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The project Ballenas Jorobadas – Ecuador (Humpback Whales - Ecuador) is conducting a study on the demography of humpback whale and other cetaceans in the Machalilla National Park since 1997. The research center Pacific Whale Foundation-Ecuador with Palo Santo Travel is offering humpback whale research internships in Puerto Lopez - Machalilla National Park.

Between June and October, the marine area of the Machalilla National Park forms a reproductive or breeding area for humpback whales that migrate from the Antarctic to Ecuador. These whales are part of the humpback whale population of the Pacific southeast that feeds in the Antarctic and migrates around 7.000 km for mating and gives birth to their calf in Ecuador. The humpback whale population of the Southern Hemisphere that reproduces in Ecuadorian waters is estimated between 6.000 whales. Also, in this area, 15 cetacean species were identified during the last years, representing one of the highest known species diversities in South America.

The research has been carrying out in whale watching boats used as a research platform. The Pacific Whale Foundation has a catalog of more than 2,000 whales identified through marks or pigmentation of their tail, which are similar to a human fingerprint. Interns will actively contribute to this research effort, and will also collect data.

These internships are available for durations ranging from 1 to 4 weeks, from June to October. 

Volunteers will be introduced to and participate in the research techniques involving boat-based photo identification, behavioral studies, and acoustics. No previous experience is required. There are approximately 10 whale-watching boats that will be used by the volunteers to go out at sea and study the whales every day. 


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Learn About Puerto Lopez

Researcher for One Day (Tour for Biologists, Photographers, Naturalists, and Families. Full-Day with whales)

Volunteer with whales (7 Days or More)

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DAY 1: Arrive to Puerto Lopez. Meeting with the research team. Accommodation Puerto López. Orientation and methodology. Dinner

DAY 2: Research / Whales / Pacific Ocean. 

DAY 3: Research /Whales /Isla De Plata / snorkel/Training session about analyzing data.

DAY 4: Research /Whales /Isla De Plata / snorkel/Training session.


DAY 6:  Research / Whales / Pacific Ocean. Analyzing data. 

DAY 7:  Analyzing data. Comparate with other catalogs. Training session. Dinner.

DAY 8: Research / Whales / Pacific Ocean. Check out. 

The activities are the same one for the week (five days field, one-day analyzing data, one day off). Only could change the boat routes. Depends on the number of interns, sea state, weather between others. 


Our internship is for a week. If you like more weeks, let me know. 
In general, each week are:

Five days in the field with whales. One day with data analysis. One day off. One day for accommodation and orientation.


A typical day starts in the morning between 7-9 am. The first few days interns will spend 1 to 2 hours in data collection training sessions or prepare materials, equipment before departing to the pier.

We use the whale watching boats such as research platforms. During our research, we use three trips.

1. Trip from Puerto Lopez to La Plata Island, once at the pier (between 9 am – 5 pm). Isla de La Plata boat.

2. Trip from Puerto Lopez to Salango Island, once at the pier (between 10 am – 1 pm). Whale Watching boat.

3. Trip from Puerto Lopez to a marine protected area, once at the pier (between 9 am - 3 pm). Research boat.

Once at the pier (between 10 - 1 pm) interns will go on a 2-3 hours whale watching trip and will have 1-2 hours upon return to have lunch and rest. In the afternoon hours, there will be data analysis sessions using the pictures and data collected on that day. Depending on the day, instead of data analysis, we will be working on the photo-identification catalogs or on other activities. Interns are expected to finish their tasks by 5-6pm.  Remember, we use whale watching boats such as our research platform.

#internship in Ecuador

# internship with whales in Ecuador

# volunteer for one day with whales in Ecuador



This fee includes:

Full internship Program for the week. Basic accommodation in small suites in Puerto Lopez with kitchen and individual bathrooms.

Wifi free and basic equipment for analyzing data. Boat-based humpback whale photo-identification and behavioral data collection trips

In the field trips, we have snacks, box lunch, and beverages. Training sessions in cetacean research techniques and software’s

Analyzing data with scientific supervision. A farewell dinner (2 times * week). Entrance and tour Isla de La Plata (one day)

Snorkeling trips. Spanish lessons (optional for an extra fee). Certificate of attendance.


This fee does not include flights to and from Ecuador, transportation from and to Puerto Lopez, breakfast, lunch or dinner, drinks, buses or tuk-tuk in Puerto Lopez, compulsory health and travel insurance, tips, and personal expenses.


Personal laptop or tablet (optional). We have computers in our whale research center. Rainproof jacket. Small backpack to take to the field trips. Hat, sunscreen, towels, flip-flops/sandals, swimming costume, towel, sunglasses, repellent, personal/ prescription medicines.  Do take in consideration that although there are pharmacies in town, you must bring your personal medication (to last the duration of your stay) if you need any

*Although not mandatory, it is preferable that you bring a professional camera with a 300mm lens and a memory card. 


Interns are accommodated in a 3-floor house located in Puerto Lopez, and only a 10-minute walk into town, where you board the whale-watching vessels.

All bedrooms (a maximum number of 2 people per bedroom, one for bed, depends on the capacity) count with a private bathroom a basic kitchen or refrigerator, and also a single bed for each intern. Sheets, blankets, mosquito nets, and pillows are provided. Wifi and tv cable-free in all rooms.  Pool, hammocks, and gardens are part of our whale research center. 

The electricity is 120v. Connector Type A and B.  

For further information and questions, please write an email to palosanto22@gmail.com 

There are only a limited number of places, better book soon! 

Please check our research center page 




  1. Puerto López
  2. Isla de La Plata
  3. Cantagallo marine area
  4. Salango marine area