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Top 8 Fascinating Spots for Humpback Whale Watching in Colombia

Whale in Buenaventura

Updated on 06/14/2024

Dear reader,
I would also like to recommend our Colombia travel guide, which provides a perfect overview of the tourist attractions in Colombia. Enjoy reading it!

Did you know that from July to November, Colombian waters are visited by some of the most impressive whales on the planet?

That’s right, humpback whales arrive on the Colombian Pacific coast. In this corner of South America, we have the privilege of witnessing the enormous journey these cetaceans face. Join us as we explore the 8 must-see whale-watching destinations in Colombia.

Where to Spot Whales in Colombia

These are some of the best places to whale watch, they are unforgettable sites!

Tribugá Gulf beach, Nuquí

Location: Nuquí, Choco

Price: There is no cost to access the beach, but there is a fee for whale watching tours.

The Gulf of Tribugá covers an area of 600 hectares of beaches, jungles, and mangroves declared a biosphere by UNESCO. This place is fascinating for its abundant fauna and flora and the presence of numerous humpback whales.

Being a maritime area rich in tuna and shrimp, it’s perfect for spotting these interesting cetaceans on boat tours. Additionally, you can observe turtles, fish, crabs, pelicans, and frigates.

Services and activities

  • Whale watching
  • Swimming
  • Surfing
  • Snorkeling
  • Hiking
  • Fauna and flora observation
  • Boat tours
  • Restaurant services

How to get there?

Only by air from within the country, either from Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, or Quibdó. However, it’s also possible to access by sea from the port of Buenaventura. From the town of Nuquí, you can reach other sectors by boat or through beach walks, although traveling by boat is more common.

whale watching in Chocó Colombia

Utría National Natural Park, Nuquí

Location: Located between the municipalities of Bahía Solano, Nuquí, Bojayá, and Alto Baudó.

Price: There is an entrance fee to the park, as well as for whale watching.

Website: https://www.parquesnacionales.gov.co/nuestros-parques/pnn-utria/

The Utría National Natural Park is a fascinating natural reserve that has numerous ecosystems from beaches to tropical jungles. Due to its calm waters, it’s the ideal place to observe migratory marine species such as:

  • Humpback whales
  • Sea turtles
  • Orcas
  • Sperm whales
  • Dolphins
  • Tunas.

Beyond its beauty, this place is crucial for nature. Did you know it hosts four of the world’s most biodiverse yet fragile ecosystems? That’s right, it includes:

  • Coral formations
  • Mangroves
  • Tropical humid jungles
  • Marine ecosystems.

Therefore, it’s important to enjoy this park without negatively impacting it.

Services and activities

  • Whale watching
  • Hiking
  • Light boat rides
  • Environmental research
  • Non-commercial photography
  • Snorkeling
  • Diving

How to get there?

You can reach this part of Nuquí by plane from Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, and Cartago. Then you must take ground transportation for about 30 minutes to the El Valle district. Alternatively, you can access it through a maritime route or a hiking trail through the rainforest. For example, from Bahía Solano, the journey takes about 3 hours.

Important:

Nuquí is a municipality well-known for whale watching, and although the mentioned places are very popular for this tourist activity, there are others where you can do it, including:

  • Olímpica Beach
  • Guachalito Beach
  • Morromico Beach
  • Coquí Township
  • Termales Sector
  • Mutis City, Bahía Solano

Mutis City, Bahía Solano

Location: Located in the main area of Bahía Solano.

Price: There is no cost to access the beach, but there is a fee for maritime whale watching.

Mutis City is a small town and the municipal capital of Bahía Solano. Numerous ecotourism activities take place here, but the most outstanding is humpback whale watching from land or sea, the most common way being from the following beaches:

  • Huina Beach
  • Potes Beach
  • Flores Beach
  • Nabugá Beach
  • Mecanas Beach

What also stands out about Mutis City is its delicious cuisine. Being a fishing and farming town, the food is very fresh and tasty.

Services and activities

  • Whale watching
  • Swimming
  • Diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Hiking
  • Accommodation
  • Restaurant and café services

How to get there?

To reach Bahía Solano, you can take a flight from cities like Medellín or Quibdó. In fact, around the José Celestino Mutis Airport, you’ll find the main center of the municipality, namely Mutis City, and from all the beaches in that area, you can spot whales.

Malaga Bay, Buenaventura

Location: This bay is located in the Pacific Ocean, between the San Juan River and the bay of Buenaventura.

