July, August and September are ideal months to observe these amazing marine colossus. During these times, rich upwelling’s and nutrients come up to surface waters and the whales take advantage of that.
Humpback whales or Megaptera novaeangliae have a huge body size where some females reach up to 15 meters (49,2 ft) and 30 to 40 tons of weight. They get their common name after their appearance when the animal makes a dive and arches its back and fin. The scientific name, means “large wings from New England”, referring to the great pectoral fins that expand to 2.5 meters (8.2 ft). Their movements and splashing jumps in the water, make the humpbacks the easiest whales to observe. They feed exclusively during the summer and live on their fat reserves during the winter. Krill and some small schools of fish are part of their diet. Being great migratory animals, they cover over 25.000 kilometers (15.534 miles), a world record for mammals. Some areas in the Polar Region are feeding grounds and some areas in the Equatorial Region are breeding grounds, as is the case of Ecuador and the Galapagos.
The Humpback’s most original feeding technique is just fantastic: Several animals form a group and surround the school of fish from underneath while they produce bubbles of air creating the shape and function of a net, which slowly closes the school of fish forcing them to come up near the surface. The whales hide beneath the bubble curtain for the last attack and then go up with their mouth open, swallowing thousands of tiny fish in just one gulp! The bubble net can reach up to 30 meters (98 ft) of diameter but this depends on all participants; it is probably the most spectacular example of cooperative feeding amongst mammals!
Humpbacks are distributed all over the world, and are a familiar sighting in the Galapagos, as the Archipelago considered a whale sanctuary, where other species occur such as the tropical “Bryde’s” whale and Sperm whales.
Guests aboard Metropolitan Touring’s vessels in the last weeks have had wonderful encounters with humpback whales, particularly around the islands of Bartolome and Espanola (Hood) where these amazing creatures and they calves have been spotted. Newborn calves reach from 3 to 5 meters (9.8- 16 ft) of length with a weight of 1.5 tons. They survive for 8 to 10 months solely with the female’s fat-rich milk, and they double their size during the first year.