A Whale of a Shark: Swimming with Gentle Giants in Baja Mexico
Each year from late summer through October, a natural marine phenomenon takes place in the calm waters surrounding the town of Bahia de los Angeles in Baja Mexico’s Gulf of California: the arrival of the whale sharks. Despite their huge size and fearsome name, these “sharks” are as placid as gold fish and spend their days gently feeding on the abundant plankton found in the rich waters of the bay, all the while tolerating the attention of enthralled snorkelers swimming by their side.
While you can drive the 350 miles by car from the U.S. border to Bahia de los Angeles, by far the easiest and most scenic way to reach the town is with an air tour company. Nothing quite compares to seeing the mountains and beaches of the Baja Peninsula from the seat of a small aircraft–an adventure in itself!
Imagine a pristine beach, an hour away via boat from Bahia de los Angeles, with yurts that offer all the comforts of home....and glorious nature at your front door. The Las Animas Eco-Lodge is a glamper’s dream.
This area of Baja California is known as the "other" Galapagos. Why? The regions share much of the same flora, fauna and topography: blue- and yellow-footed booby birds, magnificent frigates, stunning cacti, black lava beaches, countless sea lions, Sally-Llghtfoot crabs, manta rays, sea turtles and many other species of plants and animals.
As they do in the Galapagos Islands, sea lions rule the landscape in the Gulf of California. Their vocals and antics are quite entertaining, and they aren’t bothered in the slightest by curious snorkelers paddling around in the surf for a closer look.
The Las Animas Eco-Lodge's pristine beach is right out of a photo montage for the “World’s Most Beautiful Beaches.” The warm, crystal-clear blue water is perfect for aquatic activities. Afterwards, enjoy a mid-afternoon siesta on the white sandy beach.
Even though a swim with a whale shark is a tough act to follow, there are many more exciting daily adventures to enjoy. One of the most popular tours is a nature walk through the desert landscape surrounding the Animas Eco-Lodge, where guides point out rare and unusual flora along the paths.
Paired with fresh margaritas, clam ceviche is a hit during the Animas Eco-Lodge's daily happy hour. Fresh fish pulled from the surf each morning is also a part of the lunch and dinner options at the lodge, as is delicious homemade Mexican cuisine.
There are endless photo opportunities on the daily excursion boat ride from the lodge to the whale shark bay at Bahia de los Angeles. Curious dolphins love to follow the boat and whale sightings are also common along the route.
Photo courtesy of Tony DiBona
Ring Side Seat
Even if you don't feel comfortable or capable of jumping into the water to swim with the sharks, you'll definitely be able to admire them at close range from the excursion boat. Photo opportunities are endless, as the whale sharks display no fear and glide calmly right next to the boats as they feed.
With no signs of humanity around you, it’s easy to connect with nature and let the stress of your daily lives dissipate with each gentle wave rolling onto the shore. It’s the perfect place to fuel–or rekindle–romance.
All sorts of water activities are available to the guests at the lodge. Sail, swim, snorkel or paddle board through the calm bay just steps from your yurt. Grab a kayak and explore the many coves–teeming with crabs, sea birds, and colorful fish–that line the rugged shoreline.
Once the sun dips behind the mountains, you can look forward to a night sky of amazing clarity. Without any man-made lights to mar its glory, the sky appears as a jet-black globe peppered with twinkling stars and constellations that will take your breath away.
You'll never see Joanne without a camera or two strapped around her neck as she travels around the world, together with her photographer husband Tony, to unearth new and exciting destinations to share with her readers.
Her professional career includes a long tenure in communications with the San Diego Tourism Authority, where she gained expertise with both the camera and the descriptive word.
When she’s not adding fresh images to her Scenic Photos website, she's posting her current adventures on her popular Travel Blog.
Joanne is a member of the esteemed Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).