When we heard that Mary’s sister and her husband would be visiting us here in Ecuador we started plotting out activities to see as many of the attractions in this area as possible in the six days they would be in San Clemente. Their trip was planned for late August and we had heard that boats could be hired to take people out to see the ballenas jorobadas (humpback whales) which frequent the area during the austral winters from June to October.
Lori’s birthday also coincided with their trip here, so plans were made to go to sea and see whales on Lori’s birthday. Lori, Bob, and I set off in the morning to see the whales and then tour the mangrove area in the boca of the Portoviejo river. Mary stayed on-shore to prepare a special dinner and cake for Lori. The day was perfect with relatively calm seas and white clouds to shield the sunshine and we left in a small fishing boat for our day’s activity:
The whales follow the currents north from colder water to have their babies off the shores of Ecuador. San Clemente is in a large indentation along the shore line with somewhat shallower water for about a mile or two before the shelf drops off to the deeper water preferred by the whales, so the ride out to the whale area took about an hour as we passed commercial shrimping boats. Our crew got hand directions from the people on the shrimp boats directing us to the whales and we all eagerly scanned the horizon for the tell-tale sign of the spume indicating a surfacing whale.
It really is quite thrilling to see the spray and know that you are close to one of the largest animals on earth! Here we saw two spumes of spray at the same time as two whales prepared to surface:
At one point we saw what appeared to be sharks in the water, but our captain advised us that they were manta rays. Still sounded a bit scary and we grabbed onto the sides of the boat a bit more firmly as we started to see fins and flukes of whales on both sides of our little boat.
These two whales swam along side of our boat for ten minutes or so,
Before they seemed to wave good-bye.
Take one more big breath,
And then dive deep with one final wave of the distinctive flukes.
Lori, Bob, and I did go out to see whales on a nice day with calm seas and no wind and then went up the river to see the birds and mangrove area (see earlier posts about the Boca trip: https://johnandmarylivingitupinecuador.wordpress.com/2012/10/page/11/ ) but Lori had her camera set for video shots on her new camera on the first day and she was not totally familiar with that operation, so she felt she had missed too many photo ops.
So, the next morning, Lori asked if anyone wanted to go back out to sea and try to get better pictures. Mary has had some bad experiences on small boats in the ocean in the past and feels that she has tempted fate enough, so she declined and, despite what I said earlier about the sea being relatively calm (note the word, “relatively”) on the first day, Bob did not feel like getting beaten up again as the small boat leaps and slams its way out over waves larger than the little boat, so he declined as well. That left me (the old sailor) and I was actually quite anxious to go again. So, Lori and I (together with an expat friend Jim from Tennessee) contacted the crew again to go back out to see the whales.
The problem with going the second day was that it was quite cold and windy that day and the seas were not at all calm as we fought our way out much farther to see the whales. Poor Jim got abused on the wooden seats and all of us got badly tossed to and fro. Lori is to be commended for getting the pictures she did. The pictures do not give a true impression of how choppy the water was.
Life is good in Ecuador!
Written by John