Definitely one of the adventures in Puerto Vallarta you should not miss. It's now the end of March, and the end of the whale watching season. When planning your trip during the season (December 8th through end of March), budget for a day on the water and choose a reputable company - check out the reviews on Tripadvisor. We chose Ocean Friendly. Their 4-hour tours are hosted by whale expert Oscar, photographer Fred and Captain Tony (pictured). It's a small group in an open boat, and you do get very close to the whales. Oscar provides running commentary in Spanish and English, and a lunch is provided. The only caveat - if you are susceptible to sea sickness, prepare in advance. I'm sure that's true for any Banderas Bay boating experience.
Taking whale photos is not easy. I encountered several challenges:
1. As the boat bobs up and down in the water, it's impossible to keep your lens in a fixed position, especially with a telephoto
2. The whales occasionally breach, but you never know exactly where or when. When it happens, and it only lasts a few seconds, you need to be prepared. Experience (which I don't have) helps.
3. Sometimes the whales are a distance from the boat, necessitating a long lens (say 300-400mm full-frame equivalent). But then at other times, you are literally on top of the whales, and you need a much shorter focal length.
4. You can get a little wet out there, so weatherproof equipment is very useful.
5. Sometimes the boat is positioned in such a way that the whales are directly in front of the sun - almost impossible to frame and focus a shot.
My solution was to bring a big kit with two bodies, three lenses and a tele-extender. I packed my Fujifilm XT-2 and XT-3 with these Fujinon lenses. Despite frantically switching cameras when we were surrounded by whales, I think I managed to snag a few decent shots - not bad for a first-time whale watching experience.