• William Gray

30 of the Best Places to go Whale Watching


Sperm whales

North America


1. Greenland

Humpbacks, Paamiut.

• June to August


2. Southeast Alaska

Humpback whales bubble-net feeding, killer whales hunting salmon and marine mammals.

• June to early September


3. British Columbia

Johnstone Strait and Puget Sound are two of the world’s best places to see orca, while grey whales migrate along the west coast of Vancouver Island. Humpbacks also seen.

• March/April for grey whales, May to September for orca


4. California

Grey whales migrate along the coast, while the food-rich canyons and banks of Monterey Bay attract blue, humpback, grey, fin, minke and beaked whales.

• Greys arrive late January; prime time for Monterey Bay is August to October


5. Baja California

Grey whales calve and mate in Baja’s Pacific lagoons, while the Sea of Cortez is renowned for blue, humpback, Bryde’s, fin, sperm and minke whales.

• January to April for grey whales; year round for the Sea of Cortez


6. Hawaii

Humpbacks migrate to a whale sanctuary off Maui to mate, sing and give birth.

• Late December to April


7. Hudson Bay, Manitoba

Beluga congregate in their thousands along the Churchill River estuary.

• July to August


8. St Lawrence River & Gulf

The spring thaw sparks a food-chain reaction that lures a variety of whales, including beluga, fin, minke, humpback and blue.

• June to November; Mingan Islands for blues, August to November


9. Bay of Fundy

Humpback, fin and minke whales are commonly seen, with sei and sperm whales encountered further offshore. The Bay of Fundy is an important feeding and nursery area for the rare northern right whale.

• August to November for northern right whales; June to October for other species


10. New England

Stellwagen Bank, off Cape Cod, is a summer feeding ground for several species, including humpback, fin, minke, pilot and right whale.

• April to October


11. Caribbean

The seas around Dominica are home to sperm whales, while humpbacks gather to sing, mate and calve in the marine sanctuary north of the Dominican Republic.

• Year round for sperm whales; January to April for humpbacks


South America


12. Ecuador

Humpback whales at Puerto López and further north at Gorgona, a Pacific island around 50km off the Colombian coast.

• June to mid September


13. Chile

Blue whales, Chiloé Island.

• December to March


14. Península Valdés

See southern right whales at play, raising their tails out of the water and using them to ‘sail’ across sheltered bays. Orca have prey on their minds, surfing onto beaches in pursuit of sea lion pups.

• Mid-July to November for southern right whales; orca year round, but hunting sea lions from mid-February until mid-April


Europe


15. Iceland

Spot whales in the glow of the midnight sun. Húsavik has an excellent whale museum and offers cruises in search of minke and humpback whales. Try Stykkishólmur on the west coast of Iceland for blue and sperm whales.

• May to September; orca hunt shoals of herring off the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland during February and March.


16. Norway

Orca sometimes hunt herring in Tysfjord and other fjords in northern Norway (locations change yearly), while sperm whales seek squid in the submarine canyons of the Andenes.

• Late May to September for sperm whales; October to mid-November for orca


17. Scotland

Set sail for the Hebrides, Orkney or Shetland Islands for sightings of minke whales, plus humpback, fin and sperm whales if you’re lucky. Large pods of orca are also possible, particularly in the seas around the Shetland Islands and off the northwest coast of Ireland.

• May to October.


18. Azores

Sperm whales can be found in the deep waters off the south coast of Pico.

• May to October.


19. Canary Islands

Boat trips from the west coast of Tenerife frequently encounter large pods of short-finned pilot whales.

• Year round


20. Italy

Fin whales, Ligurian Sea.

• June to September


21. Greece

Sperm whales can be found south of Crete.

• June to September


Africa


22. South Africa

Whale watching for landlubbers. Drive the Whale Route from Cape Town to Durban for sightings of southern right whales close inshore and easily visible from cliff tops, or take a boat trip from Gansbaii.

• July to November.


23. Madagascar

Humpbacks off Nosy Boraha.

• July to September


Asia


24. Sri Lanka

The south coast, particularly off Dondra Head, has emerged as prime territory for blue and sperm whales.

• January to April


25. Japan

Humpbacks over-winter in the Kerama and Ogasawara islands, while Bryde’s whales visit Ogata.

• February to April for humpbacks, March to October for Bryde’s whales


Australasia & Antarctica


26. South Australia

Southern right whales are easily viewed from clifftops along the Nullarbor and around Adelaide.

• May to October


27. Hervey Bay, Australia

A favourite stopover for migrating humpbacks.

• August to October


28. Tonga

Humpbacks arrive to give birth and mate.

• July to November


29. Kaikoura, New Zealand

Bachelor sperm whales hang out on the edge of the continental shelf, a short boat ride from shore.

• Year round


30. Antarctica

Krill-rich seas create the ultimate feeding ground for baleen whales, while orca nose around pack ice on the lookout for unwary penguins and seals.

• November to March


Dolphins are not only commonly seen on most whale-watching trips, but they often steal the show with their bow-riding antics and other acrobatics. If it’s purely dolphins you’re looking for, however, head to hotspots like Kaikoura, New Zealand (for dusky dolphins), the Straits of Gibraltar (for common dolphins), Bimini, the Bahamas (for spotted dolphins), the Amazon (for pink river dolphins or botos), and the Moray Firth, Scotland (for bottlenose dolphins). Of course, orcas and pilot whales (mentioned above) are also members of the Delphinidae family.

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Wildlife Wishlist was founded by zoologist, conservationist and award-winning travel writer and photographer William Gray. Sharing his passion for wildlife and recommendations for responsible travel, Will has spent around 30 years tracking down the world's best wildlife holiday experiences.

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