top of page
  • Writer's pictureBrieanna Stamper

Virtual Vacations - Whale Watching

Author - Helena Lacey


Two most well-known whales that are looked for are humpback whales and orcas since they

are active at the water’s surface.

Humpback Whales

  • The fluke (tail) patterns are different on each individual, this is how scientists and naturalists identify each individual, the amount and location of their white coloring can also help identify individuals.

  • Found in all major oceans with 4 global populations: North Pacific, Atlantic, Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean.

  • 39-52 ft long; weighing 28-33 tons

    • Fun fact: the longest humpback ever recorded was 89 ft long

    • Migration pattern: warmer climates for mating and birthing, colder climates for feeding (they live off their fat stores in warmer climates)

Where to see Humbacks in the US at different times of the year:

  • The Pacific Northwest

  • Hawaii

  • Maine

  • California

Behaviors you may see include breaching, skyhopping, fin slapping, lunge feeding, and lob tailing.

Orcas (aka Killer Whales)

  • Easily recognizable by their black and white coloring and large dorsal fins

  • Their saddle patch (the white coloring by their dorsal fin) is similar to a fingerprint – each one is different, making individual whales identifiable by scientists and naturalists who see them often

  • Measure 26-26 ft, depending on its gender; weigh 3-6 tons, depending on gender

  • Found in all oceans of the world; several different populations and ecotypes – each one has a distinct diet and distinct vocalizations. They live in matriarchal groups that can vary in size

Fun fact: orcas are not actually whales, they are the largest member of the dolphin family! (Woah!)

Where to see Orcas in the US:

  • The Pacific Northwest

  • Alaska

  • California


Whale Touring: My Recommendations

Some companies may be part of ongoing research with local, private companies and/or government agencies that put as much education as recreation into their trips. Many companies offer multiple options that will last from a few hours to an all-day trip – be sure to find the one that suits your needs and budget the best!

  • First time? It might be best to do a short tour your first time out to make sure you don’t get seasick!

  • The longer the trip, the more time you have to spend viewing wildlife; you will spend more time than you think just traveling to an animal’s location.

  • Boat size! The larger the boat, the more people on board; and vice versa. A smaller boat may carry as few as 10 guests or less; larger boats can carry as many as 60 or more people. I personally have been on both large (over 50 people) and small (6 guests); I prefer smaller because then I am almost guaranteed prime wildlife viewing, I don’t have to worry about other guests getting in my way or vice versa.

Guaranteed Sightings!

Well, maybe not. Don’t rely on this number!! While having a 90% sighting is great, it does not mean you will see what you are hoping to see on your trip. Remember, you are observing wild animals who have a mind of their own!

What do I bring on my adventure?

  • Depending on the time of year and where you are: layers!! It can get cold on the water, if the weather is “perfect” onshore, it’s probably much cooler and windier on the water – especially if you go out on the open ocean.

  • Gloves – trust me, if you’re out on boat in cooler weather you will definitely want them.

  • Hats and/or sunglasses

  • Sunscreen

  • Drinks and snacks if you’re on extended trips

  • Seasickness Medications

  • Binoculars and Camera - Don’t forget the extra batteries and memory cards if you’re like me and are guaranteed to take hundreds of pictures! You don’t need the big fancy cameras that you see a lot of researchers and naturalists with. All the pictures you see in this blog were taken with a DSLR and a 250mm zoom lens.

    • Tip: ask the crew for any tips they may have for photographing the wildlife you are seeing. A lot of it is luck, but some of it is knowing and understanding a specific animals behaviors

Will I see any other wildlife? YES!

Eagles, Dolphins, Turtles, Seals and more!

Ready to book your whale watching adventure?? Contact me today!

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page