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Written by shari bondy   
Thursday, 21 July 2016

 

                       

WHALE MAGIC TOURS     

                                             in Ojo de Liebre with Naturalist guides Shari Bondy

 

 Gazing into the eye of a whale is a humbling, life changing encounter you will never forget. Shari & Sirena Bondy invite you to experience the magic with them in Ojo de Liebre gray whale calving lagoon. 

The magic begins when an intimate group of whale enthusiasts step into the panga and set out to make friends with the gentle giants and their babies. You will not only see great numbers of gray whales up close and personal, but also learn their story…what they are doing as well as the history and ecology of the world’s largest calving lagoon Ojo de LIebre. Every trip is unique and different depending on the time of year, weather and mood of the whales.

There can be up to 2,000 mothers and babies in the lagoon at the peak of the season after mid February. The gray whales are birthing & mating in January, nursing and raising their calves & preparing them for the long migration north throughout February & March making it by far the best whale watching area in the world.

It is fascinating to respectfully observe whales in their natural habitat, going about their daily routines, teaching their calves about boats & interacting with humans. We name and recognize many whales from years past by taking identification photographs & recording other data to share with researchers.

After 25 years of guiding & studying whales in both British Columbia, Canada & Baja California shari & sirena
Sur, Mexico,  my daughter Sirena & I have seen and experienced things most people only dream about. Over the years and thousands of hours on the water amongst the whales, we have learned first hand about their life and witnessed countless extraordinary encounters between humans & whales, many of which I would find hard to believe if I hadn't been there myself!   It is with great pleasure we share these tales and whale knowledge with our guests on our personally guided trips.

I have been visiting the lagoon and living on her shores since 1988 where I set ucontactp camp to observe and record calf development from the day they are born until they leave on their grueling northern migration. I am proud to have played an integral part in developing the regulations to protect the whales and their watchers in the lagoons, the census taking, photo identification and educating the boat operators how to successfully approach whales respectfully.

Lagoon magic is very real to me as my daughter Sirena, (which means mermaid in Spanish), was conceived and raised on the shores of the mystical lagoon with the sound of thousands of breathing whales in the background. She was raised in the company of whales and has become a magnificent guide in her own right!

So if you wish have a unique, educational, intimate whale experience, contact me for available dates and let us share the Whale Magic!

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Call USA 619-906-8438 or Mexico 615-155-7197

 

                

                     SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM WHALE MAGIC!!!!!!!

 

   It is with great pride and pleasure that I announce my involvement in a brand new ecotourism

project in Laguna Ojo de Liebre called La Mar Ecotours…short for Laguna Marina Ecotours. I have been invited to work with this vibrant group of young second generation fishermen as they embark on an exciting venture to provide them with sustainable jobs for their future and the means to protect their valuable ecosystem.

 

Their fishing cooperative has been operating in the Guerrero Negro area and the lagoon since 1969 but when the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve was formed and commercial whale watching began, the fishermen agreed to stop fishing in the lagoon in order to protect the Gray Whale nursery. In order to compensate for the loss of income, the cooperative has received government assistance and been granted permits to carry out whale watching and other tourist activities which gave rise to the formation of this ecotourism sector within the coop.

 

The group’s enthusiasm is refreshing and they have many excellent ideas for building a year round ecotourism camp including not only whale watching but birding, kayaking, sport fishing, remote camping, hiking, workshops & courses. They hope to attract educational groups as well as tourists to their unique wilderness camp.

 

The year round camp is located in a pristine area of the lagoon where giant white sand dunes meet the sea. The camp has a deep water canal close in to the beach where whales pass by within 30 meters of the shore offering incredible land based whale watching from January to April.

Plans are underway for a unique facility with an educational center, guest rooms & dining room as well as private cabins and camping area. Here you can swim, kayak, paddle board, fish for your dinner, hike, beach comb or just relax.

 

The fishing cooperative will provide fresh seafood caught locally and collected from their aquaculture projects including fresh lobster, oysters and scallops as well as offer meat and vegetarian dishes to guests.

 

 They have spacious new super pangas, top of the line safety equipment and infrastructure already established. The area where they whale watch is private so only their two pangas will be operating there.

 

They will offer a variety of packages from half day whale watches, full day trips with 2 whale watches and a seafood lunch at their camp by the dunes, 3-day glamping packages and week long retreats. The staff is well trained and has a paramedic onsite as well.

 

I am taking an active role in training these wonderful young men how to successfully & safely approach and develop relationships with whales and tourists too! I am delighted to be a part of this new team and will assist them with promoting their ecologically and socially responsible project. Their enthusiasm is infectious and I feel rejuvenated as I head into my 60th year on this beautiful planet.

 

So Whale Magic will be offering more in depth naturalist guided whale trips with this new company providing unique, intimate, educational tours. Reserve well in advance to get the dates you want as there will be limited space on the full day trips.

