Whales are the world’s largest mammals, extraordinary creatures which can weigh up to 200 tonnes and reach an incredible 30 m in length. It might amaze you to learn that they were once land-based animals: their evolutionary journey took them into the seas and oceans around 40 million years ago. Their closest living relative is the hippopotamus, so you can have a vague idea of what a walking whale might have looked like!
From Free Willy to SeaWorld, whales have huge presence in our culture, but thankfully the waves of popular opinion are changing and it is no longer as acceptable to keep these majestic creatures in captivity. Nothing compares with seeing whales in their natural ocean habitat, whether you watch them from the coast or a boat. Many whale species migrate thousands of kilometres each year, so there are plenty of locations where you can see them. We have chosen a few of our favourites.
1 — Costa Rica
There are whales off the coast of Costa Rica for nine months a year, so you have a very high chance of seeing them. The northern humpback whales arrive in Costa Rica in December and stay until April, while the southern whales arrive in mid-July and can be seen until November. The very best place to go is the UNESCO World Heritage Cano Island, where the waters are filled not only with orca and humpback whale, but with manta ray and dolphin, too. One of the most exciting things is that you don’t just have to watch the whales from a boat: it’s possible to dive amongst them. Swimming alongside, you will really appreciate how massive whales are, and how gracefully they move through the water.
2 — Antarctica
Antarctica doesn’t have a permanent human population, which is one of the reasons that its marine wildlife thrives. There are eight species of whales here, specifically orca, blue, fin, minke, humpback, southern right, sperm, and sei. Whether you are on a polar expedition boat such as the MC Plancius or a larger, more luxurious cruise ship like the Silver Cloud, you will be able to watch the whales from the deck. Often, they will follow the boat, breaching and shooting up clouds of spray. For a more extreme encounter, you can pull on an insulated polar diving suit and get close to the marine life below the water.
3 — South Africa
From June to November, South African waters expect southern right whales. Hermanus is considered one of the best places in the world for whale watching, as the whales come here to calve. You will be able to see these gentle giants from beaches and cliffs, especially when there are large pods swimming together.
4 — Peninsula Valdes
Southern right whales are attracted to the warm waters of Patagonia’s Peninsula Valdes from May to December. They come here to mate and give birth. Orcas are visible at the same time of year, and the peninsula is thought to be the only place in the world where they intentionally beach themselves to hunt for sea lions. Journeysmiths has found some remarkable hotels just metres away from the shore so you can sit whale watching from your balcony, especially first thing in the morning when the sky is clear.
Whale migrations mean it is important to plan your whale watching trip carefully: you need to be in the right place at the right time. Our team of expert Journeysmiths’ will recommend the very best places to go, and will also share recommendations for other marine wildlife experiences, from cage diving with sharks to coastal walks among colonies of penguin. Call us now on 01604 637332.