Chile has an extremely long
coastline that is relatively rich in terms of whales and dolphins. Whale watching is now beginning to develop with more dedicated boat trips becoming available.
In the far north of the
country near the border with Bolivia and Peru, Arica is an important port.
Boat trips from here might encounter Bottlenose dolphins and Risso's
dolphins (best time April-September) with the possibility of Sperm whales
between December and February. Trips are offered by
Expediciones. They are based within the port complex. Go past the boat
by the roadside, through the gate and look for the restaurant called Mata
Rangi. This is where the owner of the agency is based. The price of trips
decreases as passenger numbers increase. Tourist numbers are not that high
here, it might take a day or two to organise a trip.
La Serena is a popular city
a good way south of Arica. About an hour to the north is Punta Choros. Boat
trips leave from here in the tourist season to the Damas and Choros islands
to see Humboldt penguins, sea lions and seabirds. There is also a resident
pod of Bottlenose dolphins which can be observed on most visits.
Lots of agencies in La Serena offer this tour
and tourist numbers are sufficient for trips to leave every day in season.
Prices are very reasonable. It is also possible to see large whales, including Blue whales, in the area. See Atacama Whales and Isla Chaņaral for more information.
Chiloe is a beautiful
island a good way south of Santiago. It is rich in cetacean life and has
received a reasonable amount of publicity recently because of a population
of Blue whales that summer off the island. Chiloe is marketed (to a
limited degree) as a
Blue whale watching destination but development here is in the early stages.
The whales are there (late January to April) but getting to see them can be
tricky. Quellon was originally the main site for dedicated boat trips
but you might find organising a successful trip here difficult as an
independent traveller. Land-based watching can be done from the north-west corner of the
island near the penguin colony at
Punihuil. This is quite a hot-spot for sightings although the whales tend
to be quite distant. Boat trips are also offered by
if you want to try for a closer view.
Chilean dolphins are seen
regularly around the island as are Peale's dolphins. Apparently the bay
between Triscao and Yaldad is a hot-spot for Chilean dolphins. I saw a small
pod in Ancud bay. Faro Corona to the west of Ancud is another
possible viewing location.
A Peale's dolphin jumping in
the Pacific off the Guiatecas Archipelago. This group of islands is about 6
hours south of Chiloe. They are remote and unspoiled and very rich in
cetacean life. Accessible from Quellon with
Peale's dolphins are present in the waters off Punta Arenas. Some agencies offer
a summer boat trip to Isla Magdalena where there is a colony of Magellanic
dolphins might be seen during such a trip. Humpback whales can
be seen during the summer in the Straight of Magellan as part of a tour offered by
Whale Sound. Other exciting options in the area are offered by Kayak Agua Fresca.
This is where car ferries
depart from mainland Chile across the Straights of Magellan to Tierra
del Fuego. It is a good place to spot Commerson's dolphins,
either from the shore or from the ferry.
In the Chilean half of
Tierra del Fuego. Boat trips can be taken
here in season to observe Peale's dolphins.
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