Now is the Time for Whale Watching in Puerto Vallarta

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As told by Stephanie Diehl. Follow Stephanie on Twitter at @TravelDesigned or at TravelDesigned.com.

Tic toc!

Time is wasting to visit Puerto Vallarta during whale-watching season.

While just about anytime of year is nice in Puerto Vallarta, RIGHT NOW is prime time to view the humpback whales in their natural habitat. Tours can be booked through your travel agent or with your on site Apple Vacations representative at the hotel. The humpback whales are expected to be in Puerto Vallarta this year until the latter part of March when they will move up the coast to Alaska for their summer feeding.

You will need to take a taxi about an hour before your tour to the Marina Terminal which should be less than $25 round trip depending on where your hotel is located. Don’t worry about getting a taxi back, there are plenty of cabs waiting outside the Marina gate. After your tour you can do a little shopping at the Marina craft market across the street (the prices tend to be a bit higher than the market downtown so be sure to ask for a discount).

On arrival to the Marina, the driver will drop you in front of the tariff booth where you will need to pay 20 pesos (approximately $1.50 per person)  to enter the Terminal area. Once inside a Vallarta Adventures representative will meet you and direct you to the check in desk. When you have completed the quick check in procedures, you will be directed to the boarding area to wait for the rest of the members on your tour.

There are several tours to choose from but for optimum viewing, I recommend the Photo Safari tour. It is a small group tour of less than 35 people in an inflatable APEX speed boat. There are about 15 rows of benches on each side of the boat which seat 2 passengers. Trust me when I say, USE THE BATHROOM before boarding, you will be glad you did. There are no facilities on this tour.  When boarding begins you will be required to wear a life jacket, safety first! The adventure is ready to begin.

As you speed out of the Marina in search of these endangered species, the guide will teach you all about the magnificent humpback whales. You will be able to hear their mesmerizing song through the hydrophone. I recommend bringing extra batteries for your camera, binoculars, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, cash for souvenirs and gratuities, taking something for motion sickness if you are so inclined about an hour before your tour, wearing a hat and swimsuit with cover up.

The boat sits low in the water and there is a chance you may get a little wet if the boat hits a wave. I highly recommend bringing a sweater, hoodie or jacket. Mornings can be cool especially on the water until the sun is well over the Sierra Madre mountains. While there is no guarantee how many whales you will see on any given tour, the captain is in constant contact with a whale spotting plane so if they are out there, he will take you to them. He also gives equal opportunity to each side of the boat to view the activity. Our guide said we saw 12 whales, I would have sworn it was far more than that because we had very little down time during our 3.5 hour tour.

Maybe the whales hypnotized me.

It’s amazing to me that marine biologists are able to identify individual humpback whales by their tails, they are like fingerprints. The Moms (cows) are the size of a school bus and the babies (calves) are about 1/2 that size. I can’t believe we were so close to such beautiful creatures. So close in fact, one swam right under our boat! Now this is highly unusual because there are rules about how close boats can be to the whales. Evidently this “little guy” thought rules are made to be broken! It certainly was an experience I wont ever forget.

During our Photo Safari tour the humpbacks  were  quite active slapping their flukes, breaching, rolling over and blowing. I found that by focusing on the broader area I was able to capture better, sharper photographs. If you’re not so lucky, don’t worry, be happy. Enjoy the moment.

There is a professional photographer on board and a flash drive will be available for sale. I would recommend bringing more of camera than a cell phone. While professional equipment isn’t necessary, the zoom on a phone doesn’t provide clarity to produce decent images in most cases. We used compact cameras with 5x and 22x zoom and were lucky to catch some incredible shots for amateurs. You might even try shooting some video. I will NEXT TIME!

Fresh fruit and bottled water is served near the end of the tour. The last tour of the season is scheduled for March 23 if you want to a once-in-a-lifetime experience this season, check out the last minute booking specials on the Apple Vacations website or contact your travel agent NOW.

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