Whale watching in Dana Point is more than spectacular—it’s world class. — Visit Dana Point
I’ve been whale watching several times throughout my life, both in the U.S. and in Canada.
There’s no question that it’s an amazing experience that both humbles you and blows you away all at the same time. Seeing the beauty and grace of such a massive animal is a privilege, and is something I’ve loved and cherished each time I’ve had the opportunity to do it.
Although it’s a thrill to see any whale while out on the water, there’s one species in particular that I’ve always dreamed of seeing: the blue whale.
I just can’t imagine what it would be like to encounter the largest animal that ever lived. Considering they can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh close to 200 tons, it’s nearly impossible to wrap your brain around. With a heart the size of a small car and a tongue that weighs as much as an elephant, I think the blue whale is one of those things you have to see with your own eyes to really believe!
If you’re like me and would love to see the world’s largest creature for yourself, there’s one place that stands above the rest for blue whale sightings, and that’s Dana Point, California.
In a National Geographic docuseries showcasing some of America’s wildlife, narrator Quincy Dunn-Baker says, “These endangered behemoths used to blow right past California on their migration south…but now, these gentle giants are camped just miles off the Golden Coast.”
In recent years, blue whale sightings have increased, raising the question of why?
National Geographic explains that scientists believe climate change is bringing large amounts of krill—the main staple in the diet of baleen whales—to the shoreline, playing a role in this sudden flurry of activity. The whales go where the krill is, causing them to shift their feeding patterns.
Captain Dave Anderson, a tour boat operator in Dana Point, says,
Ten years ago, if I saw one blue whale out here, I would be on a national news program because it was so rare. Last year we had almost 1,000 sightings. It’s unbelievable.
Anderson is referring to the 2015 whale-watching season in his comment above, but since 2002, his company, Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari, has kept a daily archive of all marine life sightings on its website. And just in case you’re wondering, blue whales were spotted as recently as yesterday!
Although blue whales are the main attraction for those going on a whale-watching excursion, you might also get to see other whale and dolphin species, such as humpbacks, finbacks, grey whales, orcas, and bottlenose dolphins. Shark sightings are another possibility, so keep your eyes peeled!
May through September is the best time to see blue whales, typically only 2-3 miles offshore. But you can go whale watching year-round in Dana Point, known as the “Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World.”
One thing you always want to be mindful of is choosing a tour operator that is committed to responsible and sustainable whale watching practices. This is fairly easy to do in Dana Point, thanks to its designation as the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas.
Whale Heritage Sites and their significance is explained here:
WHS are outstanding locations where cetaceans (whales, dolphins, or porpoises) are embraced through the cultural, economic, social, and political lives of associated communities, and where people and cetaceans coexist in an authentic and respectful way. Their aim is to preserve cetacean species and their habitats on a global scale so that they are around for generations to come.
Another thing you don’t want to miss is the Dana Point Festival of Whales, the world’s first and longest-running annual whale festival! Beginning 50 years ago, this seaside event was created to honor the grey whales and other marine life that call this area home. According to the website, the festival emphasizes education and environmental responsibility. With ocean-themed activities and events to participate in, it’s a great way for locals and visitors to learn more.
So whether you choose to get out on the water or not, you can still celebrate these magnificent creatures in Dana Point.