An encounter with whales in Panama

The melodious songs and graceful yet acrobatic leaps in the middle of the ocean are part of the male whale's courtship gestures to draw attention and impress the female, who chooses the male with the best display as part of their mating ceremony. 

Every year, from early July until mid September, dozens of visitors, among them scientists and environmentalists, gather to enjoy this dazzling show that is part of whale watching in Panama.

Fundación Albatros Media invites the public to watch whales during their one- to two-day "photographic safaris". The foundation encourages respectful observance of the cetaceans and inspires visitors to continue to build public awareness on this issue.

The 2,210 km² of territorial waters surrounding the "heart of the universe", as Panama is known, provide the perfect habitat for a large variety of marine species that migrate unimaginable distances to reach the Central American island, seeking to reproduce in its warm seas and coastal shelters for most of the year.

The tropical temperatures in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean bathing Panama's coasts are the ideal conditions for humpback whales, who will journey from the southern hemisphere to Costa Rica, crossing the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. Once they have left, humpbacks from the northern hemisphere will arrive, after having swum from Alaska, along the coast of North America and Mexico, and finally down to Panama.

Whales can be found all season long in the Gulf of Chiriquí and the beaches in the province of Herrera and Los Santos, thanks to the various ocean currents present in these areas. Contadora, Saboga and Coiba islands, Panama Bay, and the majestic archipelago of Pearl Islands, just a few hours from the capital city, are the top spots to witness the most showy marine spectacle that Mother Nature offers.

The whale specialist and general director of Fundación Albatros Media, Alejandro Balaguer, affirms that, "Panama could become the best place in the world for whale watching, since sites are just an hour away from the city. If these tours could be better promoted, both nationally and internationally, it would enrich the country's natural marine resources." Whale watching attracts over 15 million visitors and generates over a billion dollars annually from the tours and complementary tourist services it generates.

Thanks to the lobbyingefforts of Fundación Albatros Media during the administration of former President Martín Torrijos (2004-2009), Panama passed a law in 2004 to create sanctuaries for whales and other marine species.

"The sanctuary is known as "the corridor of aquatic mammals" and is found in both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean," said Alejandro Balaguer.

"If we as the human species are able to safeguard the greatest being that has existed in the oceans for all time, what could we be able to conserve next?", reflects Balaguer.

Whale-watching Rules

Tourists are advised to follow these rules:

- Stay further than 200 meters from a whale with her ​​calf.

- Turn off the engine if a whale spontaneously approaches the boat.

- Do not pursue these mammals nor try to swim or dive with them.