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KCBS Cover Story: Unparalleled Access To California Gray Whales

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California gray whale

A California gray whale pops its head out of the water at Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California, Mexico. (CBS)

DougSovern20100908_KCBS_0208r Doug Sovern
Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, Mexico (KCBS) – Thrill seekers who marvel up close at whales during Northern California whale watching season are finding out simple watching pales in comparison to what you can witness 1,000 miles south of the Bay Area.

Those who have visited say there’s simply no place on earth quite like Laguna San Ignacio, in Mexico’s southern Baja Peninsula. There are California gray whales there this time of year, thousands of them every winter, migrating to their breeding and birthing grounds.

At this special lagoon, the whales are also watching the people who are watching them. If they like you, they may even let you touch them and allow you to play with their young.

“The experience at Laguna San Ignacio is unparalleled anywhere in the world, as far as whale watching goes,” declared Joel Reynolds, western director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Reynolds has seen 45 ft. whales allow people to touch and even kiss them.

“You can put your arms around the head of a full grown gray whale,” he said. “You can’t do that anywhere else that I know of.”

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Roughly 10% of the whales in the area are friendly, bumping, breaching and frolicking alongside 20 ft. boats filled with awestruck humans.

“I’ve seen this experience turn adults into kids, I’ve seen locked up teenagers freed by the experience. There’s some common denominator of joy that human beings get from this extraordinary opportunity to associate with massive, extraordinary wild animals,” said Reynolds.

One 13 year-old girl, who identified herself as Isabelle, described the experience of kissing a whale. “It’s crazy to feel when you pet the whale because you know that this thing could easily go and tip over the boat and kill you but it chooses not to,” she said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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