Photographing on the Water

Whale Cabo San Lucas
Humpback Whale – What a photo I got!

Cabo San Lucas Mexico

The fish are a jumping!

Okay, so technically a whale is not a fish but seriously, what a photo opportunity!

After a few weeks of beach time we decided it was time to head out onto the water to take in one of those popular whale-watching tours they advertise here in Cabo San Lucas. Photo aside, it was worth every penny. As we ventured out of the bay we were told not to expect much as whales are wild creatures, whale sighting is unpredictable. Luck was on our side. Nature rewarded us with a half-hour show of the most spectacular display of marine wildlife you could ask for in the Sea of Cortez. Whales, dolphins and sea rays launching themselves out of the water right before our eyes. At one point, several whales passed so close to the boat that the captain had to pull back on the throttle in fear he might bump into one of these enormous beasts. Backs exposed on the water’s surface, baby and moms travelling in pairs, enormous humpback males surfacing, then like a well-rehearsed ballet gracefully descending deep down into the depths. What a sight! What I really wasn’t expecting was the explosive sound whales make as they surface after a deep dive. Nothing can prepare you for the sound of the lungs of a 40-ton creature as it spouts it’s pent-up air.

The sounds of a Humpback Whale communicating.

Sound is one thing, but as a photographer capturing an image of a whale breaching, then body-slamming its 80,000 pound mass back onto the ocean surface, displacing the equivalent burst of water in the process is unforgettable. I could have stayed there all day.

The Sea of Cortez or the Mar de Cortés as the locals call it, is the Humpback whale’s, and in fact many species of whales, winter sanctuary. They say they travel nearly non-stop for 6-8 weeks every winter from Alaska to reach these warm calm waters to mate, give birth and nurture their calves. Whales are only part of the marine ecosystem. Baja California is one of the longest peninsulas in the world with a coastline of approximately 4,000 km. It’s waters are primary breeding, feeding and nursing grounds for myriad migratory and resident fish species, as well as home to thousands of seabirds.

Don’t miss out—take a tour

Boating is the one of the most popular attractions in Cabo San Lucas for good reason. When you have a calm harbour with almost 400 boat slips that can handle vessels of up to 350 feet, your options for spending time on the water are endless. From deep-sea fishing tours that depart at the crack of dawn, to snorkelling and scuba expeditions, whale watching, dinner cruises as well as dancing under the stars—the competition for your business is endless. As you walk along the Marina you can’t go more than 6 steps before someone is hawking a boat tour of some sort. Don’t miss out—take a tour. In Mexico we learned that everyone sells tours (even a women who strangely approached us while shopping in La Cormer). We choose to book our excursions with Pepe, Misiones bar keep. For a smooth ride he suggested the Eco Cat, one of the largest sailing catamarans in the world.  The best part was he arranged the tour, negotiated a better rate and even called us in the morning to make sure we found the boat.

Eco Cat Cabo San Lucas

We ended sailing on the Eco Cat twice; the first time was to get up close to the whales. We boarded the catamaran at 9:30am and before we could even settle in our seats the crew had a cocktail in our hands (geez, at 9:30am?). With country music blaring (pretty annoying) the captain first took us in a photo safari of Lovers Beach, then the iconic Arch, the stinky Sea Lions Colony, Divorce Beach, then finally further from shore where the whales were likely to be.

Arch Cabo San Lucas
The iconic El Arco

Cabo San Lucas’s famous landmark, El Arco is a natural archway formed in the sea cliffs at the southern most tip of California Baja. If you do anything in Cabo don’t miss the opportunity to get up close to this remarkable land feature. You’ll also see the sea lions and pelicans basking in the sun along the cliffs who are clearly not bothered by the hundreds of sightseers who pass by them everyday. Getting a good photo of them is fairly easy; although they really do blend in don’t they? Until they moved, I seriously thought they were part of the rocks.

Sea Lions Cabo
Sea Lion Colony adjacent to the Arch in Cabo San Lucas

When the sea lions and pelicans aren’t resting, they’re begging. We saw them follow the fishing boats into the harbour and actually jump right onto the back of the vessels in search of live leftover bait—some will even take the bait right out of your hand.

Seal Cabo San Lucas
Sea Lion on the shore patiently waiting for a hand out

For approximately 100 pesos you can catch a water taxi on the beach that will drop you off on the stretch of the clean white sand between the sea cliffs—the calm side facing the bay is called Lovers Beach while the turbulent pacific side is called Divorce Beach.

Lovers Beach Cabo
Lovers Beach

The appropriately named Divorce Beach is notorious for its strong currents and severe riptide. No matter how many warnings, tourist drownings occur here on a regular basis, surprisingly not due to people swimming, but by being swept into the ocean by a rogue wave.  It’s hard to believe that without warning the ocean can swallow you whole as my friend Edie and I strolled down this serene beach on another occasion.

Divorce Beach Cabo
Divorce Beach Cabo San Lucas

As I said, the fish were a jumping. It was on our second excursion on the Eco Cat that we again witnessed a pair of sting rays soar out of the water in perfect unison, again and again. This time we weren’t on a tour to see marine life, we were on the tail-end of a four-hour sunset booze cruise that took us past the famous arch then around to the pacific side in time to watch the sun disappear over the horizon. We were also amazed as a pod of dolphins decided to show off their playfulness by leaping in and out of the water as they followed the boat.

As the sun began to set, with the cocktails taking their desired effect, the captain pointed the boat toward the horizon so we could all witness the unlimited expanse of the sea. It was surreal, in fact humbling as we drifted in silence on what seemed like the edge of the world.

Cabo Sann Lucas
Sunset Cruising in Cabo San Lucas

If you do nothing else in Cabo San Lucas, go on a boat, any boat.  To experience the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you glide across the ocean is truly worthy experience.

Two more weeks here in paradise. Next adventure—Do you know the way to San Jose? I do.