Welcome to the Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings
Whales are the some of the few creatures that can be found in every corner of the globe. different types of whales roam through every sea and are beloved for many reasons- including how big and graceful they can be.
There are currently 90 known species of whales and dolphins living in the ocean, and roughly 25 000 individuals of all whale kinds estimated in 2020.
This blog is going to give an overview of a handful of the amazing whales around the world, which have more detailed blogs on Animals Around the Globe.
We will take a look at each whale’s unique characteristics so that should you ever encounter one in the wild you might be able to identify it! Look at Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings.
Use the below headings to find out about a specific type of whale, and what makes them unique. Otherwise, enjoy the blog in its entirety. Start with Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings.
Humpback whales are large and beautiful, they’re common in all oceans around the globe and are considered very “playful” in nature. Humpback whales grow to be about 52 feet (16 m) long and weighing 30-50 tons (27-45 tonnes).
The females are slightly larger than males, as with all baleen whales. And the four-chambered heart of the average humpback whale weighs about 430 pounds (195 kg) – about as much as three average adult human beings.
Humpbacks come in 4 different colour schemes, ranging from white to grey to black to mottled. There are distinctive patches of white on underside of the flukes (tail). Humpbacks also have huge, mottled white flippers with rough edges that are up to one-third of its body length. Look at the other Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings.
These markings are completely unique to each individual whale, like a fingerprint. And the humpback’s skin is frequently scarred and may have patches covered with barnacles.
Humpback whales have 14-35 throat grooves that run from the chin to the navel. These grooves allow their throat to expand during the huge intake of water during filter feeding. They have small, round bumps on the front of the head (called knobs or tubercles), edging the jaws. The deeply-notched flukes (tail) are up to 12 feet (3.7 m) wide. Humpbacks have a small dorsal fin toward the flukes.
The physical features of these whales are what defines them and makes them recognisable. The size of these whales can be associated with roughly the same size of a school bus.
Humpback Whales are incredible to see in the wild… have a look at these operators below if you’re interested in seeing them for yourselves.
In order to see all places where you can see and swim with Humpback Whales, visit our guide to Humpback Whales.
Fin Whales’ social structure can vary depending on where in the world they are located. This may depend on scarcity of food or age ranges.Fins have been observed solo, in pairs, and in pods of usually up to 6.
However pods of much greater numbers, from 50 up to 300, have also been seen. These larger pods are usually seen during migrations. The vocalizations of blue and fin whales are the lowest-frequency sounds made by any animal.
Worldwide in tropical to polar latitudes. Fin whales are found in deep, offshore waters of all major oceans, primarily in temperate to polar latitudes. Read more on Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings.
They are less common in the tropics. If lucky, one can view fin whales along most coastal stretches of the polar latitudes, dependent on the right time of year, of course. cosmopolitan distribution if its range extends across all or most of the world in appropriate habitats. Such a taxon is said to exhibit cosmopolitanism or cosmopolitism.
Open ocean (pelagic); rarely coastal. Like other large whales, fin whales are thought to migrate between feeding and breeding grounds.
That said, resident populations do exist, and both the Gulf of California in Mexico and the Mediterranean are home to resident populations of fin whales. A great place to view fin whales in the Pelagos Sanctuary/ Mediterranean sea marine mammals protected area.
Full physical maturity is attained between 25 and 30 years. Fin whales have an average lifespan of about +/ – 90 years although specimens have been found aged at an estimated 135–140 years
Mating occurs in temperate, low-latitude seas during the winter, followed by an 11- to 12-month gestation period. Females reproduce every 2 or 3 years with usually single births, Calves remain with their mothers for about one year
Have you ever wanted to see a fin whale in the wild? These tour operators can certainly help you on this mission to see this special creatures.
In order to see all places where you can see and swim with Fin Whales, visit our Guide about Fin Whales.
Did you ever wondered where do best places to swim or dive with Orcas are? We collected all the informations you need to be ready for your orca expedition.
When you hear the word killer whale, you immediately have the image of a vicious hunter in your head, fearsome and unscrupulous.
However, these animals are definitely not what many people think. Get to know the beautiful and smart king of the sea, the Orca!
One of the best places to swim with Orcas is the wintery northern Norway, where large quantities of herring gather.
In order to book a tour with our trusted eco friendly operator in Norway, take a look at our Orca tour page.
Basically Norway is a great destination for nature lovers all year round.
However, if you want to watch the orcas at close range during their spectacular hunt, the best time to travel is between October and February. That’s the time when you also have a good chance to see the northern lights. Why not combine a trip!
Read all about Orca Whales here!
Blue whales are the largest animals on our planet in today’s modern times . They feed almost exclusively on krill, straining huge volumes of ocean water through their baleen plates (which hang from the roof of the mouth and work like a sieve). Some of the biggest individuals may eat up to 6 tons of krill in 1 day.