Price: There is no cost to access the beach, but there is a fee for maritime whale watching.

It’s a region northwest of Buenaventura composed of the Juanchaco district and several fishing villages. However, tourists mainly come here to spot humpback whales and, of course, to enjoy various natural landscapes between mangrove ecosystems and tropical rainforests.

Bahía Málaga stands out for its enormous biodiversity; numerous amphibians, reptiles, and fish inhabit this area. For example, you’ll see stingrays and turtles.

Services and activities

  • Whale watching
  • Swimming
  • Diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Visiting mangroves
  • Hiking
  • Nightlife
  • Accommodation
  • Café and restaurant services

How to get there?

To reach Bahía Málaga, you must first reach Buenaventura either by car or by plane. Once there, you can depart to this magical place. The journey takes approximately 40 minutes by boat.

Uramba National Natural Park, Bahía Málaga

Location: Located in the middle strip of the Colombian Pacific coast, near the municipality of Buenaventura.

Price: There is an entrance fee to the park, as well as for whale watching.

Website: https://www.parquesnacionales.gov.co/nuestros-parques/pnn-uramba-bahia-malaga/

The Uramba National Natural Park is an impressive natural reserve known for preserving marine ecosystems and being considered a crucial site for the conservation of humpback whales. During the period from June to November, these coastal waters offer ideal conditions for essential activities in the whales’ life cycle, such as:

  • Mating
  • Birthing
  • Nursing
  • Raising
  • Resting
  • Socializing.

In fact, the birth rate of whale calves in this area is one of the highest in the world. Additionally, you can observe other marine species such as seahorses and starfish.

What I love about humpback whale watching in this park is that this activity is accompanied by young natives from local communities. They act as environmental interpreters, strengthening their training process, and boosting ecotourism.

Services and activities

  • Whale watching
  • Swimming
  • Fauna and flora observation
  • Scientific research
  • Non-commercial photography
  • Hiking

Important

It is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.

How to get there?

To reach this park, you must arrive in Buenaventura either by plane or by car. Once there, you must take a boat to the Juanchacho dock, which takes about 45 minutes.

Juanchacho, Buenaventura

Location: Located in Buenaventura, on the Pacific Ocean.

Price: There is a cost to access the beach (as part of National Natural Park Uramba), as well as for maritime whale watching.

Juanchacho is a very important district in terms of nature, economy, and tourism. There is a port where boats are boarded to observe impressive humpback whales performing acrobatics. This is also the starting point for many local fishermen. This place contains a natural beauty that will make you forget the stress and noise of urban life.

A place I recommend for terrestrial whale watching is the Juanchacho Cliff. The view is fascinating!

Services and activities

  • Whale watching
  • Swimming
  • Accommodation
  • Nightlife
  • Café and restaurant services

How to get there?

Juanchacho is a 45-minute boat ride from Buenaventura.

Important

Other nearby beaches for whale watching are:

  • La Barra Beach
  • Ladrilleros Beach
  • Cucheros Beach
  • Dorada Beach
  • Juan de Dios Beach
  • La Plata Beach

Boca Grande Island, Tumaco

Location: The island is located in the waters of the Pacific, near Tumaco.

Price: There is no cost to access the beach, but there is a fee for maritime whale watching.

The Boca Grande Island is the most famous place for humpback whale watching in Tumaco. This incredible island is a calm natural environment ideal for family relaxation and nature appreciation. However, whales can only be observed from the sea, not from the land or the port. Therefore, tours usually start at 5:00 am.

Services and activities

  • Whale watching
  • Swimming
  • Observing El Arco (a natural stone formation)
  • Accommodation
  • Café and restaurant services

How to get there?

First, you must arrive in Tumaco, either by flight or by car. Once there, you’ll need to take a boat to the island. The journey takes about 30 minutes.

Gorgona National Natural Park, Guapi

Location: This park is on Gorgona island in the Pacific Ocean, but belongs to Guapi.

Price: There is an entrance fee to the park, as well as for whale watching.

Website: https://www.parquesnacionales.gov.co/nuestros-parques/pnn-gorgona/

The Gorgona National Natural Park is a lush natural reserve famous for its dense and lush tropical rainforest. In the past, this area used to be a prison, but it was closed, In 1983 it was converted into a protected area for the conservation of resident fauna and flora. Here, you can observe humpback whales and numerous types of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles in nature.

