It was one of the strangest things I have ever seen. As I looked out from our boat, I couldn’t stop my ‘wow-ing,’ even when our guide told us to be quiet. It made no sense. How could a creature as big as a humpback whale continually throw its whole body out of the water, twist, wave, and fall with a comical splash back beneath the surface?
This was our time to enjoy the humpback whale migration that happens every June-September off the coast of Ecuador. Because of the timing of our trip we missed sunshine on the coast, and we missed seeing the peaks of the country’s big volcanoes while they were hiding behind clouds. But we got to see the whales, and it may have made up for those other things that eluded us.
As it turned out, our last weekend in Ecuador was full of wildlife. After spending a couple of days relaxing and watching the surfers in Ayampe, we headed about 12 minutes north to Puerto Lopez. When we arrived, we booked a whale watching/ Isla de Plata tour. After the boat ride out to the island, we spent a couple of hours hobbling (just me, I guess) along on a loop trail, observing Blue-Footed Boobies and Red Frigate birds. Blue-Footed Boobies are silly birds. Unafraid of humans, they stand their ground, cock their heads, and tap their flipper-like feet, making them look quite similar to humans to trying to walk in snorkeling flippers. And Red Frigate birds have a peculiarly large, red air sack on the outside of their throat that they inflate and deflate.
After the hobble-around, got back on the boat, ate some sandwiches, and jumped back off the boat (ignoring that rule about not swimming after you eat) for a short snorkeling session off the coast of Isla de Plata.
After we all climbed back up onto the boat- and doctored Alex’s coral-scraped arm- we were awarded with the spectacle that I had been looking forward to all day: the humpback whales! As our boat buzzed along, we spotted some splashing off in the distance. Then, we got really lucky. One whale breached again and again right next to our boat, probably 25-30 times. He swam along next to us, jumping and twisting and waving…just generally putting on a show for us 🙂