Blue whales are also found in all oceans except the Arctic Ocean. Moreover, there are currently five identifiable and recognized subspecies of Blue whales around the globe.
Sadly, the number of blue whales in the world’s oceans has seen a sharp decline and is now only a small fraction of what it was (before modern commercial whaling significantly reduced their numbers during the early 1900s).
But, on a more encouraging note: populations are increasing globally. Currently, Blue whales are listed as endangered under the ‘Endangered Species Act’. The primary threats currently facing Blue Whales are vessel strikes and entanglements in fishing gear.
Fortunately, many global Fisheries and its partners are dedicated to conserving and rebuilding many whales populations worldwide. There are many organisations which use a variety of innovative techniques to study, protect, and rescue these endangered animals.
What is most effective is the engagement of our partners within the fishing industries to develop regulations and management plans that foster healthy fisheries and reduce the risk of entanglements, create whale-safe shipping practices, and reduce ocean noise
This species of whales gain their name appropriately for the reason that they are simply a gorgeous blue colour. Besides their amazing colour, their size is what is mostly impressive. Antarctic Blue Whales are generally larger than all other blue whale subspecies.
For example, in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, blue whales can grow up to about 90 feet, but in the Antarctic, they can reach up to about 110 feet and weigh more than 330,000 pounds. Like other baleen whales, female blue whales are generally larger than males.
Sighting the worlds largest whale is on the bucket list for many individuals, these two tour operators will gladly help you fulfil this desire. If interested, make use of the links below for more information.
In order to see all places where you can see and swim with Blue Whales, visit our complete Guide to Blue Whales.
Beluga whales are dark grey as calves. Their skin lightens as they age, becoming white as they reach sexual maturity.
They lack a pronounced rostrum, or beak, and the top of their head is characterized by a round, flexible “melon” that focuses and modulates their vocalizations, including echolocation “clicks.” They are a toothed whale, possessing 36 to 40 teeth total in both the upper and lower jawbones.
The genus name Delphinapterus translates to “dolphin without a fin.” Instead of a dorsal fin, belugas have a tough dorsal ridge, which allows them to swim easily under ice floes (sheets of floating ice). Look at Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings.
Unlike other whales and dolphins, their neck vertebrae are not fused, so belugas can nod and move their heads from side to side easily.
Beluga whales are covered with a thick layer of blubber that accounts for up to 40 percent of their weight. The blubber keeps them warm in the Arctic waters and stores energy as they can go extended periods of time with no food. Some beluga populations shed their outer layer of skin each summer during an annual molt.
They rub against coarse gravel in shallow waters to help remove the layer of old, yellowed skin.
Belugas generally live together in small groups known as pods. They are social animals and are very vocal communicators that employ a diversified language of clicks, whistles, and clangs.
Belugas can also mimic a variety of other sounds that they hear. For example, considering the noise pollution that has come with increased cargo ships and boats in the water, they have been noted trying to mimic these sounds as well. Follow more on Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings. More Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings coming.
Belugas produce sounds by building up air pressure in the nasal cavities within their melon ( the echolocation organ at the front of their heads) and then forcing the air through a set of “phonic lips” atop each cavity. The vibrations of the lips result in the whale’s typical repertoire of echolocation clicks, pulse bursts and chirp-like whistles and squeaks.
There are sadly, many places you can see Beluga whales in captivity. These whales are subject to capturing and use for aquariums etc. Please avoid supporting any of these cruel facilities.
The tour operators below are for viewing these stunning animals in the wild!
In order to see all places where you can see and swim with Beluga Whales, visit our complete Guide to Beluga Whales.
The sperm whale’s very large brain and specialized sonar organ (called a melon) contribute to its characteristic block-shaped head.
It is the only whale that has that shaped head and is typically quite easy to identify. The body is generally uniformly grey. And the sperm whale’s lifecycle is very similar to that of humans.
Sperm whale males reach sexual maturity around 18 years old and females at 9 years old. Males battle for mating rights, and then breed with multiple females. Male sperm whales do not create harems of females like other animals. The females then reproduce until they reach their forties and go on to live into their seventies.
The sperm whale pregnancy term lasts about 15 months, resulting in a single calf. Sperm whales give birth to only one calf at a time, and at birth, baby Sperm Whales are considerably large – over 13 feet (4 m) long.
The birth is always a social event, with the rest of the sperm whale pod forming a protective barrier around the birthing mother and her calf.
Because calves cannot undertake the deep, long dives that their mothers do, groups of mothers form tight bonds and share the responsibility of protecting calves at the surface. While one or more mothers dive, others stay with at the surface with the young.