Services and activities

  • Whale watching
  • Light boat rides
  • Geological observations
  • Fauna and flora observation
  • Birdwatching
  • Non-commercial photography
  • Snorkeling
  • Diving
  • Accommodation
  • Restaurant services

How to get there?

You can access the municipality of Guapi by air or by sea from the ports of Buenaventura and Tumaco. To reach the Gorgona National Natural Park, you must take boats departing from the port of Guapi, which take about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Recommendations for Humpback Whale Spotting in Colombia

Here are some suggestions for safe and respectful whale watching to avoid mishaps:

whale watching in Chocó Colombia

Choose the right time

  • June and July: The first specimens arrive.
  • August: It’s the month with a notable presence of humpbacks.
  • September: Peak whale watching season, with courtship, mating, and births occurring.
  • October: Some specimens begin to return to the Antarctic and southern Chile.
  • November: Groups of mothers with their calves start migrating to the southern hemisphere.
  • December: Occasionally, you can see the last whales.

Choose whether you want to observe from land or sea

It’s possible to observe whales a few meters from the sea from land. Although it’s not as fascinating, it still allows observation. However, it’s more common to spot them from the water, but it requires swimming skills and patience. So, decide which option suits you best. Remember that swimming with or diving to observe whales is not allowed in Colombia.

If you want to whale watch from a boat

  • Choose an agency or boat experienced in whale watching, and ensure their priority is the care of these cetaceans. Make sure they follow the guidelines of the General Maritime Directorate (Dimar) regarding departure requirements and maneuvers when observing whales.
  • Be patient, as whales take time to appear, and you may not always see groups of them, perhaps just one or two in hours.
  • Do not approach a mother with her calf or follow them. If a whale approaches, it’s prudent to move away at low speed without causing waves.
  • If the whales are jumping or performing any behavior, move away as they need space. Approaching closer than allowed could cause accidents. Large boat operators must stay at a distance of 2 km (1 mile) from whales or their calves.
  • If you’re on a small boat, you shouldn’t approach closer than 200 meters (656 feet) from a whale.
  • Avoid making noise or playing music.
  • If you want to know more about the approaches, consult the Humpback Whale Watching Guide, published by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Transportation.
  • Be aware of the regulations governing boats and comply with them.
  • Do not try to disperse whale groups.
  • Do not feed whales or throw waste or garbage into the sea.
  • If you are swimming and accidentally encounter a whale, keep a distance of more than 30 meters (98 feet), trying to move away as soon as possible.
  • If you see people mistreating or engaging in prohibited activities, report them to the animal cruelty hotline (123) or the authorities in charge of the natural reserves.

Checklist for Whale Watching in Colombia

These are some essential items for whale watching, focusing on maritime observation:

  • Life jacket
  • Hat for sun protection
  • Binoculars (useful for land observation)
  • Sunglasses with UV filter
  • Sunscreen
  • Hydrating drinks and light snacks
  • Bags for collecting garbage
  • Waterproof bag to protect belongings and store wet clothes
  • Good camera, preferably with a zoom lens for close-up shots and excellent photos
  • Motion sickness pills
  • Cash

Curious Facts about Humpback Whales

  • They travel about 8,500 km (5,281 miles) from Antarctica to the warm waters of the coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean in Chile and Colombian departments such as Chocó and Nariño, to mate and give birth.
  • Among the group of whales, they are the smallest.
  • They are solitary animals, rarely seen in groups, usually only mothers with their calves.
  • They produce a resounding song when seeking to mate.
  • Humpback whales swim in all the world’s seas.
  • Young males usually don’t come to the Colombian coasts.
  • Whale calves are born weighing between 680 kg (1,499 pounds) and one ton.
  • They are considered the most acrobatic of all whales. They love to leap, slap their tails, and perform flips in the water.
  • Whales are sensitive to human presence. Also, mating or pregnant whales are in a vulnerable state.
  • They are fascinating creatures that play a variety of roles in nature. Such as controlling the population of krill and small fish, contributing to the release of nutrients and playing a key role in the carbon cycle.
  • Whales are currently under threat due to pollutants dumped in the oceans, fishing nets, illegal hunting and the oil and gas industry.

In summary, whale conservation is essential to maintaining balance in natural ecosystems. Therefore, it is important to contribute to their preservation and care.

More Nature Tourism Experiences in Colombia

Here is a list of incredible destinations for hiking and other nature activities in Colombia:

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About Author

Frank

Frank

Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia. I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia. For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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