“You are coming the right time of year, for the whales!” said our new friends living in Manabí province in Ecuador, as we agreed to our Pet and housesitting arrangements in Playa San Jose, 45 minutes outside of Puerto López. We had been to Puerto López before, the quaint town fishing town three years earlier and we were anxious to come back and live there for three months instead of our fly by night 3-day trip to the area.
In July, we took two different trips to see whales and to see some of the infamous seabirds- the blue-footed booby. Both trips start in Puerto López.
The first was with Palo Santo Tours – a full day, which included whale watching on our way to Isla de la Plata, to visit Machililla National Park on the island and on our way back to Puerto López.
The boat trip to Isla de la Plata is about an hour and a half to reach the island. On our way, we stopped as we saw a few whales hovering outside the water. The ride was a little uneventful, but we saw a few fins in the water waving, not at us, but to attract a prospective mate. An hour later, we landed on Isla de la Plata and signed in at the Machililla National Park on the western side of Ecuadorian coastline. The park is a dry, arid forest – dryer than the Ecuadorian coast and home for many species of birds like pelicans, frigate birds, albatrosses and the infamous Blue-footed boobies (that other than here, are found on the Galapagos Islands)
An hour later, we landed on Isla de la Plata and signed in at the Machililla National Park on the western side of Ecuadorian coastline. The park is a dry, arid forest – dryer than the Ecuadorian coast and it is home for many species of birds like pelicans, frigate birds, albatrosses and the infamous Blue-footed boobies (other than here, are only found on the Galapagos Islands)
Once at the park, a guide led us to the start of the trails around the island. The park warden sits up at the epicenter of all the trails and directs traffic. If you ever have an option for a trail we highly recommend you take Los Acantilados trail, it winds along the rocky coastline with turquoise blue views of the waters below, as opposed to the other trails that navigate around the interior of the island.
The Blue-footed boobies are everywhere on the island, and often they nest right on the walking trails, and visitors are forced to walk around them as they belt out an odd whistling sound if anyone gets too close to their nests. We walked up to a male and female protecting their nest, as the male walked confidently like a soldier protecting his nest from the human beings staring at him.
After the hike on the trail, we got back on the boat and drove to the coral reef on the other side of the island. After a light sandwich lunch, we jumped into the icy waters to snorkel around the coral reef, to see several tropical fish and swim with the giant turtles hovering around the boat. To top off the day, our trip back to Puerto López was highly active with whales. We saw large groups of whales revealing their tails, fins and several flipped above the water! It was difficult to catch a good shot, as it happened so quickly.
Our second trip was just a 4-hour whale-watching trip in a smaller vessel, traveling only one half hour west of Puerto López. The trip was entirely focused on viewing whales, and because there were so many other boats in the area doing the same, we wonder if the ‘crowds of boats’ had an impact on the lack of whales we had seen. Despite that, we had a few sightings but nothing like our previous trip going further out to Isla de la Plata with significantly fewer boats in the area.
We recommend the Palo Santo Tours, in Puerto López, for just $35USD you can enjoy a full day trip of whale watching, snorkeling, nature walking on Isla de la Plata, and a light lunch.
Looking for more day trips in South America? You can find more here
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Troy is an ex-TV editor and producer originally from Canada. He quit his 20+ year career to pursue a life of long-term, slow and transformative travel. Now with his wife Dorene, he helps people who want to redefine their midlife by making conscious changes at TravelLifeExperiences. He also works with travel and hospitality brands to create and share their video stories at TravelLifeMedia.com