06 October 2010

Humpback whales share their vacation destination

Travel lovers and real estate experts are discovering that the Gulf of Chiriqui in Panama is the latest vacation hot spot—a secret humpback whales found centuries ago. Among the groups of beautiful emerald islands, the whales spend their summers breeding and calving in the warm waters of the protected gulf.

Abe Zimmerman, Sales Director of the Resort at Isla Palanque—an ecologically sensitive real estate project in the gulf—spotted the whales while showing customers around the property.

"Out of nowhere, an enormous humpback whale shot out of the water,” said Zimmerman. “My breath has never been taken away like that before."

Like many people, humpback whales travel from the icy north to the warmth of the tropics each year. Their incredible 4,000 mile migration takes them from their arctic feeding grounds to their tropical mating grounds for much of the year.

The months of October and November offer the best chance to see them in Panama, where the males can be seen putting on an amazing show of jumps and twists to attract the best possible mate. The following year, females return to give birth and fatten up the newborn calves. Calves may be 2,000 lbs at birth but they have very little body fat so they spend the warmer months drinking over one hundred gallons of milk daily and gaining strength to make the long journey home.

Once nearly extinct due to over hunting, there are now nearly 20,000 Pacific humpback whales, one of 20 different species that can be seen in the Gulf of Chiriqui. The increase of whale watching tours is not only good for the local tourism, but for the whales.

Despite the international moratorium on whaling, thousands of endangered whale species are hunted each year, but new studies show that they are worth more alive than dead. Discovery News has reported that 13 million eco-tourists paid to see the animals in their natural environment, fueling a $2 billion industry last year.

Bev Hahler | @redhotvegan
Bev, a vegetarian since she was 14 years old, became more interested in veganism several years ago after studying Agro-business as part of an Ecology degree. Follow Bev on her blog and Facebook.

Photo credit: Amble Resorts