Map of the Vizcaino Biosphere

The Vizcaino Biosphere
Mexico’s Premier Wildlife Refuge in Baja Sur

Located at the center of the Baja peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez or Gulf of California lies Mexico’s most dramatic and diverse wildlife refuge. It is called El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve and it is one of Mexico’s most recent additions to a growing collection of wildlife and protected zones. Declared a national biosphere in 1988, El Vizcaino has a landmass of over 2.5 million hectares (143,600 square km) it is the largest wildlife refuge in all of Latin America and certainly the most diverse.

Map of the Vizcaino Biosphere
The Vizcaino Biosphere

Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve Facts

  • Largest wildlife refuge in Latin America
  • United Nations World Heritage Site
  • Over two and a half million hectares
  • 10,000 year old cave paintings and Petroglyphs
  •  17th century missions
  • Over 500,000 migratory birds winter in coastal pacific region
  • Least populated region in Mexico: less than one person per 2km

First Inhabitants

This region was first inhabited over eleven thousand years ago by the Cochimi, nomads who came from the north of the American continent. These nomadic wanderers lived in the protection of caves in the Sierra San Francisco mountain range where cave art can still be seen by travelers making the trek into this mountainous region. Unique only to Baja.

The animals and plants of this territory have adapted themselves to the region’s extreme desert conditions with little rainfall, intense winds and an ecosystem which has produced thousands of endemic species of plants and animal life found no where else in the world but Baja. 

Animals of the Baja

Animals that have adapted to these extreme conditions include a variety of nocturnals such as coyotes, rodents, and hares; others have adapted to only ingesting water from succulents.  Outstanding among the mammals is the pronghorn antelope, one of the swiftest mammals on Earth. In this region can be found the last populations of Antilocapra Americana Peninsularis, an endemic subspecies of the pronghorn. The Vizcaino is also the habitat of the desert bighorn sheep, the mule deer, dozens of resident and migratory birds—being of special importance the ospreys, cormorants, herons, and gulls—and four species of sea turtles. On the coastline and islets there are many marine mammals, such as elephant seals and sea lions. 

Gray Whale Sanctuary

But what is most spectacular, what gives this region uniqueness found nowhere else on this planet, is that it is the birthplace of the Pacific Gray Whale commonly known as the California Gray Whale. Every winter, thousands of Gray Whales migrate from their feeding grounds in the Bearing Sea and Alaska to the lagoons of San Ignacio and Ojo de Liebre and Magdalena Bay to mate and bear their young as they have done for thousands of generations. 

United Nations World Heritage Site

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993: Because of its’ uniqueness and importance to the world community, UNESCO the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has designated the cave paintings of the Sierra San Francisco and the calving lagoon of San Ignacio as World Heritage sites. 

UN site:

Click for large map image.

Go to the Gray Whale Migration Map Go to the San Ignacio Lagoon Map Go to the Baja California Peninsula Map
Whale Petting Video
The Friendly Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon
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