A Whale of an Adventure off the Southern California Coast

  • Grey whale fluke, Santa Barbara Channel

    It's No Fluke: The Whales Have Arrived

    From January to mid-April, Pacific grey whales can be seen in full force off the Southern California coast as they migrate to and from the warm lagoons of Baja California, Mexico. A whale watching journey through the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary provides visitors the unique opportunity to experience the splendor and beauty of these giants of the deep.  Island Packers, official concessionaire to the Channel Islands, offers 3.5 hour non-landing narrated trips throughout the season.

    Photo courtesy of Doug Mangum

  • Passengers spot a whale from Next Level Sailing's yacht "America."

    Whale Watching As In Yesteryear

    Whale watching along the San Diego coast couldn't be more romantic than on board the yacht America. This sailing vessel is a replica of the historic 139-ft. America yacht, which won a trophy in 1851 that became known as the famous America’s Cup.  Views of the whales, dolphins, and other sea mammals are especially exciting on this sleek yacht, as passengers can experience the activity “up front and personal” from the wooden deck just a few feet from the waves.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Next Level Sailing

  • Sea lions, San Diego Bay

    Lazy Sea Lions Soak in the Sun

    As the Southern California whale watching cruise makes its way through the bay into the high seas, it is not uncommon to have a view of lazy California sea lions sunning themselves on their favorite buoy. These curious sea mammals can also be spotted in the high seas from the boat deck, either cavorting with each other in the waves or bobbing their heads out of the water to check out the human action on board.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Whale spout, Hornblower Cruises, San Diego

    "Thar She Blows"

    Whale-watch guides ask the passengers to look for a steamy "spout" on the horizon, as it is one of the first signs that a whale is near. This is not a fountain of water, but a stream of warm air being forced out of the whale's lungs. Once you see the "spout," look out for the rest of the whale! Hornblower Cruises conducts excellent narrated whale watching excursions along the California Coast, from San Francisco and Orange County ports to San Diego.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Hornblower Cruises San Diego

  • Pelican colony on the Coronado Islands

    Getting There is Half the Fun

    For a less traditional whale watching experience, consider a trip on a Navy Seal R.I.B. (rigid inflatable boat) operated by Adventure Rib Rides. Half the fun of this cruise is reaching the high seas in record time, bouncing along over the waves. In addition to whale watching, the company offers ecotourism cruises to the Coronado Islands, located some 15 miles south of San Diego bay. The remote islands are perfect nesting grounds for sea birds, and home to sea lions, seals and sea otters.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • A dolphin surfs the waves off the coast of Dana Point.

    Dancing Dolphins Delight

    Highly-intelligent, vivacious, and as playful as puppies and kittens, Pacific dolphins enjoy putting on maritime shows for whale watchers. According to the captain at Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, these magnificent creatures just love the stimulation of dancing through the waves next to the boats. The best performances happen when several dolphins join in the fun, as there is nothing more entertaining than watching them leap and race right below the ship's rail.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Bait barge marine life as seen from Hornblower Cruises, San Diego Bay

    Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay

    There is plenty of marine life to view well before you get out on the ocean.  A variety of sea birds hang out with boisterous sea lions in San Diego bay. Together on the bait barge, they seem to enjoy a maritime camaraderie that is quite entertaining. You can hear the cameras clicking as whale watching passengers, some of whom have never seen the ocean or its creatures, capture Southern California marine life on film.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Hornblower Cruises San Diego

  • Whales frolic close to the beach at Dana Point, Ca.

    Whales Can Be Spotted Right Off the Coast

    Although whale watching passengers get a ring-side seat on organized cruises, whales on their migratory path are also visible from the beach and from the top of the hills on the mainland. Whale watching enthusiasts, binoculars in hand, often gather on the cliffs overlooking the ocean to view the whale migration. For those lucky enough to live directly on the coast, watching whales is a favorite pastime from living room windows!

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching

  • Pelican Pow Wow, off the San Diego coast

    It's All For the Birds

    Whales can be shy and elusive out in the ocean, so don't feel too bad if you don't witness a fluke, spout or a breach during your whale-watching cruise. Needless to say, you will be greeted by other drama queens in the high seas to entertain you. These include not only the frisky dolphins, but the crafty pelicans who will be following you--especially if you are on deck with something yummy in your hand they would love to steal!

    Photo courtesy of Tony Di Bona

  • A grey whale shimmers in the sunset.

    A Golden Moment: Shimmering Whale at Sunset

    The reflection of the setting sun bounces off this grey whale's barnacled skin. Grey whales are more prone to these maritime hitchhikers than any other cetacean. The barnacles don't harm the whales and are just along for the ride, reaching out with their feather feet to capture plankton as the whales make their leisurely journey to the south. Needless to say, the barnacles do provide a glistening "mirror" for a lovely sunset photo opportunity.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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