What a whale of a first day aboard National Geographic Venture! We awoke after long travel days from around the world and from the Gulf of California’s magnificent Loreto to the quietly secluded Puerto San Carlos. We arose to cool climes and a glorious sunrise over Baja’s Pacific side and the expansive, protected Bahia Magdalena–home to the southernmost breeding lagoons for eastern Pacific gray whales.

Bellies full and hungry for adventure, we struck out early with local pangeros to Bahia Almejas, just a few clicks south from our anchorage to the edge of the open Pacific at the tip of Isla Santa Margarita. Magnificent hordes of breeding frigatebirds circled above the nesting mangroves while squadrons of brown pelicans shared the beachfront with snowy egrets, American oystercatchers, great blue herons, cormorants, terns, sanderlings, and bald eagles. One might have thought this whole trip was about birds…but as we rounded the shallow sandbar into Bahia Almejas proper, dozens of heart-shaped spouts informed us that our great expectations were whale-founded. We had arrived in an inner sanctum of the gray whale world.

We spent the morning watching gray whales here and there, near and far. Some lunging dramatically into the sky, others silently slipping by. We spotted spy hops and fluke slaps and gentle passes and shy dashes. One friendly gray whale approached a few of the local boats, giving us a good look.

We returned to the ship full of memories and eager for lunch as we sailed to Isla Magdalena and an excursion to Sand Dollar Beach. We passed sand verbena, salt grasses, and shell middens left over from millennia of human enjoyment of these beautiful shores. We crested the sand dunes to an expansive view of the Pacific and a beach laden with keyhole sand dollar shells and a few giant hatchet scallops. We look forward to a journey to a gray whale nursery tomorrow morning. But first, we plan to sleep and dream of another wonderful day on an already spectacular voyage.