By Ricky Skelton
September 8, 2009

The Whales are Here! Santa Catarina whale-watching season began in July with the arrival of the first three Southern Right Whales of the 2009 season. The Instituta Baleia Franca (IBF) had a little ceremony to open observation season after two adults and one calf were spotted playing around off Praias Ibiraquera and Ribanceira, between Imbituba and Praia do Rosa. Local authorities enjoyed a little jolly for the opening ceremony at Pousada Vida Sol e Mar in Praia do Rosa, which had already been organised. The three whales timed things perfectly and saved the local dignitaries the embarrassment of opening… nothing much.

The whales continue to visit the beaches and bays of Florianopolis and the rest of Santa Catarina through until October or November time. Whale-watching as an activity can be enjoyed at many of the beaches, with a little luck. Favourite beaches on the island for the whales include Moambique & Barra da Lagoa, Armaão, Matadeiro (where they were once herded into the sand for slaughtering – hence the name of the beach) and Pntano do Sul.

From the sands and the headlands of all these beaches, it is possible to see a whale or few going through their morning… their morning what? Nobody really knows why the whales come so close to shore at this time of year. They only seem to be playing, rolling around on top of each other, flapping the water with their flukes (a technical term that only those of us who have broken our whale-watching virginity are allowed to use – ‘fins’ to the rest of you), blowing, diving, breaching (another term) and all kinds of interesting behaviour. One theory has it that they hide their calves from the orcas of the area, but if that was really the case, then why do they only appear close to the shores in the morning? Do orcas only eat breakfast? Do they have an afternoon siesta?

There are more whales up and down the coast of Santa Catarina, with by far the best place to see these huge, beautiful, curious creatures being a boat trip out from Imbituba. This port town lies around 90km south of Floripa, slightly further south than Garopaba and Praia do Rosa. There are more whales per beach than anywhere else in Brazil (don’t check that stat please, I just guessed) and they like to hang around the waters of Rosa, Ibiraquera and Ribanceira in particular. These surf and kite-surf beaches can all be a little wild for putting a boat out, so the best idea is to drive to Imbituba.

The whale-watching voyages are run by IBF and are properly organised trips, with the whole coast being an Area of Environmental Preservation.

Luis and his team of guides run them from their office at the old Imbituba train station. Before the trip, a little education video is shown to the passengers about the work of the IBF and about the whales in general. The boats head out of the port and along the coast to where the whales have been sighted by fishermen that morning. The boats don’t drive too close to the whales as it can be disturbing. With calm seas, the boats can stop though, and the whales come nosing around to see if their visitors are worth impressing. This affords wonderful photo opportunities, and is one of the only places on earth that you can possibly come within touching distance of such a large creature in the wild.

Florianopolis is the usual starting point for tours, with Praia do Rosa certainly being the best place to stay close to Imbituba. Staying overnight there is not necessary to make the boat trip, but if you want to give yourselves the best chance of being nose to nose with a Southern Right Whale, a night in Rosa is a must. This way, if the seas are too rough for the humans to brave, or the whales are playing elsewhere along the Santa Catarina coastline, you can always have another try the next day. The arrival of Brazil’s largest creatures is not guaranteed, but a memorable encounter with nature certainly is if they are around – especially if you find yourselves being interviewed for one of the Sunday night Brazilian TV Specials, as my own mother did!

You can visit Ricky’s blog at

Previous articles by Ricky:

Brazil: Tainha Time
Deported from Brazil? Part 2
Deported from Brazil? Part 1
Brazil: The President in Florianópolis
Swine Flu in South America?
The Best Club in Brazil…?
The Great Brazilian Animal-Off (Land)
Understanding Brazil: Giving Directions
Understanding Brazil: Driving
Understanding Brazil: Farra do Boi
Brazil: Catching Flu’
Around Brazil: Garopaba
Understanding Brazil: Funerals
Brazil: Bernie the Berne
Around Brazil: Journey to the Amazon Jungle
Around Brazil: Crazy Town Ceremonies
Around Brazil: Crazy Town
Around Brazil: Manaus
Around Brazil: Santarem & Alter do Chao
Around Brazil: Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms
Understanding Brazil: Playing Pool
Around Brazil: Gurup
Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

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