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10 Places to Go Whale Watching

Traveling to various places across the globe has its perks, such as witnessing breathtaking landscapes, exploring historical ruins, savoring local cuisines, and more. However, have you ever considered going on vacation solely to watch whales? This particular tourism sector is a significant source of income for some towns, with approximately 13 million tourists embarking on such trips worldwide in 2008. The current number is speculated to be much higher, and if you too wish to encounter these magnificent and colossal creatures, here are the top 10 destinations to do so!

1. Reykjavík, Iceland

Reykjavík, Iceland
Iceland, particularly Reykjavík, is a popular tourist destination for whale watching due to the opportunity to see various marine creatures such as fin whales, minke whales, blue whales, white-backed dolphins, and fucanas. While whale watching tours are available in other Icelandic cities like Husavik and Dalvík, it is recommended doing it in Reykjavík. Visitors can go on tours from Reykjavík to Faxa Bay on oak wood sailing boats, where whales are known to swim close to boats and create an unforgettable experience.
2. San Juan Islands, Washington, USA
whales in San Juan Islands, Washington, USADuring spring, a significant number of orcas migrate northwards towards Puget Bay, reaching these islands. This location is highly recommended for those who want to witness these predators in action, and it was even the setting for the famous movie "Free Willy, the journey home". If you wish to see them in particular, the island named Orca is the best spot to visit. This is due to the presence of a large population of salmon that serves as their primary food source, which allows around 80 killer whales to stay there throughout the summer. Additionally, gray whales, minke whales, and fin whales can also be spotted in the area, and kayaking enthusiasts can indulge in their favorite sport.

3. Harvey Bay, Queensland, Australia

whales in Harvey Bay, Queensland, Australia
This destination is recognized as the "hub of the magnificent fin whales" and offers a wide range of activities and attractions for encountering these whales in summer, in the sea waters between the mainland and Fraser Island. Fin whales are famous for their leaping and plunging into the water, and you can witness this natural wonder on one of the numerous catamaran trips that depart from Harvey Bay. These vessels are typically equipped with sea-facing windows, elevated observation stations, and a hydrophone - an underwater microphone that lets you hear the whale sounds.

4. Los Cabos, Mexico

whales in Los Cabos, Mexico
Each winter, Los Cabos is a popular destination for gray and large-finned whales as they migrate thousands of kilometers towards warmer waters in the bay between the Baja California peninsula and the mainland. Located at the southern tip of the peninsula, Los Cabos offers a great vantage point to observe the migrating whales swimming in the bay's lagoons where they breed. Visitors are likely to see young whales as well, especially if they visit between January and April. Other whale species, including blue and humpback whales, are also occasionally spotted in the area.

5. Valdés Peninsula, Argentina

whales in Valdés Peninsula, Argentina
Located on the Atlantic Ocean coastline, this particular peninsula is recognized as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site due to its abundant marine life. Notably, it is home to a significant number of seals and sea lions, which attract killer whales during spring. Additionally, from July to November, visitors can witness the southern oval whale, which is known to raise its tail above the water and breed in the area. However, it is important to note that while observing these magnificent creatures, one may also witness them preying on young sea lions, and therefore, individuals who find this disturbing can opt to skip this destination.

6. Maui, Hawaii, USA

whales in Maui, Hawaii, USA
If you want to observe whales, why not do it in one of the most picturesque and tranquil locations in the world? Killer whales can be spotted on almost all the Hawaiian Islands, but the south and west coasts of Maui offer the best opportunity to see them. Each winter, around 10,000 killer whales migrate from the frigid shores of Alaska to these warm waters, where they mate and raise their young before returning north in the spring with their offspring. Due to the clear water on the island's side, you can see these magnificent animals from sunrise to sunset, and you may even hear the male's singing, which can last up to 30 minutes. Additionally, you can rent a luxury boat equipped with a hydrophone to hear the whales' song up close or take a raft to increase your chances of encountering them face to face.

7. The Azores Islands, Portugal

whales in The Azores Islands, Portugal
The Azores islands are a popular destination for observing huge blue whales, which are up to 30 meters long, weigh 130 tons, and have a heart the size of a small car. Visitors can view these sea creatures from observation towers located along the coast, or they can get closer by taking a cruise. Humpback whales and northern bottlenose, resembling cute chubby dolphins, are also visible during these excursions.

8. Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA

whales in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA
Massachusetts, particularly Cape Cod and Boston, has been added to the World Wildlife Fund's recommended whale-watching destinations list, where fin and minke whales come to find food annually. Many boat operators in Boston offer a refund if a whale is not spotted during the cruise, and it is best to visit in spring when mothers bring their young ones in search of food in shallow waters.

9. Hermanus, South Africa

whales in Hermanus, South Africa
In South Africa, near Cape Town, it is possible to spot southern right whales without venturing into the sea, as they come close to the shore to mate each year. Visitors can observe both adult whales, which can reach up to 17 meters in length, and their 6-meter-long offspring from a 10 km-long cliff equipped with telescopes and benches. In the town of Hermanus, there is also a notification system to inform people about whale sightings, and boat tours are available to get a closer look. In Kaikoura, New Zealand, a similar opportunity also exists to observe whales from the shore.

10. Kaikoura, New Zealand

whales in Kaikoura, New Zealand
This town is the best place to spot large-headed whales. These whales are enormous, measuring up to 18 meters in length and capable of diving to depths of 3,000 meters and remaining submerged for up to two hours. They are drawn to this region by a vast underwater canyon that also attracts dolphins, seals, and other types of whales. The town's tourism industry is centered around whale watching, which can be experienced by boat or low-altitude flight over the sea.

Photo source: touropia.com

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