With whale watching season here in San Diego just around the bend, the majestic gray whales will be passing through our waters from mid December until April. During their migration season, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see these amazing creatures jumping and splashing in the water. Here’s what you need to know to get ready for whale watching in San Diego.
Gray Whale Migration Patterns
Each year, the gray whales split their time between summers feeding in the cool Arctic waters and winters mating and calving in the warm ocean near Mexico. Here in San Diego, we are lucky enough to be situated right in their migration path so we can see them heading back and forth as they pass us each year.
In addition to gray whales, you’ll also have the chance to see many other types of whale in the area. Blue whales migrate through the region as well, passing by San Diego between June and September. Throughout the year, you’ll see orcas, mink whales and fin whales, as these species make their homes in our area all year long.
Viewing the Whales
Gray whales and orcas come in close to the shore quite often. You may even be able to spot them without ever setting foot off of dry land. Look for areas with lighthouses or any location with the word “point” in its name. These are all prime viewing spots for whales.
Binoculars are great for viewing whales from the coast. Start by watching the water without the binoculars, looking for large splashes or plumes of water. Once you find a spot, get a better look with the binoculars. It is much easier to do it this way than to try to scan the ocean through the binoculars the whole time.
Although you can sometimes spot whales from the shore, you’ll have your best chance at seeing them if you go out catamaran sailing on a whale watching cruise. This will bring you up close and personal with these incredible creatures. For blue, mink and fin whales, this is the only way to see them, as they tend to stay farther out from the shoreline.
Whale Watching Cruise Tips
So, you’ve decided to go on a whale watching cruise. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your excursion.
- Dress for the Weather – It can get quite cold out on the water so be sure to dress warmly. Even if it is a warm day, the temperature tends to be about 20 to 30 degrees colder on the open sea. Even in the summer, you’ll likely still need a jacket at the very least. Bundle up with a scarf, gloves and a hat for extra warmth. With nothing to block them, the winds can be very strong so make sure your hat won’t blow away in the wind.
- Protect Yourself from the Sun – Keep in mind that the sun reflects off the surface of the water, almost doubling the amount of UV rays that will be hitting your skin. Slather on sunscreen before you head out and reapply throughout the day as needed. Wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes and a hat with a brim to shade your face.
- Leave the Binoculars at Home – Binoculars are ideal for seeing across long distances when you are on solid ground. On a boat, on the other hand, you’re constantly rocking up and down. This makes it virtually impossible to get a good view through binoculars because your field of view is so limited. Leave them behind when you go on the cruise to prevent them from getting lost or damaged.
- Fight Off Seasickness – Even if you have never gotten seasick in your life, there is a first time for everything, so it is best to come prepared. Look for a boat with stabilizers to help counteract the rocking motion of the sea. As you are sailing, make a point of facing in the direction that the boat is traveling. Facing towards the rear of the boat contributes to motion sickness. Try to fix your gaze at the horizon in the distance. Focusing on something that is not moving will help you settle. A fresh breeze can do wonders as well, so stay outside if weather permits. If all else fails, take an over-the-counter remedy, like Dramamine.
- Choose a Reputable Tour Company – There are many organizations that operate whale watching cruises in the San Diego area, but some are better than others. Make sure the company you choose is licensed and insured for your protection. Ask plenty of questions to ensure you fully understand what you are in for before booking your trip. If a cruise operator is not forthcoming in answering your questions and addressing your concerns, you should probably go with another company.
What to Expect on Your Cruise
Whale watching cruises typically depart fairly early in the morning, although there are some afternoon tours available as well. There isn’t a particular time of the day when whales are more active. You’ll have the same chance of seeing them any time you go out. Of course, whales don’t stick to a schedule, so some cruises may not experience any sightings at all. This is a risk of dealing with animals in their natural habitat, so you should not expect a refund if you don’t spot any whales.
Tours vary in length from just a few hours to all-day excursions. Check with your tour operator to find out about the various options they offer. Here at Adventuress Luxury Catamaran, we operate private yacht charters. This means we can customize a tour to meet your needs and preferences. We recommend trips of about three to four hours.
We would love to tell you more about our whale watching charters in San Diego. Get in touch with us today to learn more. It’s finally gray whale season again so reserve your trip with us before we’re all booked up. Call us today to start planning your outing.