Whale Watching and Hearing the Humpback Song

I circled the day on my (mental) calendar well before I arrived in Puerto Vallarta. Whale Watching was one of the main reasons I made sure I visited the coastal town in February, the peak of the season (Dec 15-March 23rd). I wanted to see, wanted to watch, and wanted to experience an encounter with, a Humpback Whale from the water.

Taking an Vallarta Adventure

When the day arrived, I checked in at  Valarta Adventures counter in the Marine Terminal just after 8am. I was no stranger to the tour provider as I took the Sea Safari the prior year.  But this time the adventure would not end with lunch at the remote Pizotita Beach. No this time the inflatable speed boats would keep me at sea.

A slight drizzle began right before boarding at 8:30 and the sky and sea appeared as just shades of gray on the horizon. Then the initial and insignificant rain started become irritable as our boat speed increased.  I searched my bag and reached for my sunglasses. All week they blocked the sun, today it was the rain. Although getting wet, the weather did not deter the tour or my excitement.

Humpback Whales in Bay of Banderas

Everybody perked up when we spotted our first whale. The boat slowed and our guide started to explain the humpback whale; the 5,000 mile migration, the mating rituals, the birth of calves, and their sheer size. She discussed their actions too; the fin slapping, the dive, the whale tail, the breach and gave us facts on the insane amounts of calories exhausted by the marine mammal with just one dive.

We watched five or six different whales and stopped at different locations in the bay. At times whales seemed to surround us and our guide would yell, “11 o’clock, 4 o’oclock, 6 o’clock.” Unfortunately, we didn’t see a breach or any “small” calves, but what we did see impressed me. I watched these creatures in their world.

Here are a few photographs I captured from the tour.

swimming along the surface

rolling in the water with a fin up

Listening to the Humpback Whales

getting the microphone ready

Every tour is different. Sometimes you get lucky, other times luckier. I watched these magnificent beasts swim close up. I had no complaints. Sure, my photos might not win any awards, but I was satisfied. Very satisfied.

Then we stopped and received our snack and I noticed our guide handling a yellow box. She released a cord into the water. She wanted to listen to the Humpback “songs.”

I let a minute pass maybe longer and just listened. The whales we just watched were singing, talking, communicating. Eventually I grabbed my iPhone and took a few seconds to attempt to capture the sounds.  Incredible.

Then she explained with a smile how each year the song changed slightly, but how every whale always knew the “words.” She even mentioned how some frequencies our human ears can’t hear and how scientists still debate (translation: are attempting to learn) the meaning and purpose of the music.

After another sighting our morning tour eventually ended and we returned to the dock. Almost four hours later I stepped foot back on my turf, the earth and left their world, the sea. I learned some, witnessed much and left even more enamored with whales than before. Of course I’ll be back, I still have the award winning photo to capture, but also I just want to once again be in their magical presence.

Tip: Prepare for weather. Rain or shine the tour still goes. I packed my sunglasses and sun tan lotion, but thankfully I also packed a long sleeve shirt to break the wind and protect me from the initial rain.

stay adventurous, Craig

I’d like to thank Vallarta Adventures for hosting me on the Whale Watching tour, and I also put up a photo in their Facebook iPad giveaway contest. Vote for an image here; many of the images shared by passengers will impress you, take a peak. Finally, this post is also part of the 2012 Mexican March Madness.

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