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“Excellent!”

Whale Watching Panama
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Humpback whale watching tours from Panama city and Contadora Island in the Pearl islands and trips to Isla Coiba, Panama. We offer 1 day trips from Panama city, 3 hour, 1 day and multiple day trips in the Pearl islands and multiple day trips to Isla Coiba. Peak Humpback whale watching season is July to mid-October. In the Pearl islands we have a 99% success rate in seeing the whales.
Useful Information: Food available for purchase, Activities for older children
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Level Contributor
17 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Excellent!”
Reviewed 22 August 2014

My teenagers liked this day trip so much, we booked it a second time (http://www.whalewatchingpanama.com/). Both days were great. Anne Gordon is an excellent guide. Everyone learned a lot about the whales and also Panama in general. We saw whales both in the morning and in the afternoon on both days. We saw several mother and calf pairs and a couple of males that were 'tail-slapping'. Also on both days, dolphins swam along side the boat, jumping and playing in the wake. Anne stopped the boat so we could try getting in the water with the dolphins. (The children were noisy and splashed too much so the dolphins left, but it was still fun.)

The day trip from Panama has a two hour stop on Contadora Island. On the first day we ate at a nice local restaurant. One the second day we brought a picnic to eat on the beach and spent the two hours snorkeling at a coral reef that was teeming with tropical fish.

For more details, email anne@whalewhatchingpanama.com.

Visited August 2014
Helpful?
3 Thank Maya B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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53 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
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  • Any
English first
Panama City, Panama
Level Contributor
21 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“Great day!”
Reviewed 3 August 2014

We did a tour with Heidi at Whale Watch Panama (http://www.whalewatchingpanama.com/) and we had a great trip. We were incredibly lucky to see 2 adult whales breaching 30 times! Even without this, the tour was fun. The fishing boat owner worked hard to spot whales for us, and when the first whale we found wasn't very active, we went to the other side of Isla Contadora. The boat was small and the waves were choppy, so you just need to expect that. Afterwards, we had lunch at The Point which was also very good, and took the ferry back the same day.

Visited August 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank Becky K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Panama City, Panama
Level Contributor
10 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“TRAPPED FOR HOURS!”
Reviewed 20 July 2014

I've recently moved to Panama and was so excited for the opportunity to go Whale watching, little did I know it would be so terrible. The boat left from Panama city and was supposed to take 2 to 2.5 hours to reach the island.....5 HOURS LATER we arrived. We kept asking how much longer and the crew, while very nice, LIED repeatedly, saying things like "30 more minutes" or "we;re very close now"...all LIES. We saw whales along the way, but then were told we needed to move on, because we had spent enough time and would look for whales later. We never stopped again because we were so behind schedule. We were so behind schedule in fact, we had to cut our time on the island in half. The crew LIED again for our return trip. They promised the trip wouldn't take as long....guess what, 5 HOURS LATER we arrived back in Panama city. Additionally, the boat capacity is 35 and we had 35 people; however, there wasn't sufficient seating for 35. I sat on a cooler for 5 HOURS! Had I known the true amount of time, I would NEVER have agreed to go. Also, $150+ for light snacks and a boat trip is ridiculous. If you want to see whales, watch a documentary, and if you want to visit an island, use other means. Also, the life vests were located "in the cabin", but no one was shown the exact location which is a major safety oversight, in my opinion. Bottom line: I would never recommend this to anyone.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
9 Thank mw7599a
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
EmberaTour, Owner at Whale Watching Panama, responded to this review, 23 July 2014
I am so sorry you experienced this terrible delay on your recent whale watching tour with us. I pride myself on offering quality whale watching tours here in Panama. We take responsible, respectful and educational whale watching very seriously and when we do not live up to our high standards it is very upsetting to us and we use it to learn from and make adjustments to prevent this kind of disappointment from happening in the future.

I was horrified to learn that your boat took 5 hours to arrive at Contadora Island when it should have taken 2-2 ½ hours maximum, giving you plenty of time to spend with the whales around the Pearl islands. To be completely transparent with you all, Whale Watching Panama does not own any boats, we are a small family run business and we charter boats as needed for our tours. This is the first time we have chartered this particular boat. I asked the boat broker several times both the average cruising speed and the time it would take to arrive in the Pearl islands. I was told repeatedly, that the boat would take 2-2 ½ hours maximum and that the cruising speed was sufficient to handle that timeline. When our guide, Cristian, told me that there was an engine problem and that it would take 5 hours to arrive, I was unhappy and frustrated as there was nothing I could do at that point.

