Not surprisingly, the most frequent question I'm asked is "What's your favorite destination?" It might seem like an easy question to answer, but that's far from the reality. There are so many destinations around the world - I love mountains, beaches, wildlife, warm weather, cold weather, meeting new people. I've traveled to Newfoundland and Iceland many times. I have family in Ireland and have been visiting since 2001 - I think I'm on my 10th or 11th trip, I've lost count. Those countries are all on the top of my list.
Staying in the heart of the Amazon in beautiful Ecuador, one of the most diverse and spectacular countries was an experience of a lifetime - listening to the howls of the monkeys through the rainforest, seeing the red eyes of the caimans in the river after dark, the toucans perched in the trees and the hundreds of parrots soaring through the skies, it was something I never thought I'd see outside of a TV screen.
Greece was incredible, the history, the people, the food, the scenery!
And, traveling to Croatia this year I fell hard for that country too - I'm returning to experience more of some of my favorite spots there in 2020 - there's so much I have to say about that spectacular country, it deserves a post of it's own...on the list!
Of course, I've been mostly living in Baja, Mexico for the last 18 months or so - the Wild West feel, the stunning beaches and crystal-clear blue waters for snorkeling that are like swimming in an aquarium, the Mexican people and the mouthwatering cuisine, make it one of my favorite places too. And, the whales...humpbacks and gray whales come so close you can almost pet them - in some places, you can!
Truly, it's an impossible question to answer. But, after visiting New Zealand, I have to admit, that one is going to be hard to beat. Not that I have to choose just one, of course. When I returned from my trip, I endured some of the worst jet lag ever... but I also felt more calm and relaxed than I had in a very long time. There was just something magical about this place that I tried to boil down to a list of reasons, but to really understand it, you'll need to visit yourself. Trust me when I say, the long flight and jet lag is worth it.
I'm going back in March of 2021 - in one of my latest articles for Trips To Discover I reveal just some of the reasons why: !3 Reasons New Zealand is the Best Country to Visit
My third trip to Baja California Sur, Mexico was the best one yet, with much of that thanks to Jahaziel of Baja Sur Tours, and, of course, the wealth of wildlife that welcomed us there. It's not only the wonderful Mexican people that are incredibly friendly, but the gray whales too. Aptly nicknamed "The Friendlies," the whales come to three breeding lagoons in the Sea of Cortez: Magdalena Bay, San Ignacio Lagoon and Scammon’s Lagoon, gathering here between mid-January and mid-April before heading north to Alaska on their annual migration.
Many of these whales specifically seek out human contact in the lagoons, with mothers bringing their calves to “introduce them” to curious visitors. These lagoons are the only three places in the world where the gray whales birth their babies. The government strictly regulates all access, ensuring that human activities don’t negatively affect these magnificent creatures.
The lagoons are protected from the strong waves and currents of the Pacific Ocean, and the lagoons are shallow. The gray whales' only predator, the killer whale, won't enter into such shallow water, making it the ideal environment for the mothers to nurse their newly born calves. It's also easy for the mothers to supervise while the young whales learn how to swim, how to breath properly, feed, dive and teach them how to interact with other whales.
The whales really seem to enjoy the interactions with humans, just as much as humans enjoy them. The mothers sometimes even lift the babies out of the water or let them rest on top of them while the baby gets all of the attention.
The trip to Magadalena Bay takes several hours from La Paz, but our tour guide and owner of Baja Sur Tours, Jahaziel, drove us there and we made a number of fun stops along the way, including a cafe with some of the best coffee I've ever had. As there are fossils found throughout the area, I even picked up some Megalodon shark teeth!
Our tour included only myself and my daughter Brooke, Jahaziel, and the boat captain. As we stepped inside the boat, we were excited with anticipation, and the day truly turned out to be one of the best of our lives. How grateful I am that the whales chose to meet with us.
Olivia, as one of the mother friendlies was referred to, floated right next to the boat as I rubbed her head for a good 10 minutes - until, baby suddenly popped up, nudging my arm similar to a jealous dog, looking for attention.
The first video you'll see below is thanks to our amazing tour guide, Jahaziel of Baja Sur Tours, while I captured the one that follows - something I realized is not so easy to do when all you want to really do is enjoy this magical and even transformational experience that makes all the bad in the world seem to fade away as you connect with these magnificent animals.
This was only one day of our 8-day trip in Baja, so more posts to come, including snorkeling with sea lions and our stay in Cabo Pulmo National Park. There is so much to see and do on the Baja Peninsula, it would take years, if not a lifetime to experience it all.