Gentle Giants

Whales are among the largest animals to ever exist on this planet and the blue whale is the biggest of them all. Seventy percent of our planet is covered in oceans and there is plenty of space for these massive creatures can live in the ocean depths. It is hard to see whales and it is no wonder that it can be hard to spot them. Given the space they have to hide in and the amount that were hunted in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries it is lucky that we can see them at all. The experience of seeing such a massive creature up close is unforgettable. There are whales in every ocean and most large seas on Earth but there are some spots that offer a much better viewing opportunity. There is an abundance of choice when it comes to whale watching. Some species, like the Blue, Fin and Sei Whales are endangered and other like the Humpback, Southern Right and Minke Whales are thriving. However given the difficulties in getting to the open ocean where they live there are some spots that offer a much better viewing opportunity. These are explained below Get more info about whales from Whale and Dolphin Conservation

the fluke is sometimes all you see as a whale dives when you are out whale watching

Whale Facts

  • Blue Whales are the largest animal in the world – up to 26 meters long Sperm Whales can weigh as much as eight elephants
  • A Blue Whale heart is about the size of a VW Beetle
  • Bowhead Whales that live in the cold Arctic waters might live up to 200 years
  • Grey Whales travel up to 20,000 km in their annual migration

Best Time to Go

  • South Africa: July to September
  • Mexico: December to February
  • California: August/September
  • Iceland: April to September
  • Canary Islands: Year round
Young Male Humpback Whale underwater

Best Places to Go Whale Watching

There are many places to see whales. Sometimes you can get lucky and see them from the coast but more often than not a boat trip is necessary.

Whales are creatures of the deep and in some parts of the world the waters in costal areas are deep enough for them. As well as this certain areas just have better conditions to create food for whales as well.

One good example of this is Kaikura off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Here the currents work in such a way that they bring lots of nutrients up from the deeper waters not too far out to sea. Similarly of the coast of Northern Iceland the town of Husavik is situated in a bay with two major rivers flowing into it.  These bring lots of nutrients off the land creating ideal conditions for krill, a whales favorite food.

Below I go into more detail on three special areas. However there are many more places to see whales.

Anybody going along the Inside Passage to Alaska is likely to see whales. Hawaii has lots at the right time of year (the first few months is breeding season for humpbacks.

The West coast of Europe isn’t too bad. From the Canaries to Ireland there are opportunities. However this varies seasonally as well.

Zanzibar is often visited by safari goers as an extra stop-over for a bit of culture and beaches. However there is always the chance to see more animals as diving is very popular and good in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. However during August and September Humpback Whales make an appearance.

Baja California in the winter is another hotspot. Sri Lanka of course is a place for seeing Blue Whales, the biggest of the lot. Trincomalee on the East Coast is a hive of blue whale activity between June and October.

There are of course many more options but as you can see somewhere whale watching can be enjoyed anytime of year and almost everywhere in the world. Of course you do need to be near the sea.

The coast of South Africa in from June to November is a fantastic place to spot numerous species. In fact the viewing is so good here that it can be done from headlands and cliffs without ever setting foot on a boat. The Southern Right Whale – so called because it was the right whale to hunt 100 years ago – has its breeding grounds just off the coast. These whales migrate from Antarctica every year to calve off the Cape. It makes for some spectacular viewing all the way from Cape Town Eastwards along the coast. Boat trips aren’t necessary here but certainly increase the enjoyment of the encounter with whales.
In the North Atlantic lies the wonderful island of Iceland, barren volcanic rock home to 300,000 people. However Iceland has a lot of nature to offer. Due to its inaccessibility and harsh climate it hasn’t been overrun with humans. The landscape is wild and so are the seas surrounding the country. There are many tour operators in Reykjavic offering whale watching trips. Some of them even guarantee a sighting. They do this by offering a second trip free if the first is a failure. This is because unlike elsewhere the likelihood of seeing a cetacean up close is about 95%. There are more than 20 species of whales and dolphins in Icelandic waters including Minke, Sperm and Humpback Whales.
Monterrey Bay in California is synonymous with whale watching. In fact it is thought that it all started here in San Diego with people offering trips to see the Grey Whales up close. Grey Whales migrate along the coast of North America from Baja California, their breeding grounds, all the way to Alaska where the spend the summer eating. This migration is about 20,000 km in total. Grey Whales breed between December and March off Baja California in Mexico and so before and after this are travelling all along the California coast. Another regular visitor to the Californina coast, especially the area around Monterrey Bay is the Blue Whale. This massive creature is often there between the months of June and October feeding on the krill that is abundant at this time.
Whale watching boat in Iceland

Why Go Whale Watching

One of the best reasons for going whale watching is that you will be amazed. Whales are bigger than any animal you have ever seen.

There are psychological benefits to being on or near water and to seeing and watching wildlife. Whale watching combines the two.

Being easily accessible, that is you don’t need special equipment or expertise, you just need to be near a suitable area, it means people who normally don’t get to see wildlife in their natural environment get the opportunity to learn something new and see what effects recycling and protecting the environment can have.

Great introduction to wildlife

Whale watching is a very good introduction to watching wildlife as normally you end up going with a group and getting to know people who are really interested. Also as a group you don’t disturb the whales the way a group going fox-watching might.

Most companies that offer whale trips offer a great day out on the water and a new perspective for a lot of people who don’t often get to travel in smaller boats. Though not cheap like a cinema ticket, it isn’t much more expensive than a concert or big sporting event either.