Whale sighting can be tricky and is never absolute guaranteed by any tour provider. However, if you’re lucky, and the season and location is good for the year- you may just get lucky and see these special animals for yourself…
In order to see all places where you can see and swim with Sperm Whales, visit our Guide to Sperm Whales.
Gray Whales are large baleen whales. They are medium sized whales, reaching up to 49 feet (15 m) in length, with the females usually being larger than the males. They are gray with white patches, covered in barnacles and sea lice, animals that attach themselves to the whale.
They have been known to carry over 400 pounds of barnacles and whale lice on average. Gray whales have no dorsal fins. Instead, they have a ( Sometimes visibly) low hump. The size of a Gray whale compared to that of a human.
Bottom feeding animals. Roll on sides and suck up sediment whilst slowly swimming along the seafloor. During summer feed in arctic waters for up to 20 hours. Read more on Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings.
There are two geographic distributions of gray whales in the North Pacific: the eastern North Pacific stock, found along the west coast of North America, and the western North Pacific stock, found along the coast of eastern Asia.
Most of the eastern North Pacific stock gray whales spend the summer feeding in the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas, but some feed along the Pacific coast during the summer, in waters off of Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and northern California.
Where to see gray whales; The whales’ annual migration path
North Atlantic populations were extinct on the European coast before AD 500, and on the American coast around the late 17th to early 18th centuries. Yet there have been recent sightings of whales along the Mediterranean sea, suggesting a repopulation in breeding grounds that were abandoned for centuries. In May and June 2013, a gray whale was sighted off the coast of Namibia – the first confirmed in the Southern Hemisphere.
The round-trip journey of one gray whale has set a new record for the longest mammal migration, covering a distance of more than 22,000 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean. This has indicated that new patterns of migration may be arising for these whales.
During summer, they live in the Arctic in areas rich in their food, bottom-dwelling organisms. As fall approaches, there is less sunlight, less food, and the water turns cold.
This is when the whales travel to Baja California, Mexico. Female gray whales usually give birth every two to three years. 5-12 years sexual maturity. Gives birth to single calf 12-13 months. 7-8 months with calf.
Mothers and calves remain close to shore during the northward migration (usually within 200m of the coast), possibly trying and avoid killer whale attack. Mothers are very protective, sometimes sacrificing their lives to predating killer whales, in order to protect their calves.
The average and maximum lifespan of gray whales is unknown, although one female was estimated at to be 75 to 80 years old.
Gray whales are slower swimmers so killer whales predate. Gray whales “devil fish” due to their aggressive nature encountering harpooning. endangered early 1900s harpoons. They usually Travel alone or in small groups besides feeding breeding grounds.
Would you like to experience a sighting of gray whales for yourself? The below tour operators can certainly help you if you want to go on a whale watching adventure!
In order to see all places where you can see and swim with Gray Whales, visit our Guide about Gray Whales.
The largest species in the dolphin family, the killer whale, can reach more than 32.5 feet (10 meters) and weigh about 10 metric tons (9,800 kilograms). However, most dolphins are much smaller.
For example, bottlenose dolphins reach an average length of 8–10 feet (2.5–3 meters) and weight of 300–650 pounds (135–300 kilograms). Likewise, the largest river dolphin, the Amazon river dolphin, can grow to about 9 feet (2.8 meters) and 350 pounds (160 kilograms).
One of the smaller dolphins, Hector’s dolphin, reaches about 4 feet (1.2 meters) long and weighs about 110 pounds (50 kilograms).
Dolphins have smooth, rubbery skin and are usually colored in some mixture of black, white, and gray. They have two flippers, or fins, on their sides, as well as a triangular fin on the back. Like other whales, they have an insulating layer of blubber (fat) beneath the skin.
Although they are similar in appearance to porpoises, dolphins are distinguished from porpoises by their beaklike snout. Porpoises have short, blunt snouts. In addition, the teeth of dolphins are cone-shaped while those of porpoises are flatter.
The dolphin’s tail, which propels the animal in its lunges and dives, is horizontal rather than perpendicular like the tails of fishes. Dolphins are noted for being graceful swimmers, arcing through long, slow curves that bring the blowhole to the surface of the water and then expose the back fin as the animal dips downward.
At first glance, the high dorsal fin somewhat resembles that of a shark. Dolphins are also swift swimmers. The bottlenose can attain speeds of nearly 18 miles (30 kilometers) per hour in short bursts, and common dolphins are even faster. A number of species are attracted by moving ships and often accompany them, leaping alongside and sometimes riding the waves created by the ships’ bows.
Dolphins are mammals, not fish, and are thus warm-blooded, keeping their body temperature nearly constant even when they are exposed to different environmental temperatures. Like other whales, dolphins have lungs and breathe through a single nostril called the blowhole located on top of the head.
Some great infos on Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings.
Would you like to see a dolphin in the wild? Below are the names of some tour operators to see dolphins in the wild that we believe are great.
