Weekend 16: Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

One of the highlights of these 4 months was a whale-watching boat ride I took off the coast of Puerto Vallarta. This town had a reputation of being a party town, but I believe that was several years ago because I did not see much partying during the weekend I was there. If fact, any noise came from the parading devotees marching in pilgrimages for the Virgin of Guadalupe day on December 12th. Perhaps I was part of a non-crowd, neither a pilgrim or a party person.

1 Minute “Trailer” about the Whale Watching (click here)

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I signed up for this whale watching excursion the first weeks into my program. The whales are most visible from December through March, so this was the only weekend to experience it. I searched for a reputable company and all reviews pointed to OceanFriendly. They did not disappoint. It was educational as well as efficient.

The group that weekend met in the morning at the pier for a brief 20 minutes talk on whale migration behavior from and to Alaska. I learned that there are many types of whales in the Pacific Ocean. I was partially relieved to realize that what I had heard from an eco-tour guide in Chiapas about baby whales born in Mexican waters might eventually be caught and eaten in Japanese waters. The water off the coast of Puerto Vallarta is the right mixing of warm temperature water from the  south this time of year, which switches on the mating instinct of the whales. These temperatures also cause more krill to be produced to feed the wildlife.

On shore we saw beautiful iguanas called Queen Iguanas because of their spiky orange head adornment that trails down their backs. They are green bodied, so the black and white blocks that color their long tails make these iguanas very striking to behold. I could not tell whether they were happy by their expressions because they have to look mean to warn predators (I suppose humans are their enemy since they are endangered), even when the come for their lunch feedings put out by non-predatory humans. On the boat, on the way to the whales and after the whale watching, we saw boobies, which are marine birds with feet that could be either brown, yellow, or blue! Amazing.

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The Bay is made from two tectonic plates that are separating. One on the south side is more lush and sustains more wildlife, whereas the north side is drier and has of course less vegetation. It’s interesting to look at the land formation from the boat as the hills and mountains are arranged at about 45 to 90 degrees from each other. Perhaps the name Vallarta derives from vaya, which means “go away”.

As for the whales, we saw three groupings of two or three. They are so amazing to watch because they seem to be playing or chasing in such a natural way. Contrast this behavior to animals in zoos or large holding tanks for the benefit of humans. I so dislike these circuses that use animals to make money. With the use of digital technology, experts can be paid to film animals in their natural habit. Instead of paying to see animals do tricks, we can pay to see them act naturally. How far will this idea go?

It takes some patience to watch whales because they don’t jump up just because there are people around. But when they do, I loved the experience of witnessing an animal the size of a bus spout air at the surface and dive back down, sometimes their tales come up! The underside of the tale is the whale’s fingerprint. No two are exactly alike, so they are easier to track. Evolutionarily speaking, these white colorations are camouflage. From the bottom of the sea, the whale is camouflaged against the sky and clouds. From the top, they are blue so they can escape from whalers.