Ecuador is one of the planet’s most biodiverse regions. Its unique geography, geology, topography and climate have earned the country a label of being megadiverse1, a title not many nations can claim. Thirty different species of whales and dolphins have been documented in Ecuador’s waters, which range from the Pacific coastal regions to freshwater regions of the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos Islands2. Furthermore, with the first commercial whale watching tours being offered as early as the 1980’s, Ecuador has been a pioneer of whale watching tourism in Latin America3.
Commercial whale watching tourism has contributed significantly to local communities on the Pacific coast as well as in the Amazon. It has brought improvements to their quality of life, as well as to the conservation of their natural heritage through eco-tourism.
Target species, peak times of year and locations:
Whale watching is promoted in four coastal provinces of Ecuador. The main ports and islands where whale watching is offered include: Atacames, Súa, Muisne in the Esmeraldas Province; Pedernales, Manta, Puerto López, Isla de la Plata, Isla Salango, and Puerto Cayo in the Manabí Province; Atacames, Ayangue, and Monteverde in the Santa Elena Province; and Jambelí and Santa Clara Island in the D’el Oro Province. Humpback whales are the main target species for whale watching. The species travels up from feeding grounds in Antarctica to mate, give birth, and nurse their young on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast between June and October4,5. Bryde’s whales, common dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, killer whales and pilot whales are also occasionally encountered during these tours.
Bottlenose dolphins are present throughout the year in a number of locations along Ecuador’s coast. These include Puerto el Morro and Playas de Villamil in the del Guayas Province. River tours in Ecuador’s Amazonian rainforest can include opportunistic sightings of the boto or tucuxi river dolphins in the Cuyabueno Animal Reserve, and in the Napo and Cocaya Rivers in the Yasuni National Park.
Tourists participating in tours between the islands of the Galapagos may also opportunistically encounter Bryde’s whales, humpback whales, pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, killer whales or other species.