Fundraising Tour To Pet Whales

Have fun, learn about conservation, and contribute to the critters. What are you waiting for?
BY: ALE BORBOLLA

The International Community Foundation, (ICF), has been financially supporting marine conservation projects for the past 15 years, mostly on the Baja California peninsula, both Sea of Cortez side and Pacific side. They continue to focus on sites under ecological pressure, as well as coastal, ocean and land areas of high biodiversity where native species are in jeopardy. ICF is also concerned with preserving migratory corridors for whales, sharks, and sea turtles. Oh, and birds, let’s not forget ICF’s concern for the birds. Basically, they support with grants, people who are working towards all good ecological outcomes.

ICF has tackled such tough issues as clean air and groundwater in coastal communities. They work in air quality, land-use zoning, and large-scale infrastructure projects.

One of their upcoming projects is what they’re calling their insider tour of Laguna San Ignacio & The Gray Whales. It’s coming up this March 27-31. The trip is a great way to see the whales with like-minded supporters.

You can join ICF personnel on this insider tour of Laguna San Ignacio, one of the most popular places with the whales. You are guaranteed to see a ton of gray whales. Well, many tons, actually.

The whales travel there to pop out their babies so you can usually get close enough to pet both mamas and calves. They aren’t shy here, they come right up to your panga, (that’s a big row boat), and expect you to reach down and pet them. If you have a dog or a cat, you know the drill when an animal is expecting belly rubs or ear scratches. Same thing with whales, they like us to show them the love.

Thousands of migrating birds, endangered mammal species, and turtles also find their home in this bay. Since 2000, ICF has worked with the local community to successfully secure the permanent protection of over 340,000 acres of critical habitat for water, land, and sea critters, and this has now been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

San Ignacio is also home for local fishing communities, whose residents have contributed to the protection of these amazing mammals. They are motivated by the money they make taking us crazy tourists out in their fishing boats in whale season. The panga owners must have a license to tour people, and to get that license, they need to learn the rules of engagement with the big guys. The number of licenses is controlled so the water doesn’t get too crazy with whale petters. 

International Community Foundation has three key strategies; first, 140,000 acres of land have been protected in the private, communal and government land surrounding the lagoon, as well as 150 miles of coastline, resulting in legal certainty, economic benefits, resource conservation and social justice in San Ignacio. Many locals had the idea of protecting Laguna de San Ignacio, but a little push was needed for them to unify locally and internationally. Second, the alliance is monitoring the environmental conditions around the lagoon and responding to new threats. Local communities are helping monitor wildlife and illegal activities as well as restoring mangrove forests to provide shelter for sea turtles and endangered shore birds. This also protects the people from natural disasters storming ashore. Third, the alliance is empowering local communities so they can continue to protect their legacy and the lagoon more effectively, focusing on the future generations, so they have the tools to keep Laguna San Ignacio and everyone associated with it safe. Critters and people.

ICF will share details of this success story and their grantees’ ongoing efforts with friends and supporters during the five day excursion, which will include lodging, transportation, and meals, as well as meet and greets with community leaders, expert scientists, and of course, whale-watching tours during which you will very likely be able to touch these magical whales and their calves.

Price is $3,500 per person which includes a private chartered flight from San Diego. If you’re delivering yourself there, it’s only $1,845, all-inclusive, including a tax-deductible donation to the San Ignacio Lagoon Whale Conservation Fund.

The bay is 600 miles south of the border, so if you’re doing the math and you’re a sharpie, you will soon see it’s about 400 miles north of Cabo. A bit pricey, yes, but it’s because it’s a fund raiser for the foundation. Think of it as like those spendy National Geographic tours. Besides contributing to a good cause, you’re getting first rate information from very knowledgeable tour guides, and hob nobbing with like-minded whale huggers.

Space is limited, (12 flight passengers from San Diego, and a maximum group size of 24 people if you’re including those delivering themselves). Contact Eliza Brennan to reserve your spot and for more details at eliza@icfdn.org or 619-336-2254. Visit www.icfdn.org for more information on all the good works this organization does.