Plan to Enjoy Ecuador’s 2014 Whale Watching Season

Every year several hundred humpback whales migrate from the icy waters of the Antarctic, arriving in the warm waters of Ecuador’s coastline between late June and early September. Visitors to Ecuador during whale-watching season should be sure to grab the opportunity to view the spectacle of the courtship rituals of these enormous marine mammals, and even possibly catch a glimpse of newborn calves with their mothers. There are a number of whale-watching destinations along Ecuador’s coast, with Puerto Lopez being one of the most popular. Located in southern Manabi, Puerto Lopez offers easy access to Isla de la Plata and the Machalilla National Park, and local tour operators are experts at ensuring visitors get the most out of this amazing experience.

Measuring up to 16 meters in length and weighing approximate 36 tons, humpback whales are easily recognized by the prominent humps along their spines, as well as the hair follicle knobs over their heads and lower jaws. Although they live in the Antarctic, they travel to warmer waters to mate and give birth. One of the reasons for this is that calves are born without fat reserves and would not survive in the frigid waters of the Antarctic. So, they need to build up fat reserves from their mothers’ rich milk before making the journey home. Interestingly, humpback whales only feed in the Antarctic, building up fat reserves which will sustain them through the months they are away from home. They form groups to herd fish together when feeding, but otherwise don’t appear to have a strong social structure.

Courtship rituals are spectacular, and competition between males can be quite fierce, all resulting in performances well worth seeing. Males will employ a variety of moves in an attempt to win favor with females, and chase off competing males. One of its most impressive behaviors is that of ‘breaching’, where the whale lifts as much as two thirds of its body vertically out of the water before tipping over backwards in an enormous splash. Other behaviors include tail-slapping, fin-slapping and spyhopping, the latter being a move where it uses its buoyancy and pectoral fins to remain in an upright position, with about a third of its body out the water as it checks out what is going on around it.

The 2014 whale watching season in Ecuador starts on June 22, so why not add this annual event to your itinerary when visiting this vibrant South American country.