Haugan Cruises - Galapagos

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Humpback Whales in the Galapagos

Humpback whale in Galapagos
CC Wikipedia by Whit Welles

When to come

No matter when you go to the Galapagos Islands, you are guaranteed to see some of the world's most interesting animals. But if you are a whale watching enthusiast or simply want to see these majestic sea mammals gliding above and below the crystal clear Galapagos waters, then there's only one time to visit: June-September.

During this time, humpback whales come to the equatorial waters to mate and breed. They start their migration towards this region from further south as early as March and begin to arrive in June. The highest concentration of whales in the Galapagos is during June, but you might be able to spot them in July, August, and September as well.

Whale watching

Whale watching

Your best chance to see them is on a cruise, since most of your time is spent on the water and large chunks of your trip will be spent actually navigating, increasing your chances to see them.

If you are planning a land-based trip, don't worry – there are some companies that offer whale watching day tours from the major towns on the islands.

Where to see them

Spotting whales in the Galapagos Islands is a passion of patience. When they do come through these waters, you have to keep your eyes on the water's surface and keep your camera at the ready for when they breach.

The best places to spot them are between Fernandina and Isabela Islands and occasionally around Espanola Island.

With Haugan Cruises, the best whale watching options are the Western Islands cruises, including:

"If you are a whale watching enthusiast or simply want to see these majestic sea mammals gliding above and below the crystal clear Galapagos waters, then there's only one time to visit: June-September"

Photography Tips:

  • Use a camera with a good telephoto lens, preferably a DSLR, with telephoto lens interchangeable lenses
  • Use your camera's sports settings (if in sunlight) to capture movement and fire rapidly
  • Use a tripod for stability on land.
  • Practice. As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect!

The humpback whale

Humpback Whales in Galapagos

The humpback whales that frequent the Galapagos Islands are one of the most recognizable species of whales. They are known to grow as long as a standard school bus, between 48-63 feet, and weigh as much as 40 tons.

However, their goliath size is perhaps not their most notable feature. According to National Geographic, the humpback whale's song can carry for miles underwater and serves as a system of communication between them.

When a mother gives birth, she will nurse her calf for a year, and during this time there's a good chance whale-watchers can see the mother and child touching fins.

As mammals, depending on where they are and how developed they are, whales have to surface for air approximately every 3-30 minutes, according to scientists. This is your best chance to spot them. If you're lucky, you might catch one of these gentle giants breaching the water in a powerful jump. Some speculate that there is a biological purpose in doing this, but since no concrete conclusions have yet been made, many believe they do this just for fun.

You also might catch them playfully slapping the water with their fins.

Migration patterns

The humpback whales spend most of the year near the poles, where they can feed and build up their fat stores.
However, when it is time to mate, they head back up to the warm equatorial regions, where the sun-heated, nutrient-rich waters sustain their period of breeding.

Humpback whales have the longest migratory path of any mammal, according to the NOAA.

Status

Unfortunately, like too many other marine creatures, the humpback whale is on the endangered species list. The main threats are boats and fisheries, as whales frequently get caught in nets or simply crash into boats.

It's also accepted that the noise of boat engines makes it more difficult for whales to communicate with each other, since their long, groaning songs are their primary means of communication. When loud engines send sound waves for miles, this could interfere with the whales' songs, and therefore their ability to find a mate.