In order to see all places where you can see and swim with Dolphins, visit our complete Guide to swimming with Dolphins.
Why should we Protect Whales?
Whales are what is known as “keystone” species, having an important role in the balance and healthy functioning of marine ecosystems, asserting a top down control on the food chain and fertilizing our oceans, allowing the production of phytoplankton and the creation of more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe.
Through the movement of whales up and down the water column, zooplankton and fish are recirculated to surface waters in the form of nitrogen rich fecal matter.
These nutrients are essential to the primary production of the marine ecosystem. They also fertilize the deep sea, through “whale fall”, when a whale’s carcass sinks to the seafloor and provides nutrients to a variety of scavengers.
Whale’s are indicators of ocean health, as top-predators at the top of the marine food web, any change in their population status is an indication of changes in the ecosystem. Whale’s are cosmopolitan found in all the world’s oceans, from the deep sea to coastal bays.
Whale’s also face threats of disturbance from whale watching, but sustainable whale watching can greatly contribute to local coastal economies around the globe, thanks to people’s growing interest in whales. These animals are so important for ocean health yet some are still sadly at major risk of extinction.
What Threats do Whales Face?
There are sadly, many threats facing whales and other marine life today. To name a few:
Bycatch and Incidental capture in fishing gear
Entanglement in fishing nets and gear, or ‘bycatch’, is the biggest threat facing dolphins, porpoises and whales currently.
Entanglement specifically refers to the wrapping of lines, netting, or other materials of anthropogenic origin around the body of an animals, while bycatch refers to the unintentional capture of species such as small cetaceans in commercial fishing nets.Hundreds of thousands of individuals die as a result of drowning in fishing practices intended to catch commercially important fish species. It’s sadly, pushed some whale species to the brink of extinction
Collisions between cetaceans and vessels – known as ‘ship strikes’ or ‘vessel strikes’ – are a significant cause of death and traumatic injury. Tackling this threat to the world’s cetaceans is hampered by the fact that under- or non-reporting of ship strikes is still the norm around the globe.
Since 2009, more than 1,200 incidents have been reported to International Whaling Commission (IWC). Most reports of collisions between whales and vessels involve large whales, but all species can be affected. Collisions with large vessels often go unnoticed and unreported. Animals can be injured or killed and vessels can sustain damage.
Plastics and toxins such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been shown worldwide to impact the health of whales and other marine life.
Sadly, these toxin levels may be so high to hinder both reproduction and immune systems of cetaceans. Researchers originally believed that toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises were at greater risk because they are higher on the food chain and therefore would be more prone to bioaccumulating toxins. Current research is showing, however, that the baleen whales are also be negatively impacted by toxins and pollutants in the sea.
Changes in meteorological and oceanographic variables leading to sea temperature increases in the polar regions threatens the ecology of many cetacean species on Arctic and Antarctic feeding grounds.
The narwhal, beluga and bowhead whale, found in the Arctic year round are in particularly affected and shifts in species ranges are evident with sighting of late of both beluga and bowhead whale in Irish waters and may be affecting migration patterns of large migratory whale species such as the Humpback whale.
Oil and Gas Industry
Three distinct threats are evident from human activities involving the oil and gas industry; habitat loss, direct or indirect injury to cetaceans which can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss or even mortality and pollution. Oil and gas exploration and extraction may cause disturbance to cetaceans in important habitats for feeding, resting and breeding. Seismic surveys in particular have been shown to cause serious damage to cetaceans hearing.
In 1992, humpback whales off Newfoundland, Canada were found stranded with damage to their inner ear structures following underwater blasting used in constructing oil installations. Seismic blasting by the oil industry in Alaska has also been found to damage the hearing of whales in the area. Toxins and pollutants released into the environment relating to the oil and gas industry also poses a serious health risk to cetaceans.
Destruction of critical habitat for cetaceans is directly linked to increasing human activity in the marine environment, from harbours, landfills, shipping channels fisheries and aquaculture, to recreational use of marine areas, including resort development and increased boat traffic.
All of the aforementioned anthropogenic activities can cause cetaceans to avoid important breeding and foraging areas or cause direct damage to the marine ecosystem.
Thanks for reading Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings.
As is clear, Whales are extraordinary animals, with great characteristics and much which scientists are still to discover. Their curious nature is inspiring, and one can consider themselves incredibly lucky should they ever see a whale of any kind in the wild. We hope you enjoyed Best Places for Whale Watching and Sightings.
Moreover, there are often cases whereby whale sighting tours can bump into unexpected whales and turn into a whole new tour adventure!
If you’re keen on finding these amazing whales in the wild and observing them in their natural habitat consider the following tour companies we recommend to use as a tour operator…
If you are interested in swimming with another fun mammal, have a look at our seal and sea lion article!