I realize as a result of the engine problems it seriously cut into your whale observation time, and returned you to the city much later than anticipated. In the interest of good will and attempting to make this up to you all, I would like to offer all of you a 50% discount on any future whale watching (on our regular tours with smaller and guaranteed faster boats) or also our Embera Village Tours or Contadora Island Tours in an attempt to make up for this unfortunate circumstance.

I completely agree with you that the boat crew telling the guests that you would arrive in 30 minutes when in fact it was several more hours is completely unacceptable and honesty is always the best policy and I have spoken to the crew about it. In fact, obviously, the boat we hired on this day, is clearly the wrong boat for this tour, and we will never use it again for our Whale watching tours out to the Pearl Islands. I give you my word on that.

I also agree with you that the crew should have given you all a complete safety briefing before departing the dock and offered life jackets to anyone who might like to use one on the tour. I will tell all of my guides, that if the boat crew does not do a safety briefing that the guide insist it is done before leaving the dock.

I also apologize for running out of the snacks and drinks, that also should never have happened. I am quite embarrassed that happened and never should have happened. If the boat had arrived on time, then it might not have been an issue, but either way, I should have sent more supplies for you all.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for this botched whale watching trip. I take full responsibility and am happy to you back out on any of the tours we offer 100% free of charge, as a way to make it up to you. Feel free to contact me directly with any comments and questions. I welcome all feedback, both positive and negative, as it is the only way to grow and improve our tours.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Contadora Whale Watching Day Tour”
Reviewed 16 July 2014

I had been very excited about doing this trip because my sister was visiting me in Panama from the States and had heard good things about it. Unfortunately I was pretty disappointed with this tour for a few reasons...

1) The ocean was very choppy. I know the weather is unpredictable and you just have to go with the flow during rainy season here in Panama, but that means then tours also have to be flexible. We arrived at Contadora on the Ferry and the waves were pretty rough, but we there wasn't a question of whether we were going or not. The manager of the hotel we stayed at later told us that other tours had been cancelled, and we shouldn't have gone. He was had been waiting for us to come back because he was worried about our safety and was very surprised and disappointed that they didn’t cancel the tour in the morning. For the first hour the ocean was so rough that I got sick a few times and felt miserable for the next 4 hours....I tried to stay positive and the guys driving the boat were very nice about it, but still I felt awful till we got back to shore. I don’t know if they had thought about cancelling or not. It didn’t seem like and they had tours the next day so we wouldn’t have been able to go at all and they would’ve had to refund our money….I would have been OK with that.

2) We did not get Anne as our guide. I booked the tour because I had heard good things about the trip and about the about of information you learn from Anne. We got another tour guide who had apparently only done one previous tour and kind of just said yes to being a guide because she didn't have another option at that moment. Her specialty is more around dolphins. Anyway, it more like it was a few people on a boat and one of them happened to recently Google a few things about whales. She was very very nice, but definitely didn’t provide as much info as expected.

3) We saw like one whale. Ok two, but they were together and that was after a few hours of searching and didn’t see anymore the rest of the trip. The ocean condition didn’t help for our search but apparently people were seeing whales from the comfort of their hotel rooms….Again later talking to the manager of our hotel, he was very passionate about his concern for how all these tour companies get tourists to spend lots of money on whale watching tours when you can see them from the island or just rent one of the little boats and you don’t even pay half. Leaving Contadora the next day we got on the ferry and saw 3 whales right in front of the island….more than on the $150 tour.
So in conclusion…definitely not worth $150 and I would never do this again. But it wasn’t a terrible trip either. Like I mentioned the guys in charge of the boat were great and we did have a good time despite choppy ocean, the sea sickness, and lack of whales – however it obviously could’ve gone a zillion times better.

Next time I head to Contadora, which will probably be soon because the island is great, I will test my luck at seeing the whales on dry land instead of pay a ton for not much.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
4 Thank Steph B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Panama City, Panama
Level Contributor
11 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Don't think...just do it!”
Reviewed 1 July 2014

Wow...what a phenomenal great day spend with Anne and the crew, I did the tour from Panama City, had a relaxing boat ride and a comfortable boat, we had a little bit of rain but that didn't damper anyone's spirits!

Then we get word of where the Humpback whales are...its mind boggling when you see the first glimpse, these gigantic animals just moving so gracefully through the water. We saw two groups, 3 bigger guys and a mum and baby, the baby was a little playful which was great. Anne is so knowledgeable-ask her anything, and really cares about the whales. We also got to hear them singing which was just "wow".

After a little play on the beach and a great meal at Gerald's we started to head home, where we were joined by a pod of very excited dolphins which just added to an already great tour!

Seriously one of my favourite experiences in Panama...just do it, you won't regret it!

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank RJsThoughts
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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