The air is still. The only thing you can hear is the catamaran creaking and the odd excited whisper. Wavelets gently rock the whale-watching boat as you scan the horizon, desperate to catch a glimpse of the tip of a fluke or a distant plume of whale breath. Suddenly the boat erupts with hushed squeals and pointed fingers, as one of Earth’s largest animals rolls peacefully under the boat’s hull. As if a switch had been flicked, the water around you bursts into life. Whale flippers and frightened fish fly everywhere as you find yourself in the middle of whale dinner party. Although slightly soggy from blowhole mist and sea-water splashes, you have truly caught the whale-watching bug as you realise what a breathtaking spectacle you have just seen. If done responsibly, whale watching can be the highlight of any trip and if it isn’t already, we firmly believe that responsible whale watching should be at the top of your bucket list. Below are our top ten best places for whale watching…
Iceland, known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’, is famed for its breathtaking natural landscapes and wonderful wild creatures. Located on the rugged north coast, Husavik is one of the best places to see whales. Venture out on a silent electric boat (the most responsible way to travel) to see if you can spot minke, humpback and blue whales. The south coast is also home to Little Grey and Little White, a pair of rescued beluga whales who now live in a whale haven in the bay of Vestmannaeyjar. Iceland is without a doubt one of the best places for whale watching.
Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada
Manitoba’s Tundra blossoming in June is a signal for summer, but it also marks the start of a beguiling beluga gathering that happens every year in Hudson Bay. With over 60,000 of these bubble-headed snow-white whales arriving during the summer months, whale watching in Canada is an experience like no other. Spotting a polar bear is an added bonus, if you’re lucky.
Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa
Whale watching is a special activity, made even more spectacular when you don’t even have to leave your bed. Think waterfront guesthouses and hotels overlooking the playground of huge southern right whales. If you want a closer look, venture out on a responsible whale tour to explore the sheltered bays and deep waters off the coast of South Africa that are home and breeding ground to these majestic creatures.
Baja California, Mexico
Spotting gray whales off the Pacific Coast side of Baja is one of the most intimate wildlife experiences in the world. It is not, however, the most responsible. Crowds of boats are drawn from far and wide as the grey whales bring their calves to the surface, providing the chance to stroke them. We prefer the deep waters of La Paz, where blue whales frequent and are respected with rules and regulations. Boats cut their engines as the dark, rolling shadow of these marine giants creep nearer, ensuring that no harm is done to them.
Mirissa, Sri Lanka
With plankton-rich waters and a perfectly-placed continental shelf, Mirissa is one of the best places for whale watching. From November to April, there is a 90-95% chance of spotting blue whales, as well as Bryde’s whales, sperm whales and orcas. The waters off the south coast are notoriously choppy, so pack those sea sickness pills to ensure your whale watching experience is as amazing as possible.
Moorea Island, French Polynesia
Tahiti may be known for its Instagram-worthy beaches, stunning sunsets and lush lagoons, but dive a little deeper and you will stumble upon the little island of Moorea. Grab your snorkel and swim in the warm waters with humpback whales in one of the most organic, responsible settings on Earth.
Azores Archipelago, Portugal
Until 1987, whales were hunted in the Azores. Now, however, they are cherished, and changing the whaling industry here has become essential for ocean sustainability. By combining old practices and responsible tourism, whale watching here is one of the most sustainable places in the world. Spend hours gawking at false killer whales, pilot whales and sperm whales, one of the main symbols of the Azores.
Shetland Islands, Scotland
Who knew that whales could be seen so close to home? Watching whales in the Shetland Islands is a unique experience, as they can almost always be spotted from land. With two pods of orcas that regularly frequent the coastline, as well as five or six Icelandic pods and two orca bulls that occasionally visit, the coastline of the Shetland Archipelago is never dull.
From huge pods of melon-headed whales and fluking sperm whales to grand blue whales and dolphin-like Cuvier’s beaked whales, the Maldives is a hub of marine giant activity. This collection of coral islands is teeming with life and provides the perfect place for cetaceans to have a whale of a time.
Monterey, California, USA
With humpback sightings expected daily, Monterey (and the rest of the Californian coast as well) is one of the best places for whale watching. Enjoy the company of a marine biologist as you cruise along the iconic coastline, keeping a lookout for humpback whales, gray whales and orcas. You may even catch a glimpse of the rare 90-foot (about three times the length of a double decker bus) blue whales that were spotted here last year.