In early fall, eastern gray whales in the north Pacific begin their annual two-to-three-month, roughly 6,000 mile (10,000 km) voyage to the warm southern waters surrounding the Baja Peninsula and Gulf of California. Upon reaching their destination, the whales inhabit the lagoons to mate and for pregnant cows to give birth to and nurse their calves.
Starting in February, bulls and cows without young begin to travel back north, while pregnant and nursing cows remain in the area until May. As the pods make their way back north over the spring and early summer they typically travel along the same route only remaining a little further off the coast.
During their migration, gray whales travel an average of roughly 75 miles (120 km) per day at an average speed of 5 miles-per-hour (8 kph). In total, this round-trip covers a distance of roughly 12,000 miles (20,000 km) and is believed to be the longest annual migration of any mammal on Earth.
Though the gray whale’s lifespan remains unknown, scientists estimate that it ranges somewhere between 40 and 80 years.
Every day an adult gray whale eats as much as one ton (907 kg) of food comprised mostly of zooplankton, krill, amphipods and tube worms.
Once on the brink of extinction, gray whales are now protected by international law. They were removed from the United States endangered animals list in 1994.
Here are a few recommended areas to spot the gray whales on their migration route. Keep your eyes peeled anytime you're near the coast and you just might see one of these beautiful creatures.