Toothed Whales on Pacific Tours


Sperm whales follow the coastal currents, spending time in northern Chile around the port city of Arica where they are most apt to be seen between December and February. They also travel further south to the Norte Chico region in the wildlife-rich areas of the Islas Choros, Damas and Chanaral. Marine tours in northern Chile focus on dolphins rather than whales.

To Chile’s central coast in the vicinity of Valparaiso, the Humboldt Current brings sperm whales, orcas and even southern bottlenose whales, though it is more common to see this species further south. Given its proximity to Santiago, the hub for most Chile tours, charming Valparaiso would be a popular place to visit even without the whales. Its colonial architecture earned the city a World Heritage Site designation by UNESCO, and it is located just a two-hour drive from the capital. Southern Explorations offers two different day-trip tour extensions to the central coast of Chile. These Chile tours do not spend time off-shore, so in order to see whales, additional arrangements would need to be made.

More orcas will be found in Chile Patagonia than farther north. One location is the north side of the Grand Island of Chiloe in the Chacao Channel that separates the Chiloe Archipelago from the mainland. Southern Explorations’ eight-day Patagonia Lake Crossing and the ten-day Patagonia Lakes and Iguazu Falls trips offer an optional day-trip to Chiloe Island at this location. These trips visit both Chile and Argentina Patagonia. Orcas spend most of their time here in deeper waters so no organized orca whale-watching trips are offered, and the likelihood of seeing the species from shore is slight.

Orcas inhabit the Strait of Magellan in the vicinity of Puerto Arenas and on the western side of the strait around Francisco Coloane Marine National Park between December and April. Two of Southern Explorations’ many Chile Patagonia tours are Chile/Argentina combo trips that travel through the Straits of Magellan eastward from Punta Arenas, the Australis Glacier Cruise and Patagonia Hiking trip and the Australis Glacier Cruise and Patagonia Hiking Plus tour, a choice of fourteen or sixteen-day excursions.

Long-finned pilot whales inhabit waters near the edge of the continental shelf as far north as Arica, Chile, and along the entire Pacific coast of Peru.

Humans have been watching whales in Peru for millennia. Of the ancient Nazca lines etched into the desert hillsides near Peru’s southern coast, two are whale images, one an orca, though the species is seldom seen in Peru today. Now the emphasis of marine tours is the over twenty species of dolphins that inhabit Peru’s waters, most commonly, the bottlenose species.

Though most visitors who take coastal Ecuador tours to Machalilla National Park travel here to watch humpback whales starting in June, they may also see orcas that prey on young humpbacks. Sperm whales may be seen off the coast of mainland Ecuador.