Preparing for Your Whale Watching Adventure in Puerto Vallarta

Keith May, Executive Director
Puerto Vallarta Whale Watching Forum

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I am often asked by people wanting to plan a whale watching adventure how they can ensure that they are choosing a responsible whale watching tour operator for their trip. The first thing to do is to spend some time at our online non-profit website to learn what constitutes responsible whale watching both for authorized tour companies and private boat owners. At the Forum you will find the federal regulations designed to ensure safe environment for the Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) while observing these great creature in the wild. Additionally, you’ll find a listing of all boats and tour companies that have been given permission by the wildlife authority SEMARNAT to provide whale watching tours to the public. If a boat isn’t listed it’s simply not authorized and you should choose a different tour company.

That is the technical way to choose who will take you on this adventure of a lifetime. But, I’ll ask you to choose with your heart. Do a little extra homework and ask the questions that really matter. Is the company participating in the Fluke Identification Program for Banderas Bay? Are the profits from the money you’re paying going toward research that will help to protect and better manage the Humpback whale species? Will research findings be shared with other researchers around the world? Do they provide life vests, first aid kits and all required safety equipment onboard? If the answer to any of these questions is “no” keeping on looking for another company.

Then I urge you to check online at www.TripAdvisor.com and see what others are saying about the tour company that seems to be the most interesting to you. The travelers that post their comments at TripAdvisor are nothing if not honest. Lastly, check the reviews of the three companies that we at The Puerto Vallarta Whale Watching Forum consider to be among the best of the best. All of the guides with these companies are working researchers that fund their research by conducting whale watching adventures for tourists and this is how they pay for their research. The boats are smaller thus providing a more intimate atmosphere and you’ll have the knowledge of a competent scientist right at your finger tips. You would be surprised to hear some of the things I hear other guides telling people out on the water. Sometimes they just make things up or have all the fact and figures completely wrong. Whale watching is not an inexpensive activity. If you’re paying that much for the adventure of a lifetime at least make sure that you’re getting accurate information from trained professionals and not bad information and bad booze that’s going to give you a hangover tomorrow morning.

So, now you’ve chosen the company that will take you out to see the whales. What’s next? You will proceed to the company’s website and inquire about available dates. Once a date is confirmed you’ll generally be ask to pay online or drop off your payment at their offices. Once payment has been made you’ll receive your confirmation and information about the location of the pier, what time to meet, what to bring, etc.

On the morning of your departure you’ll be given a briefing about Banderas Bay and information about the Humpback whales before you board the boat. Throughout the trip more information is given depending on what behaviors you’re observing at any given time throughout the trip.

By choosing the right tour operator you’ll know that you have done all you can do to help ensure the safety of the whales and yourself. But, you’ll also be directing your money toward important research programs that have been established here in Puerto Vallarta.

I have the great fortune to meet people from around the globe that come to Banderas Bay to vacation. Some come specifically because of their love for the Humpbacks. Others come on the tour to check whale watching off their list. No matter your reasons for coming don’t come thinking that you’re just going to be seeing whales. If you come with your heart open and allow the magnificence of these creatures to feed your soul with beautiful impressions of love and beauty you can be assured a transformative experience like no other!

Do yourself a favor and plan your whale watching adventure today! Happy Whale Watching!

To learn more about responsible whale watching in Puerto Vallarta, please visit our non-profit website at www.PuertoVallartaWhaleWatching.org