Essential Whale Watching Tour Tips

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After having taken a trip up north, Travel & Living in Peru contributor Cissy van der Meer shares a few tailored tips for a successful whale watching tour in northern Peru.

(Photo: Cissy van der Meer)

So, you have decided to go to northern Peru for your whale watching experience. Time to make the proper arrangements!

To know what experience is most suitable for you, we’ll dive into the following 4 questions over the course of this article:

  1. Are you a morning person?
  2. Do you prefer pizza or Peruvian gourmet cuisine?
  3. Is your camera waterproof?
  4. Do you hope to contribute to the whales’ welfare?

As you read on, answer each question to find out what your answer implies for your travel arrangements, as well as what you will need to bring for your whale watching trip.

Are you a morning person?

(Photo: Cissy van der Meer)

You’re probably asking: why is this relevant? I’ll explain. Whale watching tours leave very early in the morning. Each boat has a punctual departure time of 7:30 a.m., and you must plan to be at the departure point around 15 minutes ahead of time.

Tip #1: If you are NOT a morning person, it is best that you plan to spend the night before your whale watching tour in Los Órganos, as it’s closer to where the tour boats depart.

I am not a morning person. In fact, I stayed within the closest possible distance to the Muelle Viejo  (where the tour boats leave from), as I could. If you, like me, prefer to catch a few extra minutes of sleep before the tour, then check out the charming Muelle Viejo Bungalows. According to a recent visit to their website, they now even feature a marvelous swimming pool.

The cost for a room at Muelle Viejo Bungalows is around 180 PEN a night, but keep in mind that prices can fluctuate depending on the dates of your trip and the type of room you require.

An added benefit of staying at Muelle Viejo Bungalows is that Pacífico Adventures Research Center is right next door. You can walk over and book your tour for the next day. While there, I recommend enjoying a delicious muffin, yogurt, or fruit at the museum’s terrace!

(Photo: Cissy van der Meer)

Do you prefer pizza or Peruvian gourmet cuisine?

Apart from catching up on much-needed Vitamin D and seeing whales, I am on a mission to try all variations of Peruvian cuisine. So, naturally this means I had to go and eat at Donde Teresa, located in Mancora.

Tip #2: If you prefer Peruvian gourmet cuisine, do not miss the chance to dine at Donde Teresa in Mancora, just a half-hour ride by moto-taxi from where your whale watching tour departs.

This restaurant is run by Javier, the son of the first Peruvian TV-Chef, Teresa Ocampa. Ocampa is legendary for her promotion and elevation of the Peruvian kitchen. I truly enjoyed the amazing food, which you can read all about in my restaurant review.

Very conveniently, Javier combines this tasty restaurant with his artful hotel. Located right on the beach and sheltered from the wind, one can indulge in the food and admire the stunning sunset—and you are just a short walk to your comfortable bed!

The price for a room at Hotelier Arte & Cocina is 180 soles and it includes a balcony, hammock and four beds.

(Photo: Cissy van der Meer)

Delicious Peruvian cuisine aside, what about the whales?! Staying in Mancora, though further from the tour departure point in Los Órganos, does not mean a whale watching tour is out of the question. It just means you’ll have to wake up a little earlier than if you had stayed in Los Órganos.

When I stayed at Hotelier Arte & Cocina, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and hopped into my pre-arranged moto-taxi for the half hour ride to the the pier (S/35). Even then, I arrived with time to spare, which only meant I had some extra time to take photos of the fisherman catching their first fish of the day.

And, regardless of whether you decide to stay in Las Órganos or Mancora, you will find pizza and fine foods to indulge in, don’t worry!

Is your camera waterproof?

In my mind, I do have the perfect image of a humpback whale fully launching itself out of the ocean. Sadly, I missed the shot with my camera. Why? Well, that day the sea was a bit rough, with splashes of water frequently entering the boat. My camera is not waterproof and I did not bring a ‘camera-raincoat’ nor a plastic bag to improvise one.

Tip #3: Have a waterproof camera or, if not waterproof, arrange some “raincoat” protection before embarking on your whale watching tour.

So, my camera was not ‘snap-ready’ when dearest Humpie decided to show itself. The resulting photo is in the frustrating image below.

(Photo: Cissy van der Meer)

Tip #4: ALWAYS have your camera pointed to the sea and be ready to quickly capture a shot.

(Photo: Cissy van der Meer)

Do you hope to contribute to the whales’ welfare?

There is really only one right answer to that question, right?! Here’s how you can contribute:

  1. The revenue from your whale watching tour ticket is used to fund the research center, so automatically you are contributing.
  2. You can send any good photos of whale tails that you capture during your tour to the research center. Your photos could be a valuable asset to the whale photo identification catalogue.

Tip #5: Book your whale watching tour with an ecotourism-centered operator, like Pacifico Adventures, to easily give back to whale research in northern Peru.

(Photo: Cissy van der Meer)

What Else?

Your maritime biologist guides on your whale watching tour will dazzle you with fun facts and information about the whales.

Here is a sneak peek at some of the fun facts shared on my tour:

  • From A to A: the humpback whale migration path is from Alaska to Antarctica.
  • The chilly waters of Alaska and Antarctica are not right to breed and calve, so the humpback whales smartly picked the tropical waters of northern Peru to be the birthplace of their babies.
  • Over the course of a year, humpback whales swim as much as 16,000 miles (25,500 km), which is covered in a swimming speed of 4 to 6 knots/ah (like 7 to 11 km per hour)
  • They have big feet: their flippers can be up to 16 feet (5 meters) long.
  • Their blow is up to 10 feet high (3 meters) a normally in a sequence of 6 to 10 times before they dive down again.

For specific information about the whale watching tour experience, read: “Whale Watching in Peru: The Tour Experience

Tip #6: Be comfortable! Dress for the elements.

You will be out on the open sea for about 3 to 5 hours, so dress for the elements: wind, water, and sun. For example, take a wind jacket, bring a towel, pack high factor sunscreen, and of course, sunglasses. Hat lovers: the boat does speed up, so a baseball cap is far more feasible than a fashionable sprinkle hat. Be sure to bring a bottle of water along as well.

Tip #7: There is a basic small toilet on board, but you don’t want to miss out on any whale tail. So, be smart and use the restroom prior to embarking!

Whale Watching Tour Information:

  • Departure time: Punctual at 7:30 a.m., Old Fisherman’s Pier, Los Órganos. Gathering time at pier is 7:15 a.m.
  • Duration of the tour: Approximately 3.5 hours
  • Boats: Pacífico Adventures has three boats specially equipped for whale watching tours. All boats have a toilet onboard.
  • Number of Passengers: Approx. a daily total of 80 passengers. The three boats do fill up quickly, so make reservations ahead of time to ensure your whale watching experience.
  • Price: 130 soles for adults, 110 soles for children (5 to 10 years old) (All revenue directly supports the work of the whale research center)
  • Recommended Tour Operator: pacificoadventures.com (their website is in Spanish and English)
(Photo: Cissy van der Meer)
All photos in this article are by the author of the article, Cissy van der Meer.

 

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Cissy is a photo-journalist who loves exploring, enjoys culinary adventures and talking to everyone about their personal passions. Born and raised in Holland, she picked up her camera and started traveling after graduating with a degree in Marketing Communication. You can view Cissy's work at amaraphotos (amaraphotos.com) and catch up with her travel blogs at JurciTravel (jurcitravel.com).