The map below shows beaches in Maldonado and Rocha (blue circles) where it is possible to view whales.
Several viewing platforms (torres de observacion marked in red on the map). The platforms are free to use, and unattended.
The law in Uruguay says that you need to keep at least 300 metres (that’s about one thousand feet) between yourself and a whale. So that means that potentially-harmful tourism ventures using small boats to trail the whales are not allowed.
So save yourself an expensive trip to Patagonia, watch the whales for free and feel great that your viewing is completely unobtrusive to them.
And make sure you bring binoculars.
Whale-watching season in Uruguay
Most sources I have consulted say between July and November.
However today I talked to someone who lives in Punta del Diablo and he says they have ALREADY seen whales this month. So, if you want to improve your odds, come between August and November, but from June you may get lucky.
How to spot whales
The best times to observe are the early hours of the morning and late in the day, when the waters are calm.
Look out for:
flocks of gulls circling – they hover above submerged whales
spray – the whale shooting water through its blow hole (don’t expect it to necessarily form a “v” shape – you read too many comics)
glistening in the water – the reflection of the whale’s back.
These handy tips provided by Descubriendo Uruguay. The page is in Spanish but you should check it out for photos of what you might observe.
Uruguay is a whale and dolphin sanctuary – and that’s official
Parliamentary petitioners included schoolchildren from Rocha and Maldonado who convinced legislators to pass the law by going to the parliament in Montevideo and leaving hand-written letters with drawings for each politician.
The ruse was the brainchild of the Organisation for the Conservation of Cetaceans (OCC) – cetacea are aquatic mammals, mainly sea creatures like whales and dolphins (Ed. Note: I didn’t know either, hence I include the definition) – a local non-profit which had first floated the idea of a national sanctuary in 2002.
The law applies not just to territorial waters but also to the Uruguayan waters’ “economic zone”.