Whales, Whale Watching in Dana Point, Orange County
While whale watching in Dana Point, California, we generally see Gray Whales between December and early May on their annual migration between Alaska and the lagoons of Baja. In the months between May and November we see giant Blue Whales. And year round we see huge Fin Whales and Minke Whales. Occasionally, we get a special visit from Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, False Killer Whales and Sperm Whales.
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In our opinion, Blue Whales are absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. These magnificent animals have smooth skin, marked only by the remo fish that hitch a ride to feed off the krill that spills from their mouths. The coloration is blue to light blue in a beautiful mottling that can be seen when up close. When a Blue whale surfaces and exhales, the sound is unlike anything you’ve ever heard. As their breath is released at approximately 200 miles an hour and forced through blow holes that have a striking resemblance to our own noses, the water is vaporized, shooting into the air, sometimes as high as 30 feet. The sound seems to thunder, then echo. As their body glides through the water, it seems as if it never end. Then, as a bonus the tail, measuring between 12 and 15 feet wide will sometimes lift into the air, offering a magnificent display. The “oohs” and “aahs” abound. Captain Dave says, “Bigger than the dinosaurs, bigger than Elvis, the only thing bigger than a Blue Whale is God and you hear Him mentioned a lot when a Blue Whale is around… people are always saying, “Oh, my GOD!”
Southern California has the largest concentration of blue whales of anywhere on earth!
The Blue whale is, and always has been, the largest animal ever to exist on earth. This whale can grow to a length of 33m (110ft) and weigh 200 tons, about a ton per foot, but on the average it is much smaller. The Blue whale is called a “rorqual” a Norwegian word for “furrow” and refers to the pleated grooves running from its chin to its navel. The throat grooves, in addition to streamlining the shape of the whale, allow the throat area to expand tremendously during feeding, and can hold 1,000 tons or more of food and water when fully expanded. By taking tons of water into its mouth and filtering out the fish or krill with its baleen plates a medium-sized Blue whale can eat over four tons of krill a day.
Blue Whale watching in Southern California is typically May through October. We have seen blue whales as early as February and as late as November. Learn more about blue whales.
Watch some of our favorite Blue Whale videos, taken during our regular whale watching trips.
Gray whales make one of the longest migrations of any mammal and are seen every winter off Orange County. The whales travel 10,000 to 12,000 miles from the Chukchi and Bering Seas to the lagoons of Baja, California, where they mate and have their calves.
Whale watchers see gray whales off Dana Point from December through April and sometimes as late as May. They are often spotted within just a mile or so of the shoreline, and they use Dana Point’s headlands as a landmark on their journey, making gray whales a popular whale to watch. In early March, Dana Point Harbor celebrates the annual Festival of Whales with ocean-themed events and activities that have an emphasis on education and environmental responsibility.
Throughout their migration gray whales face many challenges and hazards, one of which takes the lives of nearly 1,000 whales and dolphins every day. Scientists estimate that 308,000 dolphins and whales die because of fishing gear entanglement every year worldwide. Captain Dave organized Orange County’s first whale disentanglement group in 2008 and has successfully disentangled several gray whales, including a whale named Lily, whose disentanglement made national headlines when she stranded herself inside Dana Point Harbor. Capt. Dave has authored the award winning book, “Lily, A Gray Whale’s Odyssey”, a magnificent photographic journey of a gray whale’s migration.
Gray Whale watching is usually December through April. We sometimes see Gray Whales as early as November and as late as May. Learn more about gray whales.
Watch some of our favorite Gray Whale videos, taken during our regular whale watching trips.
Fin Whales & Minke Whales
Fin whales are the second largest baleen whale, after the blue whale, with adults measuring 70 to 80 feet. They have unique asymmetrical coloring under their lower jaw with gray or black on left side and white on the right. The fin whale is a fast swimmer leading to the nickname “greyhound of the sea”. We see fin whales on our whale watching trips January through December.
At 26 to 30 feet in length, Minke whales are the smallest baleen whale seen on our whale watching trips. Minke whales have dark gray to black coloring on top with a tall, curved, dorsal fin. They are sometimes mistaken for a large dolphin. Minke whales are still hunted by some countries around the world including Japan, Iceland, and Norway. Minke whales are seen on our whale watching trips throughout the year.
Humpback Whales & Killer Whales (Orca)
Humpback whales average 40 to 50 feet in length and are well known for putting on energetic shows with breaching, lobtailing, and fluking. We don’t see Humpback whales on our whale watching trips frequently, so when we do at various times throughout the year, it’s a special treat for both passengers and crew. Orcas, also known as Killer Whales, are instantly recognizable by their beautiful black and white coloring and tall dorsal fins (a male dorsal fin can reach up to 6 feet tall). Killer whales can be seen at any time though most frequently they appear in the winter months.
Gregg Hoesterey and his daughter Morgan Hoesterey took this incredible footage of our vessel “Manute’a” during one of our Dolphin and Watching Whale Safaris. It turned into a phenomenal whale watching experience… thanks for making this beautiful video Morgan!