Travel Stories – part 2 – a Whale of a Tale

 Fair warning, LOTS of photo’s.

Picking up on my adventures in April!  This is a photo travel journal from my 10 day cruise on the Ruby Princess, out of Los Angeles, April 14-24, 2018.

At the end of my last post, we sailed away from San Diego CA and had a lovely “Sea Day” on board the beautiful Ruby Princess as we went South along Baja California. Perfect weather for a sea day!  I spent some time meeting other travelers whom I had chatted with on Cruise Critic and had a photo with them and officers from the crew.

Ruby Princess April 14, 2018 sailing

It was a great chance to hear about the new menus on board the ship and to get to know TJ the cruise director, talk to the hotel manager etc.  Sea Days are my favorite time on a cruise ship. Time to relax, read, listen to an audio book, sit in the sun, enjoy the pool, and sit & sew.  I took my never ending hexi project along for sea days and got 2 double diamonds finished during the cruise.

Our first port in Mexico was Cabo San Lucas, and I was scheduled to do a snorkeling excursion.

Cabo San Lucas Mexico

We had an EARLY morning show time for the excursion, and by the time we tendered into Cabo, it was barely 9 am. We no sooner stepped onto the dock to find out that the excursion was cancelled due to the rough water conditions.  I was frustrated because the vendor with the “SHIP” excursion didn’t notify the ship before we tendered over. Instead, he tried to get us to take one of his company’s other excursions, and pay him directly for that “new” trip. He might have had something enjoyable to do, but I like to plan a bit more. Plus, my sister was still on the ship and if she was going to go into town, I wanted to go with her. SO….I tendered back to the ship and tried to find her.  We must have passed each other in tenders, me going to the ship and her going to town. I guess it was “meant to be” and I stayed on board the ship, and relaxed the rest of the day!  I’ve been to Cabo several times, so I wasn’t sad to stay on board.  I will fill you in on another post about one of the ships guests who took the alternate excursion and tell you his story!

Our second port was La Paz Mexico, which is North of Cabo San Lucas in the Gulf of California / Sea of Cortez.  Our port was in an industrial area, about 10 miles from the town center.  Not a pretty place to go shopping!

Wide view of the port at La Paz Mexico

I had scheduled a snorkeling excursion with an early morning show time. This excursion met dockside and we walked over to the boats we were to take for the excursion. The details of the excursion are found here –  SNORKELING AT GAVIOTA ISLAND & BALANDRA BAY  .

Once we were on board and settled into life jackets, we headed out into the channel.  Immediately we discovered that the French /Spanish speaking “dive guy”, and the young Mexican woman who spoke English and the captain of the boat who spoke Spanish ; were going to show us a good time.  We were not 5 mins away from the ship when the “dive guy” yelled about a whale, and the captain of the boat spun us around and took us to see a Humpback whale in the channel.

A whale nearby

Do you see that little disturbance in the water, to the slight left of the white hat?

Definitely something there!  (And LOOK how close to the cruise ship we are!) (The big white one, not the blue one)

Whale blow - La Paz Mexico

Thar’ she blows!

whale surface La Paz Mexico

humpback whale TAIL

And there is the tail!

Not quite a breech but a whale tail is nearly as cool!  I knew right away that this boat captain was going to make sure we had a good time.  His schedule switched from “snorkeling to whale watching” .  He hung in the channel a long time so we could watch the whale and get photos!  None of us were immediately prepared because this was so unexpected.

After we all got the opportunity to take photo’s and see the whale surfacing and blowing, and going back under, we headed out towards Gaviota Island. “As you approach the island you’ll notice that it’s not full of swaying palm trees but covered with birds. The island is a massive volcanic rock, which makes it a natural refuge for hundreds of seabirds. Depending on the time of year, you may see blue-footed boobies, yellow-footed gulls, and great blue herons“. (Quote from the Princess website linked above).  Well, I didn’t have a “great view” for photo’s so I only snagged this one –

Gaviota Island La Paz Mexico

The plan was to come back to this island to snorkel after we had some time at the beach.  So, we circled the island once, then went off to the most beautiful cove and beaches!  

