In my research I had tentatively selected Ocean Friendly because they have a sound record of ecology and care towards the whales, the bay, and the environment. They are the most expensive, but based on their history and care for the environment I thought it was worth it.
Their site is nicely set up, very informative, and fairly easy to navigate. They accept both charge card and PayPal. Neither Tom nor I brought a charge card, we did however bring our newly acquired mexican bank debit card, oh, and cash. I made a few inquiries via email, both of which required a 24 hr turnaround. I checked availability online as instructed and selected a Wednesday morning tour. Wednesday, 2 February is the 5 year anniversary of our arrival as residents to Merida. We had 2 more questions, one regarding the size of the boat, and the max number of people, we waited, and waited for an email response, unfortunately missed their phone call and thhn got the email response. small boat (30ft) and small group (12 people max) Now, we really wanted to make payment in person, and in cash...was there anywhere that this could be accomplished? Speaking with Angelica over the phone was pleasant and she instructed us to a Dive Shop where we could make payment. Off we went.
During my phone conversation with Angelica she indicated she would contact the dive store so they knew we were on our way and what we wanted. At the Dive Shop we encountered Nelly, who we would find out later is a long time associate of Oscar the owner/operator of Ocean Friendly. Nelly was confused about what we wanted, made a few phone calls, started filling out a form and asked us more questions about what trip we wanted. She filled out the form and gave us a price considerably higher than we expected. I left the room to call Angelica again. Angelica was gone, and this is when my conversations with Oscar began. Oscar explained that the only trip available on Wednesday was a 'Special' Oceanographic Whale tour. I explained that all we wanted was the 'Regular' whale tour.
I was starting to feel odd about this arrangement, a business that doesn't have an office? that sends you to another business to make your arrangements and payments. Negotiating with a business I was not familiar with...
At this point we opted to decline the tour and we left. Oscar did follow up with a phone call apologizing for the confusion.
Earlier in the day, in our efforts to find an actual Office, where a whale tour could be arranged a lovely young brit, Mark, at the PADI Dive Shop 'Banderas Scuba Republic' gave us a recommendation for eco-tours. Unfortunately none of his attempts to reach them by phone were accomplished. He did however give us a map and explain where they were located.
So from our unfulfilled attempt to secure a whale watching trip with OceanFriendly we opted to go find eco-tours. We arrived at the eco-tours office - a lovely shop by the way. Isabella greeted us, and after my faulty attempt to explain in Spanish what we wanted she indicated in perfect English that she in fact spoke English. Isabella is stick thin with long black hair and a slightly Amy Winehouse look - very pleasant and friendly. We explained what we wanted; an early morning trip to observe hump-back whales, small boat, small group, and on Wednesday morning. WELL - their Wednesday morning trip was full, but we could go on Wednesday afternoon. No, we really want morning. We could have Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday morning.
We knew from the local forecast that the temps are expected to drop on Thursday and Friday so we are now paid in full and scheduled for a Sunday morning whale watching experience. I hate that it is pushed out so close to the end of our trip. But I will remain positive and anticipate that Sunday morning will dawn beautifully and the whales will be jumping and playing, and be quite interactive with us, we will get amazing photos, and I will be drawn to tears and the splendor!
photo from NationalGeographic site