Imagine traveling 10,000 miles round-trip just to give birth. It's what the gray whale does annually as it migrates from cold arctic waters past Canada and North America down to Baja California, Mexico and even a bit beyond. It's a pattern of behavior that even scientists don't fully understand. According to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, an average gray whale swims to the moon and back during its lifetime.
Though the migration south starts in October - with most gray whales returning to the arctic by May - these beauties are seen off the coast of San Diego starting in mid-December. The Birch Aquarium at Scripps has partnered with Flagship San Diego Harbor Excursion to give San Diego a chance to witness the estimated 20,000-whale migration.
A gray whale's tail — Photo courtesy of tomcio77
Board a ship with a Scripps naturalist for an educational tour of the city's coastal waters. They'll be able to share insight regarding the whale's swimming habits. For instance, if you see a whale tail, this signals that it's about to dive deep into the water. When it returns, a big plume of vapor will be seen blown into the air as a sign of exhalation.
The gray whale has been nearly hunted to extinction twice. Studies by Scripps researcher Carl Hubbs are credited with sparking worldwide interest in saving the majestic creature. In addition to gray whales, guests are likely to see dolphins, sea lions, seals, birds and more during the 3.5-hour tour. The cruise is offered twice per day through April 13. Prices are as follows:
General public - $37 weekdays and $42 weekends
Adult members - $30 daily
Military/Seniors - $32 weekdays and $37 weekends
Youth (Ages four through 12 with paid adult; public & members - $18.50 weekdays and $21 weekends
For some, online tickets are unavailable. Please call 619-234-4111 to order. School groups can cruise Monday through Thursday during the morning cruises only. For special rates, contact Flagship Cruises & Events.
It's best to go gray whale watching early in the season, as they typically swim far from the coast during their return journey. Although your best bet is to head out to sea, some lucky folks have been able to spot gray whales from viewing points such as the Cabrillo Monument and Torrey Pines State Park. Even if it's sunny outside, the sea gets chilly, so don't forget to dress in layers.
Check the Birch Aquarium whale blog for updates regarding what's been spotted to date. They also have a printable $5 off coupon online.
Heading out to sea with the Birch Aquarium is guaranteed to be a unique learning experience.