Go Whale Watching on the Oregon Coast
How to Go Whale Watching in Winter
You might think that oceanic adventures like whale watching demand a summertime schedule, but in fact one of the best times to see these majestic creatures is during the winter months. This is because whales complete yearly, large-scale migrations in order to mate and calve in warmer waters, often passing close by coastlines as they make their journey.By picking a whale-friendly destination, booking a reputable whale watching tour, and taking the necessary precautions, you can catch whales in their wintertime climes and have the experience of a lifetime.
Choosing a Destination
Decide what kind of whales you want to see.Different whale species winter in different places around the world, so you’ll need to determine which whales you want to see in order to determine your destination. For humpback whales, you’ll need to visit Iceland or Hawaii, while grey whales can be seen from California or Mexican coastlines.
- Though technically belonging to the dolphin family, orcas—or killer whales as they are often called—are also popular draws in Iceland.
- If you want to see blue whales, you’ll have to wait for the summer months and go to California or Canada.
Choose a specific destination.Once you’ve figured out what kind of whales you want to see and what country you’ll visit, you should pick a particular place for your whale watching venture. For example, Cabo San Lucas is a great place in Mexico, while Turtle Bay, Oahu and Wailea, Maui are some of the most popular whale watching sites in Hawaii.
- Some of the best locations in California are Monterey Bay, San Francisco, and San Diego.In Iceland, Reykjavik and Husavik are reliably rich destinations for whale watching year-round.
Schedule your trip for December, January, February, or March.Wherever you’re going, pick out a specific travel term in one of the winter months. Check out flight and accommodation comparison sites like Momondo and kayak in order to find the best deals, and be sure to check that the bay or beach you’ll be whale watching from is easily accessible from your hotel.
- Whale watching in Iceland is most popular during the warm summer months, so your winter travel costs might come at a significant discount.
- Famously balmy and beautiful places like Hawaii are especially popular tourist destinations in the winter, so be prepared to pay top dollar if you're Hawaii-bound.
Organizing Your Excursion
Book a reputable whale watching tour.While you might luck out and see a whale while standing around on the beach, your best bet for seeing a whale is booking a tour company that will take you out on a boat. Whale watching tour companies know where whales are most likely to surface, as well as when to go out and for how long.
- Elding whale watching in Iceland offers year-round boat tours.In California, some expert-recommended companies include Captain Dave’s Dana Point Whale Watching in Newport Beach and Hornblower Cruises in San Diego.
Pack warm clothing.Unless you’re going whale watching in the ever-temperate climes of Hawaii, you’ll need to dress warmly on your excursion. Take a thick fleece or wool coat, gloves, scarves, and a hat that covers your ears, as well as some shoes with no-skid or high-traction soles in case the boat deck becomes wet and slippery.
- Even if it feels comfortable on the beach, remember that temperatures and wind conditions will be noticeably more severe out on the water.
Bring binoculars and sunglasses to optimize your viewing experience.A good whale watching tour company will respect the whales and keep a safe, non-threatening distance, so you should be prepared to get your view of the beautiful animals from a significant distance. Bring along some binoculars in order to make your viewing experience more rewarding, and don’t forget a pair of sunglasses in case of bright glares out on the water.
- Professional-grade binoculars can run as high as ,500.00, but you can get a decent pair for 0.00-0.00 if you shop online retailers and bargains at outdoor gear supply stores.
- In the event of bright sunshine and glares, pack some sunscreen in your purse or bag.
Keep some anti-nausea or motion sickness medicine handy.Few things can ruin a whale watching experience, and motion sickness is one of them. Wintertime waters off the coasts of California and Iceland can be particularly choppy, so come prepared by bringing along some over-the-counter tablets, such as dimenhydrinate or diphenhydramine just in case.
- If you’re sensitive to antihistamines, try an acupressure wristband to help relieve nausea through stimulating your pressure points.
Having the Best Experience
Manage your expectations.Even if the waters around your travel destination should be packed with whales, you’re not guaranteed a sighting. Whether the whales have followed prey to a remote location, or they’ve moved out from the coastline for a few days due to changing weather patterns, you have to be prepared for the possibility that you won’t spot a single whale.
- You can lower the chances of this possibility by dedicating two or three days to whale watching rather than banking on just one day.
Check out other wildlife.No matter how many whales you see, remember that these massive mammals aren’t the only aquatic creatures on display. For example, you have a good chance of seeing dolphins and porpoises in Iceland and all the Pacific Ocean destinations.
- You can also see sea turtles and near-extinct monk seals in Hawaii. In Iceland, the wintertime marine life is less diverse than in summer months, but you can take pleasure in some gorgeous scenery—particularly the snow-capped mountains and the Northern Lights—which would be indiscernible in summer.
Check out whale-related organizations and events for bonus activities.No matter where you’re going, chances are that your destination offers other, whale-related activities and attractions to augment your whale watching experience. If you’re going to California in March, for example, you can attend the Mendocino Coast Whale Festival, the Little River Whale Festival, or the Fort Bragg Whale Festival. These local events offer food and wine tastings, art exhibits, and educational lectures, so you can pack your day full of all things whale and wonderful.
- Turtle Bay Resort in Oahu provides a slew of educational and recreational programs, including a family-friendly Welcome the Whales event. The Four Seasons Resort in Maui offers free canoe trips, as well as weekly presentations from renowned wildlife photographers and researchers John and Dan Cesere.
Make contingency plans in the event of inclement weather.While the day-to-day weather in Hawaii and Mexico is largely predictable and pleasant, you should be prepared for rainy days or storms that make whale watching excursions impossible. Allot several days to whale watching in order to lower your chances of a rainy day and resultant canceled tour.
- Iceland in particular can experience harsh winter weather conditions, so be prepared to deal with closed roads, canceled flights, and prohibitively windy days.Keep your options open by double-booking boats and locations; for example, book a boat in Reykjavik as well as one in the Reykjanes peninsula harbor.
Video: Elding Winter Whale Watching
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