This week I caught the tail end (pun intended!) of gray whale season in San Diego by hopping on one of Flagship San Diego’s whale watching tours.
Flagship has a fleet of ships for whale watching and offers weekday and weekend tours. A naturalist and handful of volunteers from the Birch Aquarium are on board to answer any questions and provide lots of fun facts on the San Diego Bay itself, wildlife that exists there and even had samples of baleen from the whales to pass around.
On our tour, we pulled out of the dock, we toured the San Diego Bay and then headed out to open waters for prime dolphin and whale watching. It was a pretty neat view of the city, with views of the downtown skyline, Coronado and Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma.
Once we left the Bay, there were tons of playful dolphins escorting us to deeper waters to find the whales. This is called bow riding and essentially the dolphins are catching a ride as the waves from the boat push them forward.
Next we went searching for gray whales! Gray whales migrate annually from the Baja Peninsula to Arctic waters. There are 3 lagoons they hang out in Baja to breed and mate, and scientists estimate that there are 22-23,000 individuals comprising the eastern Pacific gray whale population.
Although gray whales are 45 ft in length fully grown, they can be hard to spot! We were very lucky to see two gray whales, lots of blow hole spotting, a few fins and one playful whale sticking it’s head out of the water. Our naturalist explained that usually this occurs when whales want to get a better view of their surroundings. I see you, gray whale! 😉
Here are some insider tips for the best experience:
WHALE WATCHING TOURS IN SAN DIEGO: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Each whale watching trip is different. Try to schedule yours during peak season for the most opportunities to view the whales.
- Keep your eyes on the horizon — you can see blowholes from 1 mile or more away!
- Grab a seat on the sides of the boat or in the front for the best views.
- Whales are hard to photograph from afar. So don’t get down, just focus on the experience!
- There is a snack bar on board or you can bring on coffee, drinks and lunch (at the dock, the Green Rose Cart has coffee, smoothies and breakfast breads).
- It’s breezy and can be quite sunny so wear layers, sunscreen, a hat.
- To help with seasickness, keep ginger chews and menthol throat lozenges on hand and take Dramamine® 1 hr before leaving the dock (disclaimer: always check with a doctor first).
- Don’t stress, there’s easy parking next to the dock at the USS Midway, $10 for 12 hours.
- Flagship takes your picture at the beginning and you can purchase the glossy photos later for $10 – $20.
Have you been whale watching in San Diego before? I’d love to hear about your experience and any suggestions you have below!