This post is also available in: Spanish
See Humpback Whales in Panama. The humpback whale or yubarta inhabits all world oceans. Each group moves in its own feeding and breeding area, year after year.
In the Pacific Southeast there is a population which migrates from the Antarctic and Chile to Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.
Everything begins the last day of the year and goes on until March when they can be found in the Antarctic and the Chilean coasts where they feed and fill their fat deposits to have energy for their great voyage. At the start of the summer they begin their migration to the north towards tropical waters to start their reproduction cycle.
The route they take continues to be a mystery. According to some investigations being made by the Smithsonian Institute for Tropical Investigations in Panama, the whales who are already mothers or are pregnant normally choose the coastal route, the longer route, in order to avoid their natural predators, the orcas, while adults without calves opt for the open sea route, the shorter one.
The coastal route has other kinds of dangers such as humans, fishing and irresponsible tourism which make them vulnerable. Every year hundreds of them are beaten by boats and others get tangled up in the fishermen’s nets.
The mothers travel between 45 and 100 kilometers daily. Those without offspring are faster and can cover 130 kilometers. Each trip from north to south takes them between 50 to 70 days, covering around 16,000 kilometers in total. Can you imagine moving all year round? Without a doubt it is most adventurous mammal on Earth.
From mid-July these majestic giants start arriving in our waters here in Panama, to enjoy the warm sea and continue their reproductive process. Many calves are born here, especially in the Veraguas area. Their offspring are born with low body fat and will not be able to endure the Antarctic cold waters. For these reasons our tropical waters are the perfect refuge.
Off our coasts the mothers teach their calves to swim and survive, and at the same time they suckle to give them energy for the impending trip. The babies can consume as much as 100 liters of milk a day, while the mothers sing lovely lullabies to them.
During the months of August and September is when they are most active, but they can be seen until November.
To guarantee that the whales will continue coming to Panamanian waters to give birth, we need to be responsible and protect them. We need to be vigilant and follow these recommendations:
- Avoid getting too close to a female with young, although they are very tranquil, nobody knows what a mother will do to protect her calf.
- When you come to 300 meters of distance from the whale, it is important to reduce the speed or even stop because the noise disturbs them.
- Never go 200 meters close to them. It is impossible to predict in which direction they will swim and you can collide with them.
- The safest way to approach them is in a parallel direction where you see them swimming. Never come close to them in a direct manner from the front or the back.
- Keep quiet at all times.
- Never try to swim or dive close to them.
- The whale watching time should not exceed 30 minutes.
- Do not throw rubbish into the sea. Even the trash we throw in the streets finally reaches the sea and harms it.
- Large ships must remain outside the two kilometers distance.
Visit Veraguas soon and experience the “Giants of the Water”.
By: Angelo I. Solanilla