Chañaral de Aceituno: Paradise of whales, dolphins and penguins

On December 21, the official cetacean sighting season was launched here. In the cove, 36 boats are authorized to go to see the giants of the ocean.

Since then, the cove has evolved rapidly. The rides that were previously carried out on wooden boats, without vests or inspection, now have all the security measures, equipped with flares, life jackets and a limit of 24 passengers imposed by the authorities who audit them every year to go out to high seas.

Not for nothing do they call the Chilean Galápagos. Is that anyone who travels around, will be amazed with the fauna that lives here. In addition to encountering the family of bottlenose dolphins, we saw at least three chungungos up close: one preening on the rocks; another, eating a mollusk and the third, watching his companion eat.

Another protagonist of the island is the Humboldt penguin, whose largest population in the world (80%) is protected in this reserve. Neither the giant colonies of sea lions – resting, swimming or fighting on rocks – go unnoticed or the pikemen and their striking blue peaks nesting on the steep slopes.

As if this spectacle of life were not enough, soon the blow of another whale in the distance announces its presence. Whales take between 7 and 10 minutes here to return to the surface to breathe, depending on their behavior. We must wait attentive.

A unique experience that anyone could replicate in the Atacama Region, in that small cove that awaits with open arms those who venture to know the exquisite diversity that hide its waters.

The whales identified so far in Chañaral de Aceituno, and that can be seen, are the blue whale, the humpback whale, the whale, and less frequently the dwarf minke whale and the southern right whale. All species that show their loins, fins and tail in the waters in front of Caleta Chañaral de Aceituno.

According to a study carried out by Conaf, conducted by the biologist Gabriela López, these whales first give birth to their young in tropical waters, where after a few months of suckling and raising they head towards polar waters.

And it is on this route that they reach the Atacama Region, either when they are going to feed (to the south) or when they migrate in order to reproduce (towards the north, in the tropics). In addition, the temperature, marine currents and outcrops of nutrients from the seabed allow a great variety of nutrients for whales, making it an ideal resting place for these sea giants.

This information coming from the studies of the scientist Gabriela López, allows to understand why the whales arrive in mass to the surroundings of the Isla Chañaral natural reserve and that they can be seen at a glance from boats being in the sea, among which the swimming and hunting routes.

This has caused the interest of being able to spot these cetaceans, since it is the second best place in Chile to be able to see the whales in their splendor. The first is Chilean Patagonia, where similar sightings can be made, but with a lower ambient temperature and a lower degree of connectivity, especially via land.

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