Every year between July and November, humpback whales swim over 2000 miles from Antarctica to the warm waters of the Colombian Pacific coast to mate and give birth to their young. It is an amazing sight to see and tourists travel to the coast to try to get a glimpse of the whales in the ocean. Obviously, I became one of these tourists!
There are several places to go to on the coast, but we chose to go to Ladrilleros and Juanchaco by ferry from Buenaventura as we were short on time and visit the national park of Bahia Malaga to see the whales from there.
To get there, I was going to meet up with my friends from Cali and then take a bus with them to Buenaventura and then ferry to Juanchaco. When I got to Cali by small plane($50usd),
I took a bus to the Terminal de Transporte (6,500cop) where we caught a bus to Buenaventura (25,000)cop.
The port city of Buenaventura was not pretty, as anyone will tell you, but the port itself was interesting. We went to the pier and bought a ticket to the city of Juanchaco on ferry (30,000cop).
The ferry ride was very choppy and uncomfortable. We were low in the water and closed in while trying to hold our backpacks up so they wouldn’t get wet. They did have us all wear lifejackets which was a nice sign, but it added to the claustrophobia on my part. Many people zipped up their plastic ‘windows’ which added to the effect. The scenery we were passing was beautiful though that I ended up enjoying the ride in spite of the claustrophobia!
We got to the ‘port’ of Juanchaco and it was raining. The rain was warm though as this area of Colombia is very hot. There were children playing in the ocean and the effect was pleasing and quaint – I immediately loved it and was thrilled to be here.
We disembarked from the ferry and walked down the pier to look for transport to Ladrilleros. We had not booked a room at a hostel, but Ekatarina knew of someone who had a hostel. It was raining and we were being hounded by guides, so we decided to go to Ladrilleros where there was a hostel that was available. We had not seen or heard of it though – so it was chancy but at least we could get out of the rain!
Because of the rain in the area, the taxi is actually a tractor that pulls a trailer with benches. It was interesting, but only 3,000 cop and it got us there! In we climbed!
We walked down a muddy path to the hostel. It was on a cliff overlooking the ocean! The view was gorgeous! The room was not. It was small, the beds were lumpy and thin, the pillows were flat, there was a small window and a fan and the bathroom was tiny and sparse. But… we were going to see whales and the view!
The guide, Jimmy, told us where to eat in the ‘town’. We left our backpacks in the room and went to find dinner.
He was right – it was cheap and cheerful! Just what we needed. We had dinner and then found this little bar on the cliff down from our hostel where we had a couple of drinks and danced for a while. It was nice to hang out and relax listening to the ocean.
He signed us up for a boat to see the whales at 8 the next morning. We were a little worried as it was still raining. It stormed all night long. It was nice to sleep while the storm raged outside, but we were concerned when we woke and it was still raining at 6:30 in the morning. We dressed, ate breakfast at the hostel, and then the sun came out about 7:45 – we ran and changed and went to go see the whales!!
I was impressed that they had us attend a talk before we got in the boats. We learned that the whales are very closely monitored and the boats have to stay a certain distance away – even farther if they see a calf, only 3 boats can follow each whale, if there are three boats there, you have to find another whale! All very good rules!.
We then got in the boats and took off to look for whales!
As we were leaving the pier, we spotted a dead whale. It was so sad – the people were standing around talking about how tragic it was and how it never happens. They were speculating about why it died. We later found out – as it was in the paper later in the week.
We left the pier in search of whales – the ride was two hours long and it zoomed by. We were all looking and straining to see something. It was an amazing ride. We saw some whales finally and it was so exciting to see them. I felt supremely lucky!
I saw whales!!! My life is now compete!
Our guide, Jimmy!