Saturday, March 26, 2011

Maps! Got Your Baja Maps Here!

We had worked to get a couple maps together to show our journey down to and across Baja for the whale trip, but in fighting the editor in getting photos in, the maps got omitted. So here is the trip we made out of some collected Google maps. Click the maps to load full-size views.

In the wide view here, the entire route is shown, day one going down in green, day 2 across Baja and back in pink, day 3 in yellow and the return to the Tucson area on day 4 in light blue. So you can see we got a lot of exploring of Baja California Sur (the Mexican state we spent nearly all our time, Sonora the rest).

Again, this map and others were put together from Google maps, combined and annotated in Photoshop Elements. Most all of Baja we saw is very sparsely populated and extremely desolate. Like much of the Sonoran Desert, there is little rainfall or vegetation. The only major cities tend to be on the coast and on river drainages. There is some agriculture, but requires irrigation. Fishing seems a primary food source, though there were some cattle running in the irrigated area we saw west of Mulege.

The next map shows the primary whale watching areas in south central Baja. Of course, the Pacific is off to the west, Sea of Cortez to the east. Laguna San Ignacio (LSI) is the primary goal of most whale trips, but because of the tsunami warnings, was shut down (along with our lodging plans at Campo Rene) on Friday the 11th . Clinic was Saturday at Lopez Mateos, and fortunately, a very active eco-tour economy was flourishing, and we had a great time for our couple hours out in the boat. As I noted in the blog post, Lopez Mateos has the exact longitude as Tucson, but is nearly exactly 5 degrees south (about 350 air miles)! Quite a difference in scenery!

The whales winter in the protected lagoon areas of LSI and behind the shelter islands of Lopez Mateos. While you wouldn't think much protection is afforded, our whale tour entered the mouth entrance and the change from the calm harbor seas to the 3 foot chop near the pacific made the ride much more exciting. While I did look, the resolution of the Google maps pics is good enough to resolve whales, but they were evidently not taken during the few months that the grays occupy the area. At full resolution, the boats we rode are indeed resolved in the pictures, but no whales (which are considerably larger) are seen.

We've already been asked about how to arrange such a trip. We were extremely fortunate to have friends associated with the medical clinics in Baja, and are intimately familiar with the area. Short of those contacts, we did meet people in Loreto and Mulege that had been on several-day eco-tours to see the whales. Loreto, especially, has a modern airport and is served by small commercial airlines. But it is still many hours of driving from the west coast of Baja. So such a trip is possible, but without friends with private planes, is likely several thousands of dollars per person trip. But as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is worth it!

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