Researching Humpback Whales in Ecuador


While a huge part of our project is creating an sustainable, ecotourism industry in Machalilla, we also work with a local NGO organization to study the humpback whales that migrate to the are annually.

The humpback whales come up to Ecuador during the winter from the Antarctic in order to breed because the warmer water is better from the young calves. It is our job as volunteers to monitor the different packs of whales that come up and account for them all. We take pictures of the whales and track their swimming patterns in order to identify if it is the same group of whales returning to Ecuador every year.


On our first trip out on the water, it was a really rocky day on the water and the wind was howling. But we were all so exciting about going out that it didn’t even matter. It takes about an hour to boat out to where the whales usually are, but once we got out there we saw a pack right away.

One of the female whales got about 5 feet away from the boat, and we could even feel the spray from her breathing. It was by far the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. Seeing an animal that size next to our little boat was so cool. She could have easily toppled us over if she wanted to. It was so cool! I’m so happy we got to get that close to one ;)

The next time we went out, we found a group of male whales that were courting a female. So it was really cool because they were really active. There was a lot of jumping and fin slapping. We are responsible for recording this data (as well as other information about the way the whales look) which the NGO then uses to lobby the Ecuadorian government for additional whale protection and anti-poaching laws.

Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

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