It’s widely known that Baja California is one of the prime destinations to see marine mammals, The Sea of Cortez receives the visit of 30 species of marine mammals, including dolphins, orcas, whales and sea lions, among others.

Loreto is considered one of the best places in the world for whale watching, specially the largest whales, like the fin whale and the huge blue whale.

Although whale watching is considered seasonal, some local groups of big whales stay all year round in the waters of its National Park. There is a local group of fin whales that can be seen all year round, as a matter of fact, we just have seen them several times this last week!

Blue whales, and most of the other big cetaceans, can be seen between January to April, when the water is colder and rich on plankton. These “plankton booms” occur thanks to the combination of frequent upwelling currents, rich with nutrients, and colder water that is richer in oxygen.

Other whales that visit Loreto’s water for the season are the large Sei whale, Minke whale, Bryde whale and the playful Humpbacks! The latter usually put on a show for the visitors by breaching the surface and clapping their long fins against the water.

Then there are the Gray whales. Although these are technically not visitors to our waters in Loreto (except for some very rare exceptions), I’d like to include them in this post since you can easily go to the pacific side to see them from town. The Gray whales stay in the shallow lagoons on the Pacific side. From Loreto is just a short 2 hour car ride and many tourists make it a fun day trip. The Gray whales are by far the most interactive whales. They are so used to people and so confident that they will approach boats and raise their heade above the water level to look at you. Moms will even push their calves up so they can see you as well. Plot twist: they like being pet too!

By far, dolphins are the cetaceans that can be seen more often and in bigger numbers. Because their smaller size, dolphins live in pods that provide safety in the numbers, but also icreased chances of finding food, mating and protecting their offspring.

Loreto is home for several species of dolphins, among which three stand out: bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), short beak common dolphins and long beak common dolphins (Delphinus delphis).

Known for racing boats and their high jumps over the surface, the dolphins of Loreto are no exception. Bottlenose dolphins are larger and powerful and their jumps are spectacular, reaching heights of 20 ft in the air! Common dolphins usually don’t jump as high, but they are still amazing since their larger pods, sometimes of several thousands individuals! SInce their groups are so large, common dolphins become more daring and will inmediately approach the boat and race it.

Dolphins have little seasonality in Loreto and can be seen all year round in almost every trip. I’ll dare to say that we have seen dolphins in 80% of the trips we have taken, and the local operators agree with these numbers.

Although the bottlenose and common dolphins are the most frequent sightings, there are other species that can be seen occasionally, like pilot whales and false orcas. We even had the chance to swim with the latter!

Orcas are also frequent visitors of the Loreto Bay National Park. Not much is known about their travelling patterns, but we know that are spotted regularely in Loreto all year round. Although considered rare sightings, they are reported every month, and once they are spotted is not rare to see them in the general area for several days on a row.

This last week we had the tremendous luck to see several. A pod arrived and passed by very close to the shoreline. We tagged along for a long while and these gentle animals were so kind to approach to our boat and play with our wake! They also approach the sides of the vessel to look at us, funny apes, and stayed with us for several minutes. These are not the “killer whales” that TV had wanted us to believe. In fact, they are as curious and playful as dolphins to us, and one can safely swim with them if the opportunity arises.

In another occasion we had the chance to witness a very different behaviour. One time close to Carmen island, we found a pod of orcas that was hunting some juvenile dolphins. The scene was intense and well, not pleasant to behold as you can imagine, but being able to witness this frenzy was one of the highlights of mi life when it comes to nature, Impressive, it was like being in a documentary. Loreto es National Geographic material all through.

And of course, we couldn’t left out our beloved sea lions! Sometimes a bit disregarded compared to they larger cousins the whales, these sea mammals deserve more love. They might be smaller and less spectacular, but they make it up to us by being a guarantee sighting and suuuper fun tu dive with! They are like underwater dogs, so curious and playful that you would like to take one home (don’t). Loreto has two main sea lion colonies, the main one being the one in Coronado’s island. Although they are there all year round, their numbers are way larger in winter, where they can reach 250 individuals, compared to only a few in the middle of the mating season (June to August).

Images courtesy of: Bob Bailey