By: Dr. María Antonieta Viteri Flores

To be in contact with nature is one of the greatest privileges that man has, especially for those of us that live in the city, immersed in a world of buildings, streets, and vehicles, working in closed-in spaces, surrounded by electronic apparatuses. To be able to leave this mechanized environment means an internal renovation. To experience and enjoy nature – the sun, the wind, and the sea – is truly a marvel and Ecuador is a country fortunate enough to be blessed with an infinite number of places where one can do this in an up-close-and-personal way.

The passing of El Niño brought with it some extraordinary events, but when we heard that whales could be observed mating in Machalilla, we felt it was a rare adventure that shouldn’t be missed. With an adventurous spirit and desirous of getting out into nature, this bit of news did not pass by unnoticed and so it was suggested that we rent a boat and head to La Isla de La Plata. A Swiss friend couldn’t comprehend the boldness which motivated us to set to sea in a vessel which lacked life jackets, a double motor, any sort of security devices, and which was “captained” by a man without a uniform or cap. But we used the creole ingenuity characteristic of Ecuadorians to convince him that we have always enjoyed life in this way.

The trip in the boat was a delight, with the sea breeze and sunshine bathing our bodies and the waves turning the voyage into a roller coaster ride on which the salty water splashing us refreshed us from the heat – far superior to Splash Mountain.

Great was our amazement when, in the distance, we caught a glimpse of a splashing that, according to our captain, should have been whales. Slowly we neared them when suddenly we saw two gigantic black triangles rise from the water. Without being able to contain our enthusiasm, we shouted: “Let’s get closer, let’s get closer”, as our foreign friend asked, “Won’t that be dangerous?”

Our captain accommodated us and, as in Pinocchio, we remained astonished at the beauty and grandeur of this incredible mammal as it appeared before us. Its size tripled that of our boat, making us feel as that famous puppet must have felt upon seeing such an awesome creature. Luckily, our fate was not the same as his.

Soon, there was not one whale but rather two, and then three, submerging and emerging in a harmonious dance. It was the best ballet we had ever attended.

It is in these moments that one raises their eyes to heaven and sincerely believes in the existence of God. Man, with all of his scientific advancements, cannot, nor will he be able to, create a spectacle as impressive as that which we were witnessing. To observe these animals in their natural habitat is sensational and makes one realize the sadness in watching them in captivity where, even in the world’s best aquarium, the sight cannot compare to seeing them in liberty.

We returned to the city with a rejuvenated spirit, a greater faith in God, and a spine lodged in our soul that told us that we had returned to our own captivity.

*Article originally published in Ecuador Business and Commerce, September 1997 edition. Translation by Charlie Conner.

Additional Whale-watching Information:
Whale-watching Overview