Outdoors Information

Whale Watching - The Biggest Show on Earth


Whale watching is a spellbinding, entertaining, and thought-provoking adventure trip. It's a show with the largest mammals on earth as the star performers. Whales are majestic and graceful giants, who's every move seems effortless, choreographed, and yet playful. In this article discover how to get the most out of your trip.

Imagine a lazy summer's afternoon on a boat in a gentle rolling ocean. A good breeze softly massages your face where you sit, and you begin to close your eyes and drift away? the sound of the boat's engine begins to fade and finally stops. The boat, like you, is drifting over the waves and following the breeze. It's very peaceful and calm and after a stressful week you feel in harmony with the world.

Then something explodes? out of the water? and only a few feet from your nose! A 30-ton humpback? the length of a large house... it breaches? and in another second is gone. And you're left in disbelief and wonder.

And it's just the start of your whale watching!

While whales are scattered throughout the world there's only a handful of accessible locations to view them in their natural environment. The coastal waters of New England and the west coast of North America are prime locations for whale watching. Hawaii and South Africa are also superb locations to spot whales, as are the ocean waters around New Zealand.

So if a vacation or trip takes you to any of these areas make sure you book a cruise and take in the largest show on earth.

Here's some pointers to make sure you have an enjoyable whale watch.

PLAN YOUR WHALE WATCHING TRIP

In the summer months whale watching is popular and so book early - many tours suggest one week to avoid disappointment.

Whale watching cruises can last anywhere from 3 hours to 41/2 hours. If whales are just playing hard to find, then the captain will make every effort to stay out as long as they can to get a sighting.

While most boats are equipped with a place to buy food and drink they don't usually mind you taking your own pack lunch or snacks. Because it can be a long ride until they find the whales and then back to port take a novel or your walkman and listen to your favorite music, or even whale song CD. If you've got young children take something to keep them entertained as well.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A WHALE WATCH CRUISE

Before you book on a whale watching cruise check into the cruise company. Check out their web site, you'll usually find information about the fleet's experience and staff.

Today most whale watch boats have sophisticated equipment and communications that help the captain find the whales. But if a company has been organizing whale watch trips for many years it's a sign they're doing something right and a safe bet for you.

My most rewarding trips have been when a naturalist or whale expert has been on board to provide information and narrate the tour.

CHECK FOR A WHALE SIGHTING GUARANTEE

Because of the very unpredictable nature of the whales, they'll be rare occasions when you just don't see any. So make sure you book on a cruise that offers a guarantee sighting or you get to cruise again for free.

Offering a guarantee is another good sign of a confident and experienced whale watch company. But remember if they spot one whale and you weren't watching or somewhere else on the boat when they did - tough!

WHALE WATCHING IS DONE ON THE OPEN OCEAN.

Whale watching on the open ocean means if you suffer with motion sickness at all then take something about an hour before you board the cruise.

Experienced whale watch cruise captains do not go out in rough seas, but it's not a harbor cruise and the whale feeding grounds are usually miles from land. The open sea can be a little choppy even in the summer months.

QUICK CHECK OF WHALE WATCHING EQUIPMENT.

Recommended things to bring on your whale watch are a camera and plenty of film or memory cards (if you're digital). If you've got binoculars take them as whales sometimes surface yards from the boat, and having binoculars will give you spectacular views and close ups others without them just won't get.

Wear sneakers or something rubber-soled for good traction on a wet and slippery deck. And take sunscreen, sunglasses, and if it's got a tie strap - a hat.

Because of the breeze and open water there's usually a 15-degree difference from land out in the ocean. So take a sweatshirt or windbreaker just in case, and especially for a late afternoon trip. Also the boats will go out in the rain and if you've got a poncho take it.

The whales are waiting for you. These mesmerizing animals have traveled thousands of miles so you can view them playing and feeding. It's really the biggest show on earth. So go ahead and take the adventure - they don't stay for long.

Cliff Calderwood is the owner and contributing writer of the New England vacations guide . You can read more about whale watching in New England and get a free travel report at his New England vacation site.


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