Below you’ll find details of some of the whales you can see on our whale watching holidays, and where to see them:
- Humpback whale
- Sperm whale
- Killer whale (Orca)
- Pacific grey whale
- Pilot whale
- Fin whale
- Southern right whale
- Blue whale
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. They are acrobatic animals, often seen breaching the water. From December to January humpbacks can be seen along the coastline of Corcovado National Park in southern Costa Rica. In the summer months, humpbacks appear in the Straits of Magellan. Chile’s first and only marine reserve, Francisco Coloane Marine Park, is home to a summer population of humpbacks.
The peak whale watching season in Machalilla, Ecuador falls between June and September. During this time it’s estimated that some 300 humpbacks pass along the coast of as they migrate. Some are seen as far out to sea as the Galapagos islands.
From June to August is an exceptional time for sightings of humpbacks on Princess Royal Island, just off the coast of British Columbia.
The sperm whale, (Physeter macrocephalus), has a large head that can measure up to one third of the animal’s length. A bull sperm whale can grow up to 20.5 metres (67 ft) long – which makes it the largest living toothed animal. In December and January each year sperm whales can be seen along the coastline of the Corcovado National Park in southern Costa Rica.
Orca (Killer whale)
Despite its name, the killer whale, or orca (Orcinus orca), is in fact the largest species of dolphin. The best place to see orca is off the wild coast of British Columbia in Canada. Princess Royal Island is a truly amazing wilderness location in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, and in the summer months the wildlife is prolific – from June to August there are exceptional sightings of humpbacks and orcas.
In Canada’s Pacific North-West, a select few travellers are afforded the incomparable thrill of encounters with some of North America’s most impressive wildlife: massive brown bears, soaring bald eagles and large pods of killer whales – particularly in from July to October each year.
Telegraph Cove, at the northern end of Vancouver Island, and Quadra Island, one of the wildest and most beautiful of the Northern Gulf Islands, are both renowned for their healthy population of orcas – these awesome creatures congregate here in the summer months. Whale-watching excursions can be arranged in the Johnstone and Queen Charlotte Straits. Just a short ferry ride away is remote Quadra Island, o. The islands provide a scenic backdrop for watching resident pods of killer whales in the sea.
Pacific grey whale
The grey whale (Eschrichtius robustus) migrates each year between its feeding and breeding grounds. Grey whales are dark slate-grey in colour, and covered by characteristic grey-white patterns – the scars left by parasites. On maturity, a grey whale can reach a weight of up to 40 tonnes. A number of grey whales spend their summer off the plankton-rich shores of Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island.
Pilot whales (Globicephala melas) are jet black or a very dark grey colour. The dorsal fin is set forward on the back and sweeps backward. The body is elongated but stocky, and narrows abruptly toward the tail fin. The coastline of Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica has pilot whales present throughout the year.
The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the the second largest animal on the planet after the Blue Whale. Fin whales are found in Sea of Cortez, Mexico and in the waters around the Azores. In Europe, they are found off the west coast of Italy in the lovely Ligurian Sea, which is also home to a number of other whale and dolphin species. The prime whale-watching season here begins in May, and runs through until the end of September.
Southern right whale
In July, southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) start arriving off the Valdes Peninsula, Argentina in order to mate and calve, and remain there until December. Gansbaai, on the south coast of South Africa has become a popular centre for whale watching resort, and there are excellent sightinmgs of southern right whales between July and November.
The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest animal known to have existed, at up to 32.9 metres (108 ft) in length. It has a long tapering body, a flat U-shaped head, and has a prominent ridge running from the blowhole to the top of the upper lip. Blue whale sightings are particularly reliable in Sri Lanka and also Chiloe Island, Chile at the right time of year.
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