Every year, between June and September, hundreds of humpback whales arrive from Antarctica to the Ecuadorian coasts, offering a magnificent spectacle to national and foreign tourists who come to observe them. These mammals travel approximately 8,000 kilometers in search of the warm currents offered by our country, which are ideal for their reproduction.
The whale watching season lasts three months, these wonderful cetaceans arrive attracted by the warm waters of the Machalilla National Park in Puerto Lopez Manabi.
Manabí in Puerto López, a southern Manabí canton, is a reference destination for humpback whale watching on the Ecuadorian coast, and each season the tourism sector prepares to serve visitors who come attracted by this adventure.
The whale watching in Puerto Lopez is a great spectacle, the male whale calf jumps over the water to impress the female, the same ones that emerge sun giant fins to encourage the males, it is an unparalleled spectacle that is repeated every year, the humpback whales travel thousands of miles south of the planet (Patagonia) to feed, for 3 months where they gain body fat and then travel to the warm waters of Machalilla National Park where they mate and have their offspring.
In this canton there are 30 tourist boats duly registered and authorized to make sighting trips, of which 13 have the respective permits to reach the island of La Plata, which is part of Machalilla National Park. The cost of the trip is US$25 if it is only for sighting, and US$45 with entrance to the island. In Manta you can also make this type of trip for which there is an operator that makes a coastal tour with a value of $ 40 per person.
Another province of Ecuador where you can observe humpback whales is in the province of Santa Elena there are two established sites for whale watching trips, Salinas and Ayangue, where there are a total of 10 tour operators with 28 boats duly registered to offer this service and have the respective permits and staff to make the experience unique.
In Salinas Known as the “Miami Beach” of Ecuador, Salinas is a modern tourist town, with beautiful and extensive white sandy beaches, where you can enjoy a variety of water sports and swim in the warm sea, or just lie in the sun and relax.
Salinas is located on the Santa Elena peninsula, approximately 140 km from Guayaquil. Its vibrant Malecon, lined with restaurants and bars, very close to the beach, is the perfect place to enjoy the luxury and natural beauty.
From Salinas, you can go on whale-watching excursions (from late June to early October) to get a close-up view of these incredible humpback whales, which migrate to feed in the warm waters of the Pacific coast. Between 400 and 2500 whales make the journey from Antarctica to give birth to their calves. During the tour, you will be able to observe these fascinating animals that reach up to 15 meters long and 50 tons in weight.
This species is considered to be the most agile and acrobatic of the cetaceans, especially during the courtship process in their breeding areas, capable of taking their bodies completely out of the water. One of the most interesting behaviors of humpback whales is their “singing”. Scientists have discovered that humpback whales reproduce long and complex songs that last between 10 and 20 minutes, which are repeated continuously for hours. Although females also produce sounds, these melodies are only performed by males and it is believed that it may be a part of mating behavior.
The gestation period of a whale is 12 months. For an equivalent amount of time, the female nurses her calf, which at the time of birth measures 5.5 meters and weighs about 3,000 kilograms.
At 5 or 6 years of age, right whales reach sexual maturity. Females with reproductive capacity return every 3 years to the Peninsula Valdes area in search of safe and calm waters to give birth to a single calf. Males, on the other hand, return every year to court new females.
From October to November, the highest concentration of whales is found in the Peninsula Valdes region. Those who know the subject and are able to identify them can count around 500 whales of the same species.
Although the humpback whale has generated considerable economic income from tourism in many countries, it is a vulnerable species according to the parameters of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and is even included in Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
The main causes of its vulnerability are indiscriminate hunting by humans during the 20th century. It is estimated that there are around 15,000 humpback whales worldwide.
Other threats are the loss of their habitat, chemical contamination, noise pollution, entanglement in fishing nets and lack of food.
In response, on June 4, 1990, Ecuador signed Ministerial Agreement N° 196 with the objective of protecting all whales present in the Ecuadorian coasts by prohibiting all activities that threaten the life of these specimens. In addition to establishing a series of technical norms for whale watching as a tourist activity, one of them is the prohibition of swimming or diving with the cetaceans.
In 1991 Ecuador-Colombia-Chile-Peru and Panama adopted the Action Plan for the Conservation of Marine Mammals of the Southeast Pacific, committing to conserve all species, subspecies, races and populations of marine mammals and their habitats.
set of regulations. Thus, for example, no person may observe whales at such close proximity. The required distance is a minimum of 150 to 200 meters.
In addition, the boat from which the whale watching takes place has to be placed on its side and not from the front. Only a maximum of 3 boats are authorized to approach the same cetacean to prevent it from feeling harassed.
On the other hand, all boats must carry an orange flag and specify the number of tourists, among other requirements.