It is whale watching season here in Panama! If you've been thinking about checking out the whales, now is the time to do it... and Anne Gordon of Whale Watching Panama is the woman to do it with.
Each year the humpback whales mirgrate to Panama starting mid-June, and they stick around until late October. If you are in Panama during these months, whale watching is an experience you won’t want to miss.
Anne and her crew of knowledgeable guides offer the opportunity to experience the greatness of these creatures responsibly. Eco-tourism is booming in Panama and Whale Watching Panama is one of several companies working hard to preserve the beauty of the country its inhabitants, while sharing these wonders with the world.
Be prepared to wake up early. We left from Coronado at 5:00 a.m. sharp for a 6:45 a.m. arrival at the Mirador de Diablo docks in Panama City. Boats will leave from different launch points in the city depending on the size of the group that is going out and which trip you choose to take. Be sure to allocate the correct time to get out to your launch point.
What to bring
Passport *required Camera Sunblock Rain Jacket (just incase) Bathing suit Cash (check the website for prices)
When to go
There are two migrations of humpback whales to Panama each year. The main season (mid June – October), is a large migration of several thousand whales, so you are most likely to see them at this time. Between these months humpbacks travel to Panama from Antarctica to mate. Mating is a competitive game for males, as female humpbacks are usually courted by several males at one time. Behaviors like breaching, tail and fin slapping is common during these months. Our group was lucky enough to catch some of this action on camera!
The second migration of humpbacks happens between December and February. This season brings several hundred humpbacks down from Alaska. You are less likely to see these guys since there are fewer of them. Chances of seeing them are about 50/50, where as you are almost 100% likely to see whales during the main season.
What to expect
You can expect to see whales and probably dolphins too! Remember each trip is a unique experience. What you see, will depend on what season you go out in, and of course on the mood of the whales.
What to hope for
A.k.a What we were lucky enough to see...
We were lucky enough to catch the humpbacks “showing off” as Anne would put it. We captured a 30 second segment of tail slapping:
To further this luck we got to chase dolphins chasing whales. We spotted some dolphin activity in the distance behind us, jumping around a group of humpbacks. Before we knew it we were smack dab in the middle of hundreds of dolphins with four humpback whales ahead of us. The dolphins like to swim amongst the whales, playing in their surf so to speak. It is truly amazing how these creatures move effortlessly though the water:
We got to swim with the whales and dolphins! Once surrounded by hundreds of dolphins and 4 humpback whales, Anne asked: “who wants to get in the water?” who could resist? Of The majority of our group jumped in. The whales were swimming in the distance, Anne kept the group together at a safe distance. We could hear them and see them above water. The dolphins got up close and personal, we could see them underwater and hear their high pitch squeaks and clicks.
And finally… a moment not captured by our group, probably because we were all in awe, a whale breaching (jumping).
The boat will take you to one of two island destinations, depending on the trip you choose (Anna has several trips available). Both islands, Contadora and Taboga are beautiful, if you are day tripping, like we were, you will have lunch on one of the two islands. Keep in mind, lunch is not included in the trip, so account for this expense. You will have some time to explore, swim or snorkel around the island.
Contadora is part of a group of islands called the pearl islands. These islands are home to hundreds of migrating whales in season. These island beaches make for a great place to getaway from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. If you are looking for some time to explore the island, Anne offers overnight and week long trips that allow for more time to do so.
There are several places to get lunch on the island; we ate at Gerald’s, which was recommended to us by Anne and was the most convenient stop, since Anne had the menu on broad and was able to put in our order in from the boat.
The waters on Contadora are bright blue and crystal clear. There are lots of things to see below and above sea level.
Taboga is really close to the city, only 12 miles of the mainland. The island is unique; there are no cars on the island. Flowers line the quaint town and locals are friendly, setting up shop in the main square selling fresh ceviche and handcrafted. There are several places to eat and stay on the island.
For more information on whale watching trips visit www.whalewatchingpanama.com or contact Anne by phone at 6758-7600 or by email at
. If you are looking for a group to go out with, like us on facebook, and we will add you to the playacommunity facebook group - a place to meet other people in Panama looking to explore!