Humpback whales wintering in Banderas Bay, Mexico. Scientist Oscar S. Frey leads the whale watching trip. (Elliot Stoller)
Our beautiful humpback whales are back in Puerto Vallarta, gracing the Bay of Banderas with their amazing ballet in the ocean. There are many ways to schedule a boat ride out on the water and we recommend exploring the options before embarking on your adventure. Check with vendors on the Beach at Los Muertos in the vicinity of the pier, or with the concierge in your hotel. We enjoy going out on the smaller boats (pangas), rather than the big booze cruise vessels. The skippers are knowledgeable, have lived here all of their lives, and know more interesting information about whales than we could ever find in Wikipedia. The season for whale watching in Puerto Vallarta began December 8, 2019 and will officially go through March 23, 2020.
It’s important to be on an authorized boat and we suggest asking to see their permit before handing over tickets. They won’t be offended. Local fishermen and dive masters are environmentally ethical for the most part. There are few rogues in the boating industry here in Puerto Vallarta. You should be asked to don life jackets, as well and though you may be the best swimmer on either side of the border, go ahead and show everyone else how responsible you are. It’s a coast guard rule and you’ll be showing respect for the captain.
It’s easy to spot a humpback, with their obvious hump and long black dorsal fins. The fluked tail is their trademark and what you will be looking for on the water. Once you spot them, get your photos done quickly and then sit back to watch the show. The rising tail with the sea waterfalling from the wavy edges is thrilling and something many will never see again in a lifetime. It’s Mother Nature at her best.
Although the blue whale is the largest animal in the world, humpbacks follow close behind in size. When fully grown the males average 45 feet and the females are larger and can get up to 52 feet. Whaling records show the largest to be seen was a female that was, unfortunately killed in the Caribbean. She was allegedly 89 feet long and weighed just short of 100 tons. The typical body mass of a humpback is typically over 40 metric tons.
Winter is courting season in the world of humpbacks. They feed in the winter, closer to the poles, and then come to honeymoon around the equator. We are the lucky ones to witness their astonishing breaching, a show of fierce competition in an effort to mate.
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