The sight of a back-flipping Humpback whale, arcing gracefully out of the sea, is enough to make anyone’s heart soar. Luckily, whale watching’s global popularity makes it easy to view these charismatic cetaceans.
Whale watching as a recreational activity began in the 1950s when San Diegans designated Cabrillo National Monument as an official Gray whale viewing site. Soon, cheap whale-viewing boat tours cropped up. But the real surge in whale watching came in the 1970s when New England—which has a rich maritime history—hopped on board.
Today, whale-watching tours usually have on-board marine biologists to educate guests. Many tour companies tout eco-friendly, quiet-engine boats that minimize ecosystem impact. Others aim to get you in the water—in tropical areas, of course. Catamaran cruises in Hawaii provide opportunities to see Humpbacks, followed by a snorkeling stop. While underwater, listen carefully—you may hear the haunting yet serene whale’s song.
Monterey, Calif., is a Gray whale hotspot. Go to Alaska or Quebec, Canada to see Belugas; Cape Cod or Hawaii to see Humpbacks; and Kaikoura, New Zealand to view giant sperm whales.
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