Puerto Lopez, Machalilla National Park, and a big celebration!

Our headquarters, Puerto Lopez, is the site where we base our whale research. Puerto Lopez is a small town within the Machalilla National Park. This past month the park had its 31st anniversary, and I had my birthday, as well.

This weekend was a town holiday in honor of the park’s 31 years. Machalilla National Park was created in 1979 and has 550,000 hectares. I recently went to the offices of the Park to ask how many tourists had arrived the previous year and found out that the total number amounted to 48,000! For such a small town this is extraordinary! Currently the park is the second largest protected area in the country with such a high rate of tourism, something that we account to the presence of the whales.

We took this holiday to give talks about whales and share our research. We have students from universities in the United States and Canada who are helping with reforestation programs in local schools, and are supporting the Machalilla Education Program. They have also helped motivating children with educational talks. We are also training naturalist guides for our small environmental education program.

At night they had a great dance in town, but really the whales do more beautiful dances when they come. This year I could not go to the Festival of The Whale because I was abroad at the International Whaling Commission meeting. But if I had been here, I surely would have danced all night, in joy and to welcome the whales back to Ecuador.