Whale Watching – Six of the Best (04.09.16)

Watching a pod of whales, preferably at close quarters, is one of the most remarkable wildlife experiences you can ever have. No photograph, film or documentary can prepare you for the elation you feel on seeing such magnificent and colossal creatures first hand.


Whether observing whales from a high vantage point on a coastline, large ship, de-commissioned fishing trawler or zippy Zodiac, their ever present zen-like calmness washes over you. Blowing spouts, surface sleeping, giant tail-dives and, if you are really lucky, acrobatic full breach moments, cannot fail to seduce. The grace of these enormous mammals is simply astounding.

I have been fortunate enough to see Killers, Humpbacks, Blues and Minkes across three continents, but I have barely scratched the surface: there are over 80 other species of whales.


With so many destinations offering whale watching opportunities, we at Nomadic Thoughts delight in including many a viewing trip across a huge diversity of worldwide destinations. Depending on the time of year, and therefore sighting probabilities, choosing where to go can be confusing. So to get you in the mood here are our ‘Six of the Best Whale Watching Favourites’:


  1. West Coast Canada (best viewings June – Oct)opportunities up and down the west coast with particularly good orca (killer whale) sightings in the Johnstone Strait. Vancouver Island has many options too, with easy access from the capital Victoria. Combining grizzly bears (as they fish the migrating salmon out of the rivers) with the peak whale season can also be very special, and all the more so if you include a chance to see inland polar bears in October.
  1. Kaikoura, New Zealand (year round) – one of the southern oceans’ most prolific whale locations, as differing ocean currents and a sharp drop in the continental shelf attract huge diversities of marine life. Particularly good for otherwise rare sightings of sperm whale, which often grow to over 15 metres.
  1. Puerto Madryn, Patagonia (June – December) – top of the tree for adult and calf whale watching possibilities is Peninsular Valdez. In addition to boating options, during the peak periods you can enjoy marvellous sightings from the shoreline itself. Extra special when combining local elephant seal, sea lion and Magellanic penguin colonies.
  1. Iceland (May – December) – although historically Husavik, on the northern Arctic Sea coast, offers some of the best opportunities (with 98% success rates), one of the island’s most exciting charms is that whale watching can be done up, down and across this most spectacular of island coastlines. In particular the northern Fjords often allow for maximum sighting for anyone with patience and a good hill-view vantage point.
  1. Western Cape, South Africa (May – December) – as the convergence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans bring together a magnificent mix of marine life, whales particularly enjoy the warmer waters for calving. The southern town of Hermanus is best suited for seafaring and coastal sighting opportunities.
  1. Baja California, Mexico (Feb-April)arguably second to none for diversity, with the Sea of Cortez described as a ‘living aquarium’ by the legendary dive master Jacques Cousteau. World renowned with a multitude of Gulf of California regions designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Thankfully the expansion in global whale watching demand continues to have an adverse affect on the international whale hunting industry.

Thankfully the expansion in global whale watching demand continues to have an adverse affect on the international whale hunting industry.



Cliff top whale watching, as whale-wathcing-boat admires whale dive from a distance.

Cliff top whale watching, as watching-boat admires whale dive from a distance.


Post dive whale footprint

Post-dive whale footprint.


Double spout blow.

Double spout blow.