Grey Whales are one of the world’s largest mammals, at a length of 40-50ft, weighing in at 30-40 tons — about the size of a school bus! They are baleen feeders, using teeth made from a material similar to human hair to filter and to allow the smaller organisms to pass into their mouths. The Gray Whales were almost hunted to extinction in the 1800’s for their blubber until the International Whaling Commission banned the hunting of these animals in 1946 and their population has recovered, although not near the pre-whaling amounts.
They spend most of their time feeding off the Alaskan coast, but during the winter months they start the 12,430 miles round-trip to Baja California for mating season. The shallow lagoons in Mexico provide shelter for the mammals while they strengthen the calves for the migration back to the nutrient rich waters in the north.
The Grey Whales follow the Scripps Canyon through the La Jolla Ecological Reserve as a navigation route, kind of like the I-5. The depths of the canyon provide food for the whales as they often use their tail to stir up the sediment for the whales to filter feed off plankton. Grey Whales are a spectacular experience to see on the kayaks, and it’s a non-invasive way to witness these gentle giants swim by. Larger motorized vessels create noise pollution that can disturb these mammals.
Fun Fact: Whale’s milk is rich in fat, helping the calves build up weight for the journey to Alaska. Once the calves are strong enough to make the journey back to Alaska, the migration route becomes closer to shore, making La Jolla a unique location to see these animals up close.