I just left San Ignacio Lagoon where I had an amazing exprience with Pachico's Ecotours. I'm an avid user of tripadvisor and am now motiatved to write my first review.
Baja California is famous for its grey whales and its "friendly encounters" in which grey whales will approach a boat and interact with tourists, coming close enough to allow themselves to be touched.
A group of local fisherman in the 1970s were first approached by these animals and it has grown into an ecotourism venture. Today there are multiple companies in multiple locations, however San Ignacio has the highest number/percentage of friendly encounters and is relatively easy to reach from southern Baja where the main airports are located.
I had been wanting to see the whales up close for years and did extensive research of the companies before choosing Pachico's. Firstly, Pachico Mayoral (the namesake of the company) was the local fisherman first approached by one of the resident gray whales in the 1970s. His family has been leading people on trips to see the friendly whales for over 30 years. Pachico is now in his 70s and his son, Jesus, is the driving force behind the company as well as behind many environmental protection programs in the lagoon. It is amazing to listen to his stories of growing up around the lagoon and his years of interactions with the whales. He is also pioneering a waste recycling-reuse program and his campsite utilizes both solar and wind energy.
More than that, everyone at his campsite is friendly and helpful. The food is amazing, home-made, authentic Mexican dishes featuring seafood that is fresh from the local fisherman. Jesus is as enthusiastic about encountering the whales as his guests and will shoot literally 1000s of pictures on his high powered camera which he is happy to share with his guests at the end of the day. For that reason, I was able (even as an avid photographer) to put my camera down and completely enjoy the experience while still coming back with amazing pictures (with the added benefit of being in many of the photos as well).
Next - the interaction with the whales is impossible to put into words. You are in a 20-foot wooden boat literally surrounded by whales up to 45 feet long. Some are breaching, others spy-hopping, and some are just swimming by with their babies. That is an experience in itself, but the ultimate goal is a "friendly encounter" in which, a whale swims over to meet you. They push the boat, lift up their heads, and allow themselves to be petted by eager hands. Pachico's approach to the whales is to allow them to come to you and that experience is magical, most importantly, I never felt as if the whales were being harassed or bothered. The whales themselves seem to enjoy the encounter as much as we do, popping their heads out to get a good look at you before spraying as they exhale.
We stayed for two days with Pachico's Ecotours and each trip out was amazing for different reasons. We had three friendly encounters including a mother and baby and also witnessed a mother helping her just-born calf to the surface for its first breaths while it learned to swim. At night the sunsets were unbelievable and we went to sleep to the sounds of the coyotes, while we were "guarded" by the two friendliest camp dogs. I have never seen so many stars in my life.
Pachicos Ecotours is a small family-run, locally owned company and you feel like family when you are there. His business is his passion and comes from his heart. During our conversations, he spoke about initiatives to protect the lagoon, protect the whales, recycle and reuse the trash in the lagoon, and a solar power initiative for the local fisherman. Pachicos is an amazing company in an amazing place. I will most definitely return to see the whales and my friends again.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC