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Amazing Whale Watching Spots Around the World

Published 24 June 2016

Alexandra Gregg

Spotting whales in the wild requires heaps of time, patience and just the right weather conditions. Even then sightings aren’t guaranteed – a frustrating truth for the cetacean lovers among us. That said, there are a handful of locations across the globe where the odds of finding marine life are hugely in your favour. Here are just six of them:

Vancouver

The lively seafront city of Vancouver is incredibly fortunate when it comes to location. Each year, thousands of whales migrate through its waters, particularly around the Georgia Strait and San Juan islands, so with a bit of luck (and good weather) you’ll be able to spot pods up-close from a zodiac, or from higher vantage points on a cruiser or catamaran. Try Richmond – one of Vancouver’s suburbs – for a tour with the experienced Vancouver Whale Watch team.

Whales: Orcas (killer whales), humpbacks
What else you can see: Bald eagles, seals, sea lions, dolphins
When to go: March - October
How to do it: Try our Whales & Bears British Columbia Journey 

A humpback fluking in Vancouver, Canada

Kaikoura

Kaikoura is well-known as New Zealand’s whale-watching capital, full of rich marine life that all-but guarantees an unforgettable experience. And, even better, no matter when you go your chances of spotting sperm whales are pretty high as these 60-tonne beasts congregate here year-round. Why you ask? Why, the deep-sea diving (up to 1.9 miles) in the Kaikoura Canyon of course – here they can feast on an abundance of fish.

Whales: Sperm whales, humpbacks, pilot, blue and southern right 
What else you can see: Dusky dolphins, Hector’s dolphins (endemic), seals, royal albatross
When to go: Anytime for sperm whales!
How to do it: Try our New Zealand Campervan Journey 

Fraser Island and Hervey Bay

Humpback whales are at home in Hervey Bay. They stop here off on their annual migration to Antarctica to wow tourists with their aqua acrobatics – think flawless breaches, graceful belly flops and repeated fluking. Around 1,200 humpbacks make the journey and, unusually, they do it fairly close to shore too, making spotting them even easier.

Whales: Humpbacks
What else you can see: Dolphins, turtles, dugong
When to go: Late July - November
How to do it: Try our Queensland Coastal Self Drive Journey 

Southern right whales can be spotted in South Africa

Plettenberg Bay and the Garden Route, South Africa

Whales passing by Plettenberg Bay do so so closely, that sometimes they can be seen from shore or cliff-based points. So grab your binoculars and put those peepers to work – the best spots include Plettenberg Park, the Van Plettenberg Monument, Beacon Island Rocks and the Robberg Peninsula. For more intimate encounters, hire a sea kayak and (hopefully) paddle alongside these gentle giants.

Whales: Southern right whales, Bryde’s whales, humpbacks, orcas
What else you can see: Bottlenose and humpback dolphins, Cape fur seals
When to go: June - November for southern rights, May – June or November – January for humpbacks
How to do it: Try our Garden Route Safari Journey 

Hawaii

Kohola – or humpback whales as we know them – love the warm shallow waters of the main Hawaiian Islands, perfect for breeding, calving and nursing their young. In fact, biologists reckon two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback population returns here each year, in particular frequenting the shallow Auau Channel between West Maui (Lahaina and Kaanapali), Lanai and Molokai. The humpbacks’ huge spots (sometimes up to six metres tall) can even be seen from the shore.

Whales: Humpbacks
What else you can see: Rays, spinner dolphins, green turtles
When to go: December - May
How to do it: Try our Hawaiian Explorer Journey 

Minke whale antarctica Flickr id 38007185@N00

A minke whale in Antarctica

Antarctica

Whale watching in Antarctica is not just about the whales – it’s about seeing them in some of the most unique surroundings in the world. And you will see them. If you don’t, you’ve been incredibly unlucky. Whales migrate to the Southern Oceans during the southern summer to feed in the cold, yet nutrient-rich waters. Their presence here is so important and plentiful that the entire area around the continent has been declared an international whale sanctuary.

Whales: Blue, minke, humpbacks and orcas
What else you can see: Gentoo, chinstrap and Adélie penguins, seals
When to go: February and March
How to do it: Try our Antarctica Classic adventure tour 

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