The Pacific gray whale, scientifically known as Eschrichtius robustus, is a species that captivates the hearts of many marine enthusiasts. These majestic creatures embark on an incredible migration journey, spanning thousands of miles. Read on to learn more about these migratory mammals and where you can experience incredible encounters with them.
Every year, Pacific gray whales undertake one of the longest migrations of any mammal on Earth. They travel approximately 10,000-12,000 miles (round trip) from their summer feeding grounds near Alaska and Russia, to their winter breeding and calving grounds in San Ignacio Lagoon, Mexico.
Pacific gray whales have a rich evolutionary history that stretches back millions of years. Fossil records indicate that their ancestors date back to the late Miocene period, making them one of the oldest known baleen whale species. This long lineage underscores the species' resilience and adaptability to changing environmental conditions over the ages.
Adult Pacific gray whales are truly magnificent in size. They can reach lengths of up to 45 feet (13.7 meters) and weigh around 30-40 tons. These massive marine mammals possess baleen plates, which act as a filtering mechanism to allow gray whales to consume tiny marine organisms such as krill and small crustaceans by straining water through the plates.
Whale Songs and Communication
Pacific gray whales are known for their intricate songs and vocalizations, which can carry long distances underwater. These complex songs are believed to be a means of communication between individuals, especially during the breeding season, and indicate a sophisticated social structure among these gentle giants.
Experience Close Encounters
Every year from January through April, Pacific gray whales visit San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico. Highly regulated tours take visitors to safely interact with the whales from small boats (it is not permitted to enter the water). It is an awe-inspiring experience to wait on the boat while these massive inquisitive mammals approach the boat to deliberately seek physical interaction with the humans on board. It is the perfect adventure for families or as an add on to a dive trip to Socorro, La Paz, or the Sea of Cortez.
Read about Bluewater Travel’s 2023 trip to meet the Pacific gray whales in San Ignacio Lagoon here.
Check out the best waterproof cameras to capture this experience of a lifetime!
For more whale watching destinations, learn about the best places to see blue whales here.