Parque Nacional Machalilla -- Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

July 19-23, 2007






From June to September, humpback whales over-winter in the warm waters off the coast of Ecuador to battle for females, display their strength, make love, and give birth to 1 1/2 ton babies. They migrate here all the way from their summer feeding grounds in Antarctica and the Pacific coast of Patagonia. There is an annual population of around 400 whales in the waters off Puerto Lopez, considered the epicenter of the breeding grounds.

Whale watching is a booming tourist industry in this dusty coastal town, and every morning a small fleet of watercraft set out in search of whales. And we saw loads of whales during our two days on the water! It was wonderful to see these southern hemisphere cousins of the humpbacks we've spent so much time with in Southeast Alaska's Glacier Bay!









In one glorious moment, a giant humpie swam under our boat, nearly touching our toes dangling over the side, and surfaced next to the toy boat bobbing nearby.










Adios, amigos!



Isla de la Plata, the "poor man's Galapagos," is a short boat ride -- an exciting ride past cavorting whales -- from Puerto Lopez. We hiked next to Blue footed boobies, the males whistling and strutting their stuff in an elaborate mating dance, nesting albatross, and curious masked boobies.




We wandered through the unique tropical dry forest with Alan, our newfound Scottish friend, and a local park guide. Motmots, boas, and iguanas blend in to the near-bare branches of the ceiba trees that stand dormant during the foggy winter months, waiting for the summer rains.




At the Hosteria Mandala we met the inspirational owners, Maja and Aureleo, who have created an oasis at the beach with their original woodwork and artwork around every corner. Upstairs in the main building, with a view out to the ocean, the lounge is replete with drums, rhythm instruments, and a hand made marimba -- the perfect place for our next reunion with friends!





Chugchilán (bus) ► Quito (plane)Manta (bus)Puerto Lopez