Where the Krill Go: Whale Watching Guide

The life underneath the ocean is miraculous. The first time an individual encounters a blue whale, the sheer size will almost undoubtedly prove daunting. In the past fifteen years or so, the whale watching industry has grown tremendously. Everyone should try it at least once, and one of the ways they can do so is by taking a professional tour at a certain time of the year. 

Who Organizes Whale Watching?

Whale watching can occur at any ocean-lining location in the world, but the most popular places are San Diego and other California cities, Boston, Alaska, British Columbia, Sydney, and the countries of Norway and Iceland. A significant portion of the local economy for some of these places is based on the whale watching industry. They have professional organizations dedicated to taking tourists on whale watching ventures. Whale watching tours generally run for three to four hours. One excursion, Whale Watch, is hosted by the New England Aquarium and takes attendants out into the Boston Harbor. Below are some links to whale watching cruises, many of which have 95-99% success rates for spotting whales on their excursions. 

What is Whale Watching?

Whale watching is quite self-explanatory. It is the act of trying to spot whales out in nature’s greatest biome: the ocean. There are two ways of whale watching. One is merely looking out to sea. The other is the one that this article concerns itself with: maneuvering a boat several miles away from shore. Whale watching from a boat is an experience unlike any other, but participants should be prepared. Start with a nice breakfast: cereal and a bagel. Believe it or not, further eating can prevent seasickness. For the passenger who has never been whale watching, or the one with a predisposition for getting seasick, make sure to pack some crackers and water. Also, wear sunblock.

Bring a light jacket. Sometimes the sea breeze can be a little too chilly. Also check with the touring company to see if binoculars are provided. Oftentimes, a whale will be visible a short distance from the boat. It will be tempting to ask the captain to steer closer to it, but captains know not to steer the boat if a whale is within 100 feet. It is for the safety of the whale as well as the boat and its passengers. Finally, be mindful that it is more likely a whale will be spotted when the weather is fair. Intense winds or high waves do not bode well.

Where are the Best Places to Go Whale Watching?

In the United States, the east and west coast are the obvious places to go to spot whales. All four states on the west coast as well as the Hawaiian Islands see their fair share of whale watchers. However, some of the most popular spots are in California, particularly Baja and San Diego. Popular east coast cities for whale watching include Portland, Maine as well as Plymouth and Boston Massachusetts.

As whales are migratory, the seasons they aren’t prevalent near the United States they can be seen in other parts of the world. Countries with massive whale watching industries include Iceland, Norway, Madagascar and Japan. Many of these countries also have, or have previously had powerful whaling industries. With recent legislation banning or limiting whaling around the world, these countries are becoming more and more dependent on tourist whale watchers for stability.

When is the Best Time of Year to Go Whale Watching?

Whales are migratory. They are known for traveling from their primary source of food in the frigid artic regions to breed in the warm waters around California. They migrate south between December and May each year and can be seen all throughout the summer and fall in Canadian, Californian and Mexican waters. Common types of whales to spot at this time of year include Gray Whales, Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, Fin Whales and Minke Whales. In the northern-European nations of Iceland and Norway it is most common to see whales between May and September. Killer whales also sometimes stay around Norway through the fall into January.

Why Is Whale Watching So Recommended?

Firstly, whaling is informative. Participants will learn a lot about whales and marine life. A second reason to go whale watching applies more to overseas locations. Some of the countries with decent whale watching industries are considered developing nations. Whale watching has helped to spark their economy and contributes to the lives of people who are less well-off. Many of the countries where whale watching is popular also used to be notorious for whale hunting. By promoting whale watching and selling tickets, they can maintain sustainable economies without having to kill whales for their oil. Conservationist organizations noticed an increase in the number of whales, including those of endangered species, bringing populations slowly back to their numbers prior to the whaling boom. Although conservationists agree that whales are better off being watched than killed, there is still some concern surrounding whale watching. It can interrupt their eating and resting habits. As a result, many companies only run two or three excursions each day. However, others travel back and forth on the ocean constantly. There is also the concern of pollution involved with whale watching.