Banderas Bay tours track song of the whales

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PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- This destination is widely known for its fun-in-the-sun reputation, but one of its top attractions is an abundance of sea creatures.

From December to April, Puerto Vallarta's Bay of Banderas is a breeding ground for hundreds of North Pacific humpback and orca whales that come here from Alaska to calve and nurse their young.

In addition to whale-watching, visitors can interact with sea turtles and dolphins.

Following is a sampling of local ecotourism operators and the tours they offer:

  • Vallarta Adventures offers a Whale Photo Safari. On this excursion, guests and a marine mammal expert are taken out on Banderas Bay in 27-foot boats to capture whales on film.
  • Several tour operators in Puerto Vallarta offer whale-watching excursions. The 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tour meets at the Vallarta Adventure Marina.

    Pickups also are available from Nuevo Vallarta at 9 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.

    The tour includes lunch and beverages and is priced at $65 per person. (Children pay full price).

    This tour is not recommended for children under age 8.

    For reservations, call (011) 52-3 221-0657; fax (011) 52-3 221-2845, or e-mail [email protected].

    The tour is commissionable at 15%.

  • Open Air Expeditions created a whale-watching and dolphin expedition.
  • The tour includes bilingual guides specializing in marine science; a boat ride in a 27-foot Zodiac; a fish sounder; a VHF radio communication system; a hydrophone system for detecting underwater sounds, plus fruits, soft drinks, bottles of purified water and lunch on board.

    Open Air also provides a brochure describing the behavior of whales and information on its research program on humpback whales in Banderas Bay.

    Daily departures are scheduled at 8 a.m. and noon. The tour is priced at approximately $70 per person and is commissionable at 15%.

    To make reservations, call (011) 52-3 222-3310 or visit the Web at www.vallartawhales.com.

  • The Year of the Dragon, a 42-foot Morgan Yacht, offers a day cruise or a sunset whale-watchers' sail.
  • The day trip sails along the north coast from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for $60 per person, inclusive.

    The Sunset Trip sails along Vallarta's beachfront from 5:30 p.m. to sunset and includes cocktails and hors d'oeuvres for $40 per person.

    Breakfast includes pastries, fruit and juice.

    Lunch is prepared on board and features smoked marlin burritos, assorted sandwiches and an open bar.

    This tour is commissionable at 25%.

    To reserve a trip, contact Kevin Johnson at (011) 52-3 221-2207 or e-mail [email protected].

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