 

Here is a video showing what our new tours have to offer!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmHv3AKrtWo

 

 

 

WHALE MAGIC TOUR  PACKAGES 2017

 

HOTEL PACKAGES

 

3 NIGHT/3 WHALE WATCH  HOTEL PACKAGE

 

$430 per couple  ($260 single)

 

3 nights in a nice hotel, 1 full day tour with

 

2 whale watches & seafood lunch at the

 

onshore dining facility, morning whale tour

 

the 2nd day, free hotel pick up

 


2 NIGHT/2 WHALE WATCH  HOTEL PACKAGE

 

$280 per couple   $180 single

couple

 

2 nights in a nice hotel,

 

2 whale watches on a full day trip,

 

fresh seafood lunch served at the

 

onshore  dining facility

 

where you can beachcomb,

 

swim & watch whales from

 

shore,free hotel pick up

 


THE OVERNIGHTER 

 

$150 per couple ($90 single)

 

  1 night in a nice hotel

1 half day guided whale watch tour

 

light lunch, hotel pick up

 

*breakfast & dinner not included



 WHALE CAMP PACKAGES


3 NIGHT/4 WHALE WATCH ADVENTURE PACKAGE

 

$600 per couple ($350 single)

 

3 nights at the exclusive beach camp, all meals,

 

4 guided whale watch tours,

 

whale watching from shore, secure parking

 


2 NIGHT/3WHALE WATCH ADVENTURE PACKAGE

 

$420 percouple ($250 single)

 

2 nights at the exclusive beach camp, all meals,

 

3 guided whalewatch tours,

 

whale watching from shore,

 

free secure parking


*Options include discount on extra whale watch tours

 

and longer stays at the Whale Camp for discou

 

 

**WE ALSO OFFER ROUND TRIP VAN TRANSPORT 

 

PASSENGERS FROM SAN DIEGO ($700)


TIJUANA ($600),ENSENADA ($500)

 

Travel in style and comfort 

 

Let me know if you are interested and

 

we can help get a group together.

 

 

  Drive yourself down or take advantage of our Fly-in Packages. We suggest staying at least 2 nights so you can go out more than once if you choose to.    Our tours fill up quickly so book /www.youtube.com/embed/05bUWNOLLvI?relearly so you are not disappointed!

             

 

 

                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LL BEGAN

     I began studying whales on Vancouver Island in 1980. After having my life saved by two fin whales in Mexico(another story!) I realized there was much more to these gentle giants than meets the eye so I dedicated my life to finding out why whales do what they do. I began my research by reading everything I could find on whales and hanging around marine biologists and pummeling them with questions. I learned there was alot of biological information but very little known about their common behavior so I decided to find out for myself.  I found out about a resident group of gray whales nearby so I set out on my tiny inflatable raft to get to know the whales in my neighbourhood. Image
      Luckily there were several gray whale feeding grounds where I lived in Tofino B.C., Canada where I could observe the whales going about their daily routines of feeding, napping and playing. I spent thousands of hours on the water amongst my whale friends and have learned first hand about their social activities and behaviors. Soon, word got out about my daily whale sojourns and people started to come down to the dock and ask me if they could tag along. Some offered to pay the gas and bring the beer so I thought, hey why not, it was nice to have some company out there. As more and more folks showed up who wanted to see whales, I got the idea that I could fund my research by taking people out with me and thus founded the first zodiac whale observation tours on the west coast of Canada. I was pleased to pioneer the concept of providing informative narratives to teach her passengers how to appreciate whales in a new light.
      I found I missed my whale friends in the winters and so I decided to migrate with them down to baja mexico where I set up camp in the calving lagoon Ojo de Liebre (Scammons Lagoon) to observe and record calf development from the day they are born until they leave on their grueling northern migration. I was proud to participate in developing the regulations to protect the whales in the lagoons,the census taking, photo identification and trained the guides so that they could successfully approach whales respectfully. It was there where my daughter Sirena was conceived and raised on the shores of the lovely lagoon with the sound of thousands of breathing whales in the background. I have always felt it was my duty and pleasure to share my knowledge and stories with other whale enthusiasts  and I hope you will enjoy this educational and fun whale information section.

