Unusual Encounter with Bryde’s Whale in Ecuador

We were welcomed by a beautiful sunny day on the first week of the Ecuador research season. The excitement began when we saw the sun reflecting off of a whales’ dorsal fin, which was quickly followed by the characteristic blow. Echoing the whales blow were the cheers of excitement from the tourists as they knew we were about to experience seeing these amazing animals and confirm the start of our research season.

When you are in Isla de la Plata it’s easy to tell when the whales have arrived, as the horizon is dotted with white plumes of water vapor from the whales blow. This season, however, humpback whales are not the only species capturing the attention of tourists. The Bryde’s whale (pronounced “broodus” whale) has remained longer than usual and has captured everyone’s attention. Tourists may find the “not so acrobatic” Bryde’s whale less enchanting than the humpback whale, which is known for it’s magnificent breaches. For researchers, being able to study both species simultaneously is a rare occurrence, akin to finding a pot of gold.

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We have been limited to reports of feeding Bryde’s whales among large groups of birds to date, however, today we got the opportunity to photograph this species. Normally this species is moving continually, presenting few opportunities for photo-ID, but today’s encounter lasted for almost 10 minutes! We are looking forward to seeing more of them and, of course, searching for possible interactions with humpback whales. After all, they are all sharing the same magical area that is Machalilla National Park.

Isla de la Plata

The Ecuador research team had a special trip to Isla de la Plata last week, on a very sunny day with calm winds. Most days the team spent searching for humpback whales within Puerto Lopez. However, when calm weather allowed, they traveled to Isla de la Plata, allowing them to see other species besides the humpback whale.

On the way to the island the team saw nazca and blue-footed boobies in a feeding frenzy together with pantropical spotted dolphins. Once the team arrived at the island they were delighted to see a beautiful male orca. Although this sighting is not uncommon for the island, this is the first time they documented a male orca. A group of humpback whales was also observed close by and it is not uncommon to see orcas attacks humpback whales in waters around Isla de la Plata.

On the return trip from the island several groups of active humpback whales were observed traveling south, potentially beginning their migration route. The whales are always inspiring the team to move forward, bringing out the best in them, and research should always serve to protect them, to speak for them, and above all to create new life opportunities for people. A change that is well echoed in the town of Puerto Lopez, which owes its transformation to the whales.

Field Report From Ecuador

The small coastal village of Puerto Lopez, Ecuador kicked off the whale season with A colorful celebration of El Festival de las Ballenas, honoring a   sixteen year tradition of colorful dance, song and culture. This annual event brings community, local politicians and various organizations together to celebrate the presence of the Humpback Whales.

The whale festival also marks the official launch of the whalewatch season and what locals call a “prosperous time”. From  the first whalewatching tours some fifteen years ago this quiet community has benefited from steady economic growth.

Field Report From Ecuador

Day One:

After four planes, misplaced luggage and countless Sudoku puzzles I arrived  my final destination, Puerto Lopez, Ecuador some  5,321 miles from Maui, Hawaii. I am here to document a two-day whale festival and Pacific Whale Foundation’s 11 year  presence in a growing Whalewatch destination.

I plan to capture the transformation of a small fishing to an epic whalewatching destination. I also want to highight conservation efforts for sustainable eco-tours and communal participation and the local celebration to protect humpback whales and the Machilla Marine Park.