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What Every October, gray whales leave their feeding grounds in Arctic waters and swim up to 7,000 miles south along the Pacific coast, reaching a handful of Baja lagoons by December for two months of mating and giving birth to 1,500-pound calves. There, lucky boaters can get within a paddle length of a 45-foot-long, 40-ton giant that was almost hunted to extinction in the early 20th century (international protection granted in the 1940s allowed the population to rebound to more than 20,000 whales).
Where Baja California, Mexico. Scammon’s Lagoon (aka Ojo de Liebre), San Ignacio Lagoon, and Magdalena Bay are Baja’s big three–but you’ll have to take a guided panga (boat) tour for up-close access. Nearby Laguna Manuela doesn’t have as many whales, but kayaking and beach camping are allowed. kayakbaja.com