One of the thrills of taking a Galapagos cruise is found in transit-seeing whales breach the sea in incredible displays of aerobatics. The Galapagos Marine Reserve plays host to a variety of whales including blue whales, sperm whales, humpback whales, orcas, and whale sharks. Some come to feed during the guara season between July and December; others are in residence year round-and all make an impression when spotted off the bow of a boat. Keep reading for four whales that call the Galapagos waters home.
Orca whales are hunters and are often seen in groups near the shore in search of prey and out at sea breaching the waters. The speedy creatures are the largest species of dolphins and often follow in their wake to find other creatures of the sea that come to the Galapagos to feed.
Orcas can grow to 32 ft. long, and weigh as much as six tons, and can swim as fast as 20 miles per hour.
In the Galapagos, there are two types of Orcas, residents who live in the temperate waters all year, and transient pods that visit during the months of July and December when the waters are cool. Resident whales mainly feed on schools of fish, while transient orcas are known to hunt sea lions, turtles, penguins, and humpback whale calves.
Blue whales in the Galapagos waters travel from as far away as Southern Chile, a 5000-mile journey, to feed and breed in the fertile waters of the archipelago during the months of July and December.
An adult blue whale’s submarine-like body can stretch to lengths of 80 ft. They can weigh up a staggering 150 tons, as much as a large herd of large elephants. The swift swimmers can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour, and eat 8000 pounds of krill a day.
Blue whales are the largest and loudest whale in the world’s oceans. They are often seen and heard, on a Galapagos cruise out at sea, their calls reaching for miles above and below the water. They normally travel between the islands and when migrating slowly, maintaining a slow speed to conserve energy, and covering between 3 and 6 miles a day.
Humpback whales visit the Galapagos Marine Reserve annually to feed and breed. They are the most acrobatic of all the whales, breaching their massive body’s as high as 40 feet out of the water. They can weigh as much as 40 tons, and eat up to 4 tons of small fish a day.
Humpback whales communicate with their heralded song, eerily traveling beneath the water to others in the pod. Studies have shown that the intelligent creatures take one song and create subtle variations on the tune, communicating directions when traveling and hunting.
The agile swimmers hunt in packs by splitting up, several members of the group dive below schools of fish and blow air into the waters above, effectively trapping their prey for others to catch. The Galapagos attracts thousands of humpback whales each year, and they are one of the most spotted whales in the islands.
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea, and frequent the Galapagos Islands each year in the waters off of Wolf, Darwin, and Isabela islands.
They are filter feeders and drift through deep waters consuming thousands of pounds of plankton a day using suction. They filter water through 6000 tiny teeth, ejecting it through massive gills while traveling at 3 miles per hour.
Their huge polka-dotted bodies can reach up to forty feet, and weigh as much as 20 tons-as much as a school bus.
Studies have revealed that the Galapagos Islands are one of the few places where pregnant female whale sharks are found, as other destinations as far away as the Indian Ocean usually are feeding grounds for males. Little is known about their mating habits, making the archipelago a rare place for scientists and marine biologists to find more answers. They are most often seen on live-aboard Galapagos cruise ships.
For more information about finding a Galapagos cruise for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation reconnecting with the natural world, contact a member of our team while using our detailed reference section on this site.