December 28, 2010 | By Collette Peck
It was an exciting day on November 18 when a guest at Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita spotted the first humpback whale of the season, clearly visible from the Resort’s open air lobby. The official viewing season, which attracts thousands to Banderas Bay every year, begins in early December, and continues through the end of March.
Majestic humpback whales follow an annual migration throughout the world’s oceans, spending winters in colder waters, and returning to tropical regions each year for mating and calving. They reach maturity at age six to ten years, with females bearing a calf every two to three years.
Humpbacks are hard to miss when they are active in the waters off Punta Mita – males are about 35 feet (more than 11 meters) in length, while females are larger at 40 feet (12 meters). Even young whales have a commanding presence, at 10-15 feet (3 or more meters) at birth.
The first sign that whales are in the area may be the gentle rise of their backs above the surface, characterized by the dark silhouette of their dorsal fins. As they move through the water, one might spot their long jagged flippers, which can be several meters in length. The most spectacular sight comes when they raise their enormous tails – up to 18 feet, or more than five meters wide – skyward. It’s thought that when humpbacks slap their flippers and tails on the surface of the ocean, it’s a form of communication with other whales.
Although whales can often be seen right off the beach, or for the best views Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita can arrange guided boat tours. In addition to humpback whales, orcas are often spotted, and more rarely, the Bryde’s whale and minke whales, which are members of the same family as humpbacks.
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