Humpback whales in Ecuador
Humpback whales in Ecuador

Humpback whales can be seen off the coast of Ecuador from June to October. This happens in Esmeraldas, Manabí and Santa Elena.

Humpback whale caught in the sea.

Texto: Patricio Añazco / Fotos: Jairo Cabrera.

Humpback whales are imposing warm-blooded whales with a length of 12 to 16 meters and a weight of about 36,000 kg. They are the fifth largest whale species in the world. And they are considered very slow swimmers, as their top speed is 27 to 30 km/h.    They arrive in Ecuador after traveling more than 8,000 kilometers from the cold waters of Antarctica to the shores of Ecuador to reproduce. Either by mating in our seas or by giving birth to their calves. During their visit, the whales offer an impressive spectacle to tourists and travelers. On our coasts, they can often be seen performing acrobatic mating movements and also making sounds.

Humpback whales can be seen from June to October along the coast of Ecuador. However, there are some hotspots where they are more visible than in other places, such as Puerto Lopez, Manta and Puerto Cayo in Manabi province. There are also Súa and Atacames in Esmeraldas province and finally Ayangue and Salinas in Santa Elena province.

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

There are several species of whales in the world. The one that visits our Ecuadorian coasts is scientifically called Megaptera novaeangliae, but it has multiple common names: Humpback, Yubarta or Gubarte, it is a very dynamic whale in the waters, sometimes jumping out of the water. The male can be distinguished from the female by his song. Male humpback whales sing for 10-20 minutes, while females sing shorter.

Whale Watching Recommendations.

If you want to enjoy this natural spectacle, you should follow the recommendations below:

  • Check if the boat from which you will be whale watching is owned by a legally established operator and has the appropriate permits from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism. Fishing boats are not permitted for this activity.
  • The boat you are sailing on must provide you and your companions with a life jacket and a whistle for each crew member. The maximum capacity in craft boats is 10 people, but if you are classified as a tourist boat you can take up to 20 people approximately.
  • Vessels must keep a minimum distance of 100 metres from the whales. Normally, ships keep a distance of 200 to 400 metres.
  • It is estimated that the maximum time a ship can stay in front of a whale is about 25 minutes. And for humpback whales with their calves, the time is limited to 15 minutes.
  • Finally, it is recommended to observe a whale or a group of whales in a maximum of 3 boats so as not to disturb them in their environment.
  • Look out for the whales and all the corners that protect them, don’t pollute the sea and use the right equipment for these activities.

Humpback whale group sailing in the sea.


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