, our new favorite is the Ocean Riders Zodiac boats. We love how they can speed to wherever the whales are and we felt perfectly safe on the boat. Here’s their website: Ocean Riders
And here’s more information on Cabo whales: Cabo Whales
For general information on Cabo go here: Go Cabo Travel