The Baja California Peninsula is truly a mecca for nature tourism, boasting seasonal gray whales along the Pacific coast, 5 of the world’s 7 species of sea turtle, and a host of marine and aviary life including the largest creature on the planet, the blue whale. La Paz is the perfect jumping off point for any of these natural attractions, but what truly makes it special is the yearly visit of whale sharks just minutes away from the downtown boardwalk.
With great natural treasures comes great responsibility to protect species and habitat, and in the case of whale sharks, La Paz is taking this responsibility to heart. In 2017 the Mexican environmental authorities (SEMARNAT), worked with local scientists, conservation groups, and tour operators to develop and implement a responsible management program for whale shark observation. This process was far from easy (RED Travel México participated actively in all aspects of this program, lobbying with local operators to support the process), but it produced one of Mexico’s most robust programs for managing tourism with a protected species. This includes GPS chips in all boats, a tracking and radio protocol for entry into and exit from the observation zone, mandatory training and certification for guides and captains, mandatory naturalist guides on board, and a voluntary fee program through which tour operators fund in-water monitoring patrols.
The observation zone’s proximity to La Paz makes it an ideal spot for conducting research. RED works with various researchers who conduct photo-identification, genetic sampling, and behavioral analysis. This last piece is important, as it helps us understand the impacts of humans in the whale shark feeding zone, in order to create more effective management programs.
RED’s non-profit arm, Red de Turismo Sustentable y Desarrollo Social AC has been active throughout this process, designing and delivering training programs, one of which included a course for local operators to help them cost and price their activities.
The organization’s ongoing whale shark ambassadors program takes youth, educators and other locals from La Paz out on the water for the day to learn about whale sharks and experience these magnificent creatures in their own habitat. You can support this program with a donation to Red AC or by purchasing one of their ambassador kits, the perfect gift for kids.
November through April is the season for whale shark observation. Grab a snorkel and see them up close. Contact us to book a trip.