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Cruising to Adventure in Mexico's Sea of Cortes

By Gene Sloan, USA Today

MAGDALENA BAY, Mexico -- The white-and-red skiff carrying Jo Leppert and nine of her fellow travelers in search of gray whales has barely left the dock when they get their first big thrill: A giant female erupting from the water just a few feet away.

As big as a Greyhound bus, the 40-foot-long creature has emerged so close to the boat that the spray from its blow hole mists the cameras clicking away. And it's not alone. Nestled up to its barnacle-dotted belly is a 15-foot-long baby.

"Awesome," is all that Leppert, a 72-year-old retiree from Columbus, Ohio, can say as the mother and daughter glide by in unison. "They're so big."