La Paz Mexico Playa Balandra

  Again – from the Princess website – “Balandra Bay lies just a short distance from La Paz and is home to eight inlets, a coral reef, and beautiful beaches. But Balandra Bay is most famous for its unusual rock formation called Mushroom Rock, or El Hongo by the locals. “

Balandra Beach La Paz Mexico

This panoramic isn’t the best below, but I insert it here so you can get a vision of just how big this bay was!

panoramic view Balandra bay La Paz Mexico

Way off to the left was the only beach that you could get to by automobile or bus.  That is how these kayakers arrived for their “ship tour”.

The equipment for the kayakers was great and I would recommend that excursion if you find yourself on a cruise with a port stop in La Paz!  (Our snorkeling equipment was outdated!)

After some beach time, and some very COLD water, we got back on our little boats and headed over to Gaviota Island for snorkeling.  I was watching everyone getting into the water at Gaviota, and seeing their reactions and rapid retreat to the boat, and decided I was not going to risk the extremely cold (60 degree) water.  I was still freezing from playing in the water at the beach and I didn’t have a wet suit.  The only ones who stayed in the water snorkeling were those equipped with wet suits.  I was thinking the whales at the beginning of the trip would be the highlight of my day.  Little did I know that our return to the Ruby Princess would be full of adventure.

Our boat captain, assisted by the dive guy found more whales.  In fact, the captain did a u-turn and took us out to sea much further than expected in the small boat, to chase the whales and capture some photos.  We stayed with this one whale for nearly an hour, and I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I did.  I am amazed I was able to capture as many as I did, with just my cell phone.

Humpback whale BREACH La Paz Mexico

So exciting to see this humpback breach. One source below calls this SPY HOPPING, not breach.

La Paz Mexico Humpback whale

This humpback  was less than 100 yards from our small boat.

Whale watching in LaPaz Mexico

They make quite a splash going back down!

humpback whale La Paz Mexico breaching

This was a full breach.

This one was giving us a wonderful show!  Sometimes my view was from the “wrong side of the boat” and I had to get my photo “across” others.

Ahoy WHALE LaPaz Mexico

In the video below, watch for the breach and the tail! It is a short one. You may notice another boat in the shots, this is our companion group, and our boat was similar in size.

Now, if you are still hanging on, looking at these photo’s, I have another video to share.  This video is of the humpback whale slapping it’s tail. ” A tail slap also known as “lobtailing”.  Some say it is to stun the fish, and others say it is a method of communication.  Sources for both theories are linked at the bottom of the page.  Meanwhile, turn on your speakers, and enjoy the chatter in the background along with the sounds of this whale as his tail slaps the water.  I only ran a couple of minutes of video, but this whale behaved in this manner for nearly 30 minutes while our boats were in the area.  It was the most interesting thing to watch!

There are several schools of thought on the WHY the humpback slaps its tail.  Since there were no naturalists along on this “snorkeling trip turned whale watching” we didn’t get an explanation.  Here are a couple of sources I have found since I returned home and started questioning the WHY ?  Have you ever seen whales behave in this manner?

My opportunity to see these whales and to spend so much time observing them made up for the “no snorkeling”.  The trip was certainly worth the expense because of the experience.

A couple of lessons learned about the idea of snorkeling on the west coast of Mexico – 1)Equipment – 2) Water Temperature.

This is the not  the first time I have had poor quality equipment on a paid tour in Mexico.  Last year in Huatulco Mexico, they gave us regular life jackets for snorkeling, and again on this trip.  I find them impossible to deal with and they interfere with the fun of snorkeling. I’ve been disappointed for the last time. Next cruise, I will order and take my own snorkel vest.  I should have had a wet suit for early spring cold water.  Huatulco was warm! But, it was early November and the water was so much warmer further south.  La Paz was not so warm in April!  I will check water temperature charts before I book excursions.

I’ve gone snorkeling on Caribbean cruises in the past, and in the Bahamas, and cold water was never an issue, and the same for Hawaii, so I was a bit stunned by the temperatures!  Several people I met during the excursion and on board the Ruby Princess talked about the need to bring your “own gear” to have a better experience. Lesson learned.

I hope you enjoyed the photos of my fun in La Paz on the water. I have a Humpback whale album on Flickr if you want to see more photos.

Stay tuned for one more “travel story” to wrap up the April adventure!  Next stop Puerto Vallarta.  Now I leave you with the sunset as we sailed away from La Paz!

Sunset leaving La Paz Mexico


ps….yes, I have been quilting some this month….but I just had to share this great adventure with you.