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Captain Ahab dedicated his life to finding one. ‘Free Willy’ captured the hearts of children and adults alike.
Whales have enchanted humanity for aeons, impressed by their awesome size and seduced by their crooning songs, these gentle giants of the aquatic world cover the oceans in migratory pods.
Nothing can prepare for the moment these majestic mammals surge to the surface adjacent to your boat – it is a marine thrill without parallel. So for your own “Thar she blows” moment, check out Exodus’ top picks for whale watching ventures this year.
Whale Watching Destinations
Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Whales in Sri Lanka
Dedicating two full days to scouring the swell for these mammals offers good chances of spotting the eight-metre tail fluke of a Blue whale, the unmistakable rounded head of a Sperm whale or the sleek, dangerous black and white body of an Orca cutting through the water – not to mention schools of dolphins up to five hundred strong.
Afterwards, head north to Yala National Park to search of the park’s apex predator, the magnificent leopard.
The Azores, Portugal
Nine volcanic islands peek from the Atlantic Ocean, a lush green archipelago surrounded by indigo waters serenaded by whale song. Marine biologists keep binoculars poised in the Azores to spot stocky Sperm whales, the long, smooth backs of silvery Fin whales and the aquatic giants, Blue whales.
The leviathan of the animal kingdom, this whale is the largest creature to have ever lived. Up to 30 metres long, this ocean liner can consume an elephant’s weight in krill every day, take in 50 tons of water with each gulp, and blow spray up to nine metres high – a magnificent phenomenon in any book.
The waters surrounding the driest continent on Earth swirl and surge with whales. Perhaps not a ‘hot’spot, but for those who brave the chill the rewards are undeniably immense – these saltwater mammals make for mesmerising viewing from small expedition ships and inflatable zodiacs alike.
Humpback whales have faces for radio: barnacle-encrusted, gnarly skins with overlong sweeping flippers up to a third of the length of their streamlined bodies, who croon away their days with the longest and most varied songs in the animal kingdom.
These marine musicians are accompanied by a backing chorus of Orcas and Minkes, which whirl through the icy waters devouring penguins and krill respectively.
Find out more: Antarctic Explorer
Best months for whales are February and March.
Vancouver Island, Canada
Board nimble zodiacs for whale watching excursions off Vancouver Island. Mingled with other wildlife sightings, including Black and Grizzly bears bathing in the shallows, the salt-water inlets make for unusual whale watching.
Orcas, beautiful and deadly in equal measure, make elegant shapes as they slice through the sea near Torfino against a backdrop of ancient evergreen forest, quite unlike viewing these creatures in the open water.
There are ample opportunities to spot the mottled fork of a Grey whale tale cresting the waves or head out on sea kayaks.
Find out more: Whales & Bears Of British Columbia
Hermanus, South Africa
South Africa is a pilgrimage for many whale watching enthusiasts, and rightly so. From late August to November, the waves off the coast of Hermanus spring to life with the splash of Southern Right whales frolicking in the shallows – breaching, sailing, lobtailing, and spyhopping, seemingly for their own amusement.
The migratory whales can be spotted from the shore, but best to board a boat. A whale crier sounds his kelp horn the second his eye catches a glimpse of these magnificent beasts in Walker bay, where they flock to breed and often calves can be spotted alongside their mothers.
Find out more: Cape Town And The Garden Route
To witness these magnificent creatures in the wild, browse our whale watching tours below and plan your trip.