The Love Song of the Humpback Whale
They’ve come a long way since March: majestic humpback whales begin a long exodus from Antarctica to the crystal blue oceans off the coast of Ecuador. By June, the long voyage in search of a mate has ended. For the next several months, these gentle giants – which can reach lengths of 15 meters or more – are doing what they can to get the attention of a potential mate. Leaping effortlessly out of the water, all the while singing love songs, the humpback whale is on a mission. And the great thing about this pastoral scene: you can be right in the middle of it all! Camera in hand and so close you’ll be tempted to reach out and caress a massive fin.
From June to October – you can enjoy whale watching pretty much up and down the Ecuadorian coast. Everyone seems to have a favorite spot for watching. In Manabi, some of the more popular locations include Machalilla National Park, La Isla de La Plata, Puerto Cayo, Manta and Bahia de Caraquez. In Esmeraldas, Mompiche and Sua are the places to be.
The small fishing village of Puerto Lopez (located in southern Manabi) is a personal fave for many due to a lack of crowds. There are several tour operators on hand offering offering safe in-your-face whale watching tours. Of course, any fisherman with a boat will be more than willing to cut you a deal.
Speaking of tours, you can arrange yours any of the tour operators in the tourist districts of Quito and Guayaquil, or with local operators and hotels on the coast. Expect to pay between US$20 – $30 per passenger.
While some male humpbacks are busy making small talk, other females in the crowd have returned after a year-long gestation period to give birth. Because the newborns come into this world without a protective layer of fat, the warm tropical waters off the coast of Ecuador provide a perfect opportunity to get acclimated, drink their mother’s milk and grow the necessary layer of insulation for the long trip back to Antarctica.
All destinations in Manabi can be easily reached by a 1-4-hour bus ride from Manta, Portoviejo, Jipijapa, or Guayaquil (all serve as major departure hubs for buses all over the country). Buses usually cost between USD 0.75 to USD 1.00 per hour, depending on the company.
For accommodations in any specific area, check out the hotels link on Ecuador.com.
Ecuador’s humpback whale. The last thing you may have expected to see. But one of several adventures that will make your next trip unforgettable.