Endless miles of crystal clear waters, pristine white sand beaches and vast deserts make the Baja Peninsula truely majestic.
The Baja California peninsula, located in northwestern Mexico, is bordered by the United States to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, to the south. The peninsula is mountainous throughout, the climate more arid to the north and becoming more tropical further south. The earliest humans arrived some 10,000 years ago, and would have hunted large mammals such as the mammoth. Though the Spanish arrived in 1533, they found the region inhospitable, and the first permanent settlements were built by Jesuit missionaries in 1697 at Loreto, on the Gulf coast. The peninsula recognized independence from Spain in 1822, and in 1848 the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo ceded present-day California to the United States and left Lower (Baja) California to Mexico, thus ending the Mexican-American war.
Nestled between the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range and the Sea of Cortez lies the resort town of Loreto. This vibrant fishing town is full of history and spectacular whale sightings. Off of Loreto's coast the Isla Coronado, Isle Carmen, Isla Danzante, Isla Monserrat Isla Santa Catalina, Conception Bay and several other islands make the Bahia de Loreto National Park. The 100 mile long protected park is home to Flying Fish, Dolphins, Sea Lions, Blue Whales, Grey Whales, Sperm Whales, Orca, Yellow-Fin Tuna, Snapper, Dorados, Sail Fish, Marlin and over 800 other species of marine life.
Before the Conquistadors conquered Baja, the Yuman, Guaycura, Huchiti and Pericu tribes roamed this unique desert peninsula. Although most are extinct today many artifacts remain. In 1697, Father Juan Maria Salvatierra established the first Spanish settlement along with the first Jesuit mission, Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto in the town of Loreto. The town started to thrive and became the Capital of Baja (from what is now the State of Oregon to the southern tip of the Baja peninsula) until 1829 when a hurricane destroyed the city. With the rise in tourism, especially fishing and water sports Loreto has regained its name as one of the go to destinations in Baja.
Laguna San Ignacio and Laguna Ojos de Liebre, located in the southern peninsula on the Pacific coast, are part of El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico’s largest natural reserve and home to the near-extinct prong-horned antelope and four of the world’s seven species of sea turtle. The lagoons also serve as sanctuaries for the Pacific Gray Whale, migrating over 10,000 miles each year from the its feeding grounds in the Chukchi and Bering Seas to the Baja coast and back again. From December to April the lagoons are filled with these magnificent mammals, seeking the protection of the shallow shores to birth their calves and mate before returning north to feed again. Due to its significance as the “most important breeding grounds of the … North Pacific Grey Whale,” the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.
Southwest from Loreto far off the beaten path on the West Coast is the magical Magdalena Bay. The 30 mile long bay is very remote, mostly made of medium size fishing towns to the north and small villages to the south. There is no cellphone service and most only live on generators for a few hours a day. But who needs cellphones and other technology to distract you from the serene beauty of the Bay. Between December and March over 400 Gray Whales migrating 10,000+ miles to its shallow clear waters. The shallow waters offer the Gray Whales a safe place to give birth and raise their young. Because of their curiosity and security in the Bay the Gray Whales are known to approach boats, even coming up to the side for a pet. They are so trusting they will even swim under their calf and bring it to the surface for you to see. Besides the majestic beauty of the Gray Whale Magdalena Bay is also abundant in Sea Turtles. Protected by a group called Grupo Tortuguero the Sea Turtle numbers are again on the rise.