Whales are fascinating creatures, huge gentle giants that roam slowly through our oceans. These beautiful beasts were hunted to near extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries, but they are ever-so-slowly beginning to make a recovery. There is more awareness about these ancient mammals, and they have more protection now to help their numbers continue to grow.
People have become increasingly interested in whales, and all marine life for that matter, in recent years. With the increase in conservation groups promoting awareness and understanding, more and more people are wanting to see and experience being around these great creatures for themselves. If you are among those wanting to see whales in their natural habitats, here are the 10 best places to go whale watching.
10 Québec, Canada
At the base of the Saguenay river in Québec, where it flows into the St. Laurence, there are three large currents that all meet in the middle. This stirs up the smaller marine life, and it stimulates plankton, providing an absolute feast for the whales.
Tourists are treated to a wide variety of whales in this area, including the blue whale, humpbacks, fin whales, minke whales, and even belugas. However, between the months of May and October, when whales are most commonly seen in this region, you can see up to 13 different types of whales!
Iceland is becoming a very popular tourist spot for many different reasons. From its breathtaking scenery to geothermal baths to midnight sun at the height of the summer solstice, Iceland provides many unique tours and things to see while you are there. This includes whale watching, one of the most popular activities to do.
In recent years, Iceland has become known as Europe's whale watching capital, with over 20 species of whales frequenting their waters! With perfect living conditions for whales and the North Atlantic ocean being an excellent feeding ground for them, you are sure to spot some whales if you are touring this area. The most common whales you'll see are minke, humpback, blue, sperm, and sei whales.
8 Nunavut, Canada
While there are many different species of marine life that frequent these chilly waters, there is one that is quite plentiful here: The beluga whale. With their bulbous heads and permanent smiling expressions, belugas are a favorite among tourists. Belugas are another species of whale that are endangered, however, they have been slowly making a recovery in recent years.
Another mystical creature that you could see on your whale watching trip in Nunavut is the Unicorn of the Sea, the narwhal. These beautiful creatures look like something out of a fairy tale, with their long, twisting horn sticking out the front. They tend to congregate in certain areas of the ocean, where the ice prevents them from migrating further. This is a perfect spot to catch a sight of these beautiful animals.
The waters that surround Scotland, especially on its west coast, are among the best in Europe for seeing all sorts of marine life, from porpoises to dolphins to whales. The minke whale is one of the most common whales to see of these coasts, and while they are on the smaller side, they still grow to an impressive 8.5m long.
While its name implies that it is of the whale family, the killer whale, or orca, is actually the largest type of dolphin. They are seen primarily off the west coast of Scotland and around the Northern Isles, some feeding on fish while others feed on seals. They travel in groups, called pods, and these pods range in size of about 40 members.
6 The Azores
Found off the coast of Portugal, the Azores is one of the largest whale sanctuaries in the world. They currently have approximately 20 different types of cetaceans that come through their waters! With the nutrient-rich water, it is a perfect spot for whales to live and migrate to.
The best time to see the most marine life is in the warmer summer months, however, due to the sheltered waters and warm temperatures year-round, you can go whale watching at pretty much any time and still be successful in spotting one of these great creatures. When out on the water, you will see many different kinds of marine life, and you will likely spot both friendly dolphins and beautiful whales, guaranteeing some great photos!
5 Western Cape, South Africa
South Africa is known as a prime location for shark diving, as it is one of the places in the world with the highest population of great white sharks. It is also a very popular spot for whales, including the southern right whale, humpback whale, and Bryde's whale.
Two oceans collide at the southern tip of Africa, which creates a perfect haven for many species of marine life. The waters are high in nutrients, and the sheltered bays and warm waters make an excellent nursery for breeding whales. Booking a whale watching tour out on these waters will surely be a memorable experience!
4 Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver, Canada is a prime location for whale watching, with both resident and migratory whales passing through here. This is also the home of the southern resident killer whales, one of the most widely recognized pods of killer whales in the world. There has been a lot of media attention on this pod recently, after one of its females, J-35, carried the body of her dead baby on her back for an astonishing 17 days and 1,600 km.
This pod of southern resident killer whales, or orcas, are also the only pod to be listed on the Endangered Species Act, so there are many conservation efforts in place now to try to help their population get back on track. The water around Vancouver is a great place to view a variety of marine life, including the orcas, grey, humpback, and minke whales.
3 Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is located within the bordered waters of the International Whaling Commission's Protected Zone in the Indian ocean, and as such, it is rapidly becoming a very popular spot for whale watching. The island destination offers a variety of whale watching tour packages around various parts of the ocean, depending on what you are hoping to see.
There are many different kinds of cetaceans that you will find in the waters around Sri Lanka, including the humpback whale, blue whale, fin whale, orca, sperm whale, and Bryde's whale. Some of these whales are only migrating through the water, while others remain in these waters as permanent residents. Either way, you're pretty certain to see some whales when you head out around this area.
2 South Island, New Zealand
There are two common areas in New Zealand that are popular for whale watching - Kaikoura and Auckland's Hauraki Gulf. In Kaikoura, you are bound to see one of their permanent residents - the sperm whale. These whales live here year-round, enjoying the shelter, warm waters, and plentiful food.
Surrounding the Hauraki Gulf is the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, which covers an area of 4,000 square kilometers around the Auckland and Coromandel regions. This park is home to many different species of marine and wildlife, including the critically endangered Bryde's whale.
1 Baja California, Mexico
The Baja California peninsula off the coast of Mexico is understandably a preferred haven for whales. With its warm, sheltered waters and rich food sources, whales often travel here to breed or raise their young. The Sea of Cortez is another place whales love to frequent, due to the abundance of food.
Breeding grey whales come into the San Ignacio Lagoon, where they have warm waters and lots of food for their young. Along with the grey whales, you can also catch sight of humpback whales, sperm whales, fin whales, and blue whales.