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Communing with Whales

Oscar Ortiz

Photo by Oscar Ortiz

A humpback whale near Cabo San Lucas.

My day had begun at 3 a.m. as I dug out from yet another Boston snowstorm. But now I’d made it, unfrozen, to Cabo San Lucas. The sky was blue, fresh Mexican seafood beckoned and we were heading for the Cabo marina. What better way to jump-start this escape from winter, I’d figured, than grabbing ocean breezes at sunset where whales frolic and the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez?

I’ve seen humpbacks defy gravity, even been lucky enough to pat Baja’s “friendly” gray whales just up the coast. But I was intrigued by the Cabo Expeditions experience launched last year called “Whale Concert under the Stars” and company owner Oscar Ortiz’ desire that people not just watch whales but hear them from the depths of their own world.

A half-dozen of us join Ortiz and two crew members, and our Zodiac putters into the bay, passing Lover’s Beach and Cabo’s iconic Land’s End arch with its armada of tourist-carrying glass-bottom boats. As we head out, other boats, including a faux pirate ship and music-blaring party cruises, head in, taking their engines and other manmade noises with them.

After about 30 choppy minutes, we stop to watch the water-slapping play of a humpback calf close to her calmer mother. Rather than resorts and condos, looking back two miles inland reveals only water, mountains and the orange and gray celestial curtain between day and night. As a rising full moon turns the sea into a sparkling light show, we’re now the only boat around.

Once the sky is fully dark, Ortiz drops a hydrophone into the water. The first sounds are just whirring current, but then we hear the clicks and ethereal singing of humpbacks somewhere beneath us. Cabo’s natural soundtrack surpasses even the most expensive sound system.

Returning to port, we again pass Land’s End, only this time we are alone. As we bob on the water, the crew projects a video of whales and other marine life onto the ancient rock face just yards away. “People say they come to Cabo to disconnect,” Ortiz tells me later. “But on the water like this, you are actually reconnecting with yourself.”

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