 

BIRTH OF A DESERT WHALE
  Gray whales undertake the longest migration of any marine mammal (16,000 km round trip) in order to give birth to their calves in the warm, protected lagoons of baja california sur. The birthing takes place a few short days after they arrive and often attended by another whale...midwife perhaps?
This picture was taken on January 3rd when 2 large whales (one very pregnant) were checking out Sirena and Pelo Bello. They hung around for a long time taking turns getting their noses rubbed.
  When baby Gray whales are born tail first, they float up to the surface of the salty baja lagoons and if they don't take their first breath immediately, the mother will gently smack the newborn with her tail or flippers to get it breathing. The calves are born pinkish gray and their skin darkens when exposed to the water and air. They have the cutest dimples on their short snub noses with hairs growing out of them and are the size of a small car, weighing in at about a ton when they are born.
 They nurse almost constantly the first week gaining up to sixty pounds a day on their mother's rich milk which is about 53% fat (human milk is 2%). To make it easier for the calf to nurse, mom will roll over on her side to expose her mammary slit that the calf nuzzles up to and catches the milk that is shot out in a stream. this picture shows the mother on her side with her pectoral fin in the air for balance and you can make out the baby's tail near her abdomen where the mammary slits are located.
They continue to nurse for 6-8 months and grow 10' in the first 3 months while the mother loses a third of her body weight while nursing. The calf gains weight rapidly so that it has a layer of blubber built up to keep warm in the cold northern feeding grounds.
In their first month, the babies tire easily and often climb on their mother's back to catch a free ride like in this picture....or they rest their chin or flukes across her back to rest.

 

 

SWIMMING PRACTISE
When the calves are more than a month old they begin learning how to be a whale...it's funny to see them clumsily trying to imitate their mothers spy hopping and breaching. The baby whale begins to take on a personality...some are shy and others are real brats escaping from mom when she's sleeping. To build up strong pectoral fin muscles the moms take them swimming against the tide...out to the entrance of the lagoon when the tide is coming in and then they rest for a bit, nurse and when the tide changes, they swim back to the inner lagoon. It looks like a whale parade as they pass by the panga in single file.

 

ORPHAN BABIES
      Occasionally a mother whale dies giving birth to her calf or soon after. Most of these infants are doomed as they must be adopted immediately or they drown or beach themselves. Newborns are weak and need to rest every little while by laying ontop of the mother or resting it's tail or chin on her back. If mother is missing, the calf will swim into the shallow water to rest on the bottom and if the tide goes out, it gets stranded on the beach. Large whales die of internal injury when stranded as their great weight crushes organs but a calf can survive for much longer making it possible to return them to the water.
      We have tried to help several stranded babies return to the sea on the next high tide by pouring water over them to keep them wet, covering them with something to provide shade to prevent sunburn and keeping the birds and coyotes away from them. There are many methods to return a baby whale to the ocean at the next high tide but you need to release it where there are lots of nursing females. If they don't find their mother or a stepmother, they just swim back to the beach as they don't seem to fancy drowning. 
 This is a photo of a poor lost soul who came to our boat asking "Are you my mother?" hoping we would adopt it. The calf was older...about 2 months old and very skinny and weak. The baby came and stayed with our boat for a couple hours which was very sad as we all knew she would not survive many more days. Sure enough she beached herself a couple days later and we grieved her passing.
      Once a baby beached by mistake I think...or became separated from it's mom and needed to rest. When we found it, we could see the mother pacing back and forth in as close as the depth of water would permit her without beaching herself. It was obvious it was the mother. This was the only time we were successful in reuniting a calf with it's mother when we finally got it into the deep water by rolling it down the beach on a tarp. But now knowing it is possible, we try harder but it is rare an adult gray will take on an orphan baby. And boy does she have her flippers full when she does.
      With two calves nursing all the time, sometimes she has to take measures like swimming upside down with her flippers in the air so her breasts are on the surface making it impossible for the calf to nurse. It's how she takes a break to let the milk come in and is a strange sight indeed. When they get a bit older and start straying off to play with the boats, the mother has double worries and struggles to keep them both safe and under control. We laughed at a poor mom who was busy getting her one baby away from the boats while the other one snuck off to play with us. She finally just gave up and let the kids have their fun.
      A very lucky calf will find a nursing female who is large and healthy enough to sustain a second baby who is willing and gracious enough to support two kids the size of cars!

 

LOVE THOSE DIMPLES!
      When whale babies are born, they are pinkish gray and immediately begin to turn darker gray. Their noses are short...pug nosed and they have the cutest dimples, each with a long hair growing out of them. Their skin is very soft and the first layer of baby skin rubs off easily. After the first week, birthmarks appear as gray patches or round spots and the snout starts to push out. By the third week, these identifying marks turn white and their nose grows longer. We can tell the age of a calf by the color of the birthmarks and length of it's nose. Calves that have barnacle encrusted mothers soon get very mottled skin as it gets sloughed off on it's mothers sharp barnacles as the baby constantly rubs up against her. A dark gray mother with few barnacles will have a calf the same color.
      These barnacles are indigineous to gray whales, not found anywhere else in the world. They spawn in the warm waters of the lagoon and the baby barnacles latch onto the newborn calves in the softest areas around th

e blowhole and the crook of the tail flukes first. Can you tell which of these calves had a clean mom? The one with all the white splotches on it's mouth must have had a very crusty mother.

Last Updated ( Monday, 24 July 2017 )
 
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