Whale Watching season is upon us

Whale Watching
click to embiggen, there are 2 whales in this picture

The whales are making their migration north from Mexico.  We are rapidly approaching the zenith of their numbers.  The fam and I made the trek to Dana Point to take advantage of the season as we “heard” that area tends to have the best whale watching.  We were not disappointed.  Our 2 hour cruise left us with memories that will last a life time.

We used the services of the Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching and rode out on the “Dana Pride” at noon yesterday.  We saw many sights as we cruised out past the sea lions on the break water and out to sea.  There were several pods of dolphins feeding out at sea.  What was really amazing was watching them follow our boat and play in the wake as we moved around them.

The captains on the boat are real experts at whale watching.  The offer up a narrative of what to look for as well as what you are watching.  They stay in touch with other Whale Watching boats to expedite the finding of whales by sharing information via radio where they can be found.  (Spoiler alert…we saw something that is rarely witnessed by us land dwellers and you need to make the jump to read about it). 

Dolphins in the boat wake
Dolphins playing in the boat wake, click to embiggen

To make sure you get the  most out of your trip the folks at Dana Wharf have on board a “dolphinologist”, a marine biologist from a local uni there to help find them and explain what they are doing.  Also on board is a cetacean (whale) expert from the American Cetacean Society.  Our Expert was Steve O’Toole from ACS who wandered about the boat answering questions and giving short talks on what sort of whale we are looking at.

Steve O'Toole
Steve O'Toole and a model of a California Gray Whale

Our captain made tracks to an area where he said he was told “we absolutely need to be there to witness what was going on”.  We arrived to find a pair of whales that were circling and swimming around a sail boat.  The boat was still in the water and the whales seemed somehow enamored by its presence and stayed around it for quite a while.

sail boat and whale tail
sail boat and whale tail, click to embiggen

Our captain killed the engine and we, as in several other boats just floated about watching the whales cavort about. According to Steve O’Toole he said that he could only speculate, but he believed the whales were in a courtship dance of sorts prior to their eventually mating. We sat there in awe of the performance of these giant mammals as they swam about. They would either swim in tandem coming up for air at the same time. Or they would split apart then swim towards each other, rubbing sides as they passed. IT was really something else to see, and am so glad that I saw this once in a lifetime display by the whales.

small craft whale pair
small craft whale pair, click to embiggen

The one thing I wished we could have seen was them jump out of the water and breach. However we still did see them come fairly far out of the water. Sadly, every small boat owner and kayak-er with a radio eventually heard about the show we were watching and the water eventually be came so clogged that the whales left us.

Whale Watching money shot
Whale Watching the Money Shot, click to embiggen

Hat tip to Kelly Farlow at Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching who arranged this trip for the fam and I. It was truly a memorable day at sea.

Deets. Dana Wharf Sport Fishing and Whale Watching. Trips depart daily,10:00am – 12:00pm, 12:00pm – 2:00pm, 2:00pm – 4:00pm and 4:00pm – 6:00pm* (Fri, Sat, Sun). 34675 Golden Lantern Dana Point, CA 92629, (949) 496-5794  Prices can vary but adults are $45 per person.  Look for a groupon if possible.

All pics by me. The images here were post processed from RAW files, more from the entire afternoon in the from of rough JPEG’s can be found in a flickr set.