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Spotting whales in Colombia

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This week our own Alan Lyall waxes lyrical about his recent encounter with humpback whales in Colombia…with great photos on Facebook.

 

He writes:

“There are angry clouds in the sky whilst we skim along the Pacific Ocean in a small motor boat off the Pacific coast of Colombia’s Choco province. There is an air of anxious excited expectation as our eyes skim the ocean trying to get our first glimpse of a mighty Humpback Whale.

Suddenly an excited squeal  goes out  as a spurt of water, rather like a geyser, is spotted and then a whale appears. Just the top side and we are wondering whether it will jump. This time, there is an arch that looks like a hump which forms  out of the water before disappearing and then we spot a smaller one.

Mother and calf! I pinch myself thinking, ‘Is this real?”.

 

Migrating whales

The particular whales we are looking for migrate from their feeding grounds between Antarctica and the South American Continent and cover approximately 8,000 Km to reach the warm tropical waters off Colombia’s Pacific coast where they come to calve from July to October.

They estimate that around 2,000 Humpbacks come to the coastal area around the town of Nuqui for the calving season. The calves are born in the warm waters as they have no blubber to protect them from the cold and then their strength is built up by swimming, jumping and suckling up to 100 litres of milk from their mothers.

The adult whales do not feed, but subsist on their natural reserves after having spent the boreal summer gorging off Antarctica.

 

Eco-lodge

Getting to our destination at El Cantil Ecolodge was an adventure in itself. As we were a small group of 7 people it was cost effective to charter a small plane (Cessna 402 for those in the know) and we had a 45 minute flight from Medellin to Nuqui. In fact, the only way to get to Nuqui is by air or by sea as no roads lead there.

Once in Nuqui, population of approximately 3,000 people, mainly of African origin, and no cars, it’s a short walk to the port area to board the boat to the hotel.

A 45 minute speed boat ride south and we arrive at the hotel. A wet landing on the beach and we are soon heading to our rooms.

El Cantil Eco Lodge is a special place. 7 cabin rooms which can accommodate 3 to 5 people each.  All comfortably equipped with beds and mosquito beds and porches with hammocks and their own en suite toilet with shower. There are old-fashioned paraffin lamps in the toilet, room and on the balcony. No electricity and no hot water, in my opinion, add to the charm although there is power from 6-10 pm every evening in the main restaurant to charge your appliance batteries. No internet so you are very much away from it all.

The food is typical local home style cooking with a lot a fish, although vegetarians and non seafood eaters can also be catered for. The language is Spanish but at the time of booking if English is requested there will be at least one person available to translate.

 

Whale watching and waterfalls

Whale watching is the main attraction from July to October  but the lodge can be visited all year round and activities include jungle treks to waterfalls, in search of poisonous frogs, to hot springs, nearby remote communities as well as surfing lessons or just enjoying the beach.

The surrounding jungle is also home to sloths, howler monkeys, humming birds and much more.

Once settled into our cabins, we had a great view of the beach and the sea. Less than half an hour after our arrival, one of the girls shouted, “whale” and there was a mass scramble for cameras whilst shouting where, where, where? And there out so sea, I saw a hump disappear into the water. Brilliant!

After a lunch of rice, yucca, fried fish and carrot salad, followed by coconut tart and washed down with fresh mango juice, we set off along the beach to explore the jungle and bathe under a couple of waterfalls nearby.

 

No fluke

The next morning we set  off by boat in search of the humpback.

As with any wildlife, what you see is really the luck of the draw, and in this case I didn’t have a clue what to expect.

However,  I wasn’t disappointed. It was a morning of squeals marking various whale sightings as well as spotted dolphins jumping and yellow fin tuna darting in and out of the water.

Spotting the flukes (tail) and whale jumps were  to be another day, but that evening , I felt  that I really got the hump in Colombia.

“Pure magic!”

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