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Whale Watching in the Southern Cone -

Chile

Overview

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. 

Arica

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 Chinchorro 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.

Punta Choros

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

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 (Patagonialaitec) 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 Ecomarine Punihuil 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.

Peales's dolphin, Guaitecas Archipelago

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 Naviera Austral.

Punta Arenas

Commerson's and 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 penguins and 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.

Punta Delgada

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.

Porvenir

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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