It’s that time of year in Puerto Vallarta, whale watching time! The season typically runs from mid-December through mid-March. We think there is no better way to see these magnificent creatures than on Amstar’s Puerto Vallarta Whale Photo Safari Tour.
It’s easy to join the tour after making your booking with Amstar at your hotel, on our website or with your travel agent. If you’re staying in Puerto Vallarta, take a taxi to the Marina Terminal approximately 1 hour prior to your appointed tour time. The driver will drop you off in front of the entrance of the Marina Terminal where you will need to pay a 20 peso tariff (approximately $1.50) per person. You will now enter the gated area of the Marina and find the Vallarta Adventures staff in blue logo shirts nearby to direct you to the desk for check-in.
Once the quick check-in procedures are completed, you will be directed to the pier to wait until the rest of your group arrives. Be sure to pay a visit to the bathroom, there are no toilets aboard the boat. Even if you don’t think you have to go, word to the wise…. GO TRY! Trust me by the end of the tour you’ll be glad you did. Shortly thereafter, your group will be called to board and given life jackets. All responsible boaters know wearing a life jacket is a good thing and you will be required to wear one on this tour. Now the fun begins as you speed across the bay in search of the amazing humpback whales.
It is a small group tour of no more than 35 passengers on an APEX inflatable speed boat. The boat has one bench on each side of the boat which seats 2 for the best views. The guide explained to us the habits of the whales throughout the tour and we heard their songs from hydrophones. It’s amazing to see with your own eyes how large humpbacks actually are, 50- 60ft in length, weighing almost 4 TONS. Calves are about half that size which is plenty big enough for me. The tails make up about 1/3 of their length and marine biologists can identify individual whales by their pectoral fins.
No two tours are exactly alike, because after all, it is NATURE. That said, a plane is used to track the whales and dolphins so that you have the best possible chance to see them. The pilot is in contact with the captain via radio. The captain does an excellent job of letting each side of the boat a chance to view the activity. You are allowed to stand up if you are on the opposite side of the action, but I found it a little tough with the bobbing of the boat. If you decide to stand, hang on to the person next to you so you don’t fall over. We were shocked and amazed when a whale went underneath our boat! The boats are supposed to keep a safe distance from the whales but whales will be whales!
Evidently, this whale didn’t get the memo about the distance rule of 100 yards to a 1/4 mile minimum depending on movement. Though there are no guarantees what you will actually see on your tour, if you’re lucky, you will see whales quite close. I hope you will see the calves frolicking near their moms, blowing, rolling, breaching, and tails slapping the surface of the water like we did. It was truly breathtaking and a once-in-a-lifetime experience filled with ooooohs and aaaaahhhs.
It’s a good idea to bring a jacket, sweatshirt or sweater. The ocean breeze can be quite “refreshing” especially on early morning and late afternoon tours. Be sure to wear swimsuits with cover-ups, there is a chance you may get a little wet, the boats sit low in the water. If you are prone to motion sickness or just for good measure, you might want to take a little something before arriving at the Marina. We recommend bringing sunblock, a hat, sunglasses, extra batteries for your camera, binoculars and some cash for souvenirs and gratuities. You don’t need professional photography equipment but I would recommend more cameras than what a phone provides. I found it easier to keep the camera focused at a distance, instead of trying to get a close-up shot. I thought it would be better to capture the full shot in focus and blow it up than to miss the shot completely. We’re not professional photographers by any means, we shot about 200 frames to get 20 decent photos. If you’re missing the shots, my best advice is to sit back, relax and enjoy the experience. Photos from your tour are available for purchase. You might also want to shoot a little video footage, we didn’t but I wish we had. A light snack of fresh fruit and bottled water is served towards the end of the 3-3.5 hour tour.
I recommend this tour to anyone with the exception of very small children (babies or under the age of 6) or anyone with neck or back problems and expecting mothers. Though the captains are very experienced, the boat is small and you might take a good bounce if it hits a wave.
This guest post has been submitted by Stephanie Diehl of Travel Designed by Stephanie, a travel agent with 20 years experience creating memories of a lifetime worldwide and specializing in family vacations, honeymoons, destination weddings in Mexico and the Caribbean.
You can follow her travels on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest @TravelDesigned.