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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

From aboard National Geographic Venture: Guerrero Negro – Salt of the Earth


#expeditioncruising .

Itinerary: From Southern California to Baja: Sailing the Pacific Coast

Day 5: Guerrero Negro – Salt of the Earth

The sight of these massive machines had me humming the Thunderbirds tune as the massive orange prime movers with 3m wheels and triple trailers rumbled past, overflowing with their load of sea salt.

Massive salt mining equipment (RE)

The Laguna Ojo de Liebre is a huge lagoon located within the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve UNESCO World Heritage site adjacent to the largest salt works in the world, producing in excess of 7 million tonnes per year from 33,000 hectares of tidal evaporating pools.

“The west coast of the Baja Peninsula is exceptionally well-suited to salt-making with expansive flat areas, arid climate with low precipitation, intensive year-round sunshine, strong winds, and easily accessible ocean,” Lindblad Expeditions naturalist Deb Goodwin tells us, “Founded in 1953, the largest salt manufacturing plant in the world is located here to capitalize on these characteristics; today, it extracts “white gold” from evaporated sea water.”

Thousands of seabirds take flight (RE)

But in all honesty, it's not the salt-making that is the attraction for Lindblad Expeditions. The huge lagoon was for thousands of years at least, a calving refuge and nursery for the gray whales who would head here for winter vacation. Of course, with such numbers congregated in one place, they were hunted to the brink of extinction but have been totally protected in Mexican waters now for more than 70 years.

Local boats take us on lagoon tours (RE)

Right now, in mid-December, we are way too early for the gray whales who are celebrated locally in an arrival festival every February. The shallow lagoon is an attractive refuge because predating Orcas will drown the calves in the open ocean, so the young cetaceans are relatively safe in these protected waters. But the populations, despite rebounding from their critical lows 100 years ago, still face numerous threats besides the frighteningly efficient Orcas. Pollution, radioactive spill and naval sonar are all significant health hazards for the gray whales. And yes, they are still hunted in Russia.

Gray whale watching in season with Lindblad (Lindblad)

“A cause for concern recently is the mortality sustained by the species on its migration route and in the winter breeding areas and the decline in newborn calves,” says the WWF. So the grays are not out of the woods by any means.

We wrap up the day with a terrific lunch at Malarrimo, a local restaurant, before heading out to see a Lindblad-supported wildlife program where critically endangered Pronghorns (a type of antelope) are being bred in captivity with considerable success.

MORE: Whale watching with Lindblad

Our journey continues south to Isla San Benito.

For more information on Lindblad – National Geographic journeys, see www.expeditions.com



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