Each year, between June and October, Ecuador becomes the scene of one of the most fascinating natural spectacles in the world: the sighting of humpback whales.
With a display of jumps, songs and acrobatics, the sea dancers arrive to our coasts, after traveling more than 4350 mi from the Antarctic Peninsula. The warmth of our waters and the shallow areas around our coast line and islands are some of the main reasons for these cetaceans to choose Ecuador as their life shelter.
To learn more about humpback whales and the best spots to admire their passage through Ecuador, join us in this blog and discover some interesting facts.
About humpback whales
Humpback whales are the 5th largest whale species on earth. Their name comes from the hump shape that forms when they arch their body to sink. They are known as «giants of the sea» as they can measure up to 52.5 ft and weigh 36,000 kilograms. They can be identified by the unique markings on their tail, which function as a «fingerprint».
Despite being slow swimmers, they are the acrobats of the sea, as they can completely lift their bodies out of the water or swim on their backs with both fins in the air. In addition, their males are characterized by their ability to «sing» for up to 30 minutes to attract mates or communicate with other males.
Why do they travel?
Every year, after migrating more than 4350 mi from their feeding grounds in Antarctica, humpback whales choose the Ecuadorian seas as their shelter to mate and give birth to their calves.
They journey in groups led by young males who generally arrive in May, as they need all the chances they can get to mate and so they roam greater distances in the breeding area. Then the females and mature males arrive between July and August. Finally, between August and September, pregnant females arrive to give birth to their calves. The last whales to leave for Antarctica are mothers and calves, which need more time to nurse their young.
It is believed that the whales return each year to the site where they are born in and are faithful to their breeding and feeding grounds. Possibly, they learn the migratory route from a young age, thanks to external features such as ocean currents, seabed topography, or sea temperature variability.
Where to admire them?
Along our coastal line there are several tourist spots from where you can set sail to immerse yourself in this unique adventure.
From the north of Esmeraldas whale tours depart from Atacames and Súa and there are also coastal dolphin tours from Mompiche to Muisne. The tour may include a visit to Isla de los Pajaros where you can observe birds such as blue-footed boobies, pelicans, frigate birds, curlews, gulls, among other species.
Pedernales, Jama, Crucita, Bahía de Caráquez, Manta, Puerto Cayo, Puerto López and Isla de la Plata stands out as birding spots. From the dock of Puerto Lopez you can take daily tours to watch the cetaceans swim along, in groups or with their calves, and, with a little more luck, you can admire their grandiose jumps in the sea.
From Salinas, one of the busiest beaches in this province, you can take tours to enjoy the wonderful dance of the "humpbacks", the tour may include a visit to the Chocolatera where you will observe a fascinating seascape made up of rocks and boulders, which stop the strong crash of the waves.
Here is the gateway for the cetaceans that go from south to north. From Puerto Bolivar you can set sail to the Santa Clara Marine Reserve, San Gregorio Island and Costa Rica Island. These places, in addition to being a sanctuary for humpback whales, are characterized by their impressive scenic beauty and are home to species such as bottlenose dolphins and large colonies of sea lions.
- To enjoy this natural spectacle, hire only operators certified by the Ministry of Tourism and Environment and the local government.
- Use only certified guides and authorized boats.
- Always wear a life vest.
- Remember that the boat must navigate 100 meters from the whales or 200 meters if it is a mother and calf.
- Do not cross in the path of the whales, as this could cause a change in the animal’s behavior.
- Remember that if a whale approaches the boat, the boat should stop the vessel’s motion.
- During whale watching you should not stand up, nor change your location on the boat.
The coasts of Ecuador teem with life, magic, and color. Enjoy the unforgettable adventure offered by the humpback whales in their infallible rendezvous in the country of the Four Worlds.