Monterey Spotlight
 
 

Featured Events

Jul
25
2014

Carmel Bach Festival

Jul. 19-Aug. 2
The Carmel Bach Festival has a 75-year history of artistic excellence and community…more
Jul
25
2014

Feast of Lanterns

Jul. 23-Jul. 27
For over one hundred years the citizens of Pacific Grove have celebrated its…more
Jul
27
2014

Moss Landing Antique Fair

Jul. 27
Moss Landing becomes the antique capital of the world the last Sunday of July.…more
Aug
2
2014

Salinas Valley Half Marathon

Aug. 2
The Salinas Valley Half Marathon begins at the historic Soledad Mission, established…more
Aug
11
2014

Monterey Auto Week

Aug. 11-Aug. 17
Classic automobiles take over the Monterey Peninsula during Monterey Auto Week and…more
Aug
12
2014

Concours On The Avenue

Aug. 12
Sixth Annual Carmel-By-The-Sea Concours On The Avenue......Carmel's world famous…more
Aug
14
2014

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Aug. 14-Aug. 17
The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is a cornerstone of Monterey…more
Aug
15
2014

Pacific Grove Concours Auto Rally

Aug. 15
The colorful 20th Annual Pacific Grove Concourse Auto Rally will be held on Friday,…more
Aug
16
2014

Concorso Italiano

Aug. 16
A celebration of Italian style, featuring the most spectacular display of Italian…more
Aug
17
2014

Concours d'Elegance

Aug. 17
This spectacular event exhibits some of the most unique pre-war and post-war cars,…more
Aug
22
2014

Sand City West End Celebration

Aug. 22-Aug. 24
The streets of Sand City come alive for the West End Celebration! Sand City is…more
Aug
23
2014

First City Festival

Aug. 23-Aug. 24
Experience a weekend of music, food, and fresh ocean air at the site of the iconic…more
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Activities

Enjoy the Wonders of the Wharf VIP Card

Old Fisherman's Wharf Association
The “Enjoy the Wonders of the Wharf VIP Card and Special Offers Campaign includes a…

Carmel Valley Wine Discovery

Stonepine Estate
Carmel Valley Wine Discovery 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage…

Equestrian Encounter

Stonepine Estate
Equestrian Encounter 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage…

Carmel Valley Wine Discovery

Stonepine Estate
Carmel Valley Wine Discovery 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage…

Equestrian Encounter

Stonepine Estate
Equestrian Encounter 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage…

FREE APPETIZER or 1 HR of POOL

Blue Fin Cafe & Billiards
Choose a FREE APP or 1Hr of Pool with any $20 purchase on selected items *Mention…

Carmel Valley Wine Discovery

Stonepine Estate
Carmel Valley Wine Discovery 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage…

Equestrian Encounter

Stonepine Estate
Equestrian Encounter 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage…

Estate Experience

Stonepine Estate
Estate Experience 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage Accommodations …

Estate Experience

Stonepine Estate
Estate Experience 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage Accommodations …
Apr 16, 2014
- Dec 31, 2014

See Monterey

Carmel Food Tours
Save 10% on each ticket purchased when you use the code MCCVB
Jun 4, 2014
- Jul 31, 2014

Chauffeured Wine Tour Package

Old Monterey Inn
Explore award winning Carmel Valley wineries with our Chauffeured Wine Tour Package!…

Estate Experience

Stonepine Estate
Estate Experience 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage Accommodations …
All

 

 

California Gray Whale

California Gray Whale

Whale Watching

Whale Watching
Humpback whale breaching in Monterey Bay. Photo courtesy of Nancy Black, Monterey Bay Whale Watch more

California is one of the only places in the world where visitors can see whales year-round, and there's no better place for whale watching than Monterey. While in many areas whale watchers have to go far from shore to see a whale, along the Monterey coast whales can sometimes be seen offshore with the naked eye. The Monterey Submarine Canyon, the ocean's answer to the Grand Canyon, provides a perfect habitat for many whale species, allowing them to come close to shore to feed.

A Marine Safari

Whale watching in Monterey Bay is the marine equivalent of going on a safari in Africa. "The diversity is pretty amazing," says Nancy Black, a marine biologist with Monterey Bay Whale Watch. In addition to the whales that migrate seasonally through the area, such as humpbacks, blue whales and gray whales, many other whale species are visible throughout the year. It's not unusual for whale watchers to spot a fin or minke whale. The rarely observed beaked whale, which dives for up to an hour at a time, has been known to make a cameo appearance, as has the occasional sperm whale.

Whales aren't the only marine life visitors will spot in Monterey Bay. Thousands of Pacific white-sided dolphins, Risso's dolphins and Dall's porpoises frolic in the bay almost year-round. "Seeing several thousand dolphins is not unusual," Black says. Pete Bruno, owner of Randy's Fishing and Whale Watching Trips, agrees, adding, "A lot of people would rather see dolphins than whales because dolphins are very active and will follow the boat."

Close Encounters

"By law, boats are required to stay 100 yards away from whales," Benji Shake of Princess Monterey Whale Watching says. Whales don't pay much attention to human laws, however. "Humpback whales will sometimes show strong curiosity about the boat," Black says, adding that it's not unusual for a humpback whale to swim right alongside a boat. The humpbacks will even roll on their sides so they can look up at the ship and the humans aboard. Shake says the experience is life-changing. "If you make eye contact with a whale you are never the same again - ever," he says.

Princess Monterey Whale Watching had a video camera on hand for one close encounter with a humpback whale. They noticed the humpback was swimming toward them quickly and began filming. As the humpback swam under the boat, the videographer ran across the deck to catch its reappearance. The whale surfaced and blew, spraying water (and whale mucus) all over the passengers.

It may not be just like being there, but you can watch the video of the humpback whale encounter below.

The Thrill of the Hunt

"What's really unique to Monterey Bay," says Black, "is the killer whales hunting the gray whales." Gray whales, Black explains, normally stick to shallow waters during their migration from mid-December to April. However, in order to cross the Monterey Canyon, the grays must venture into deeper water, where killer whales lurk, waiting to make a gray their next meal.

From May through mid-December, humpback whales and blue whales come to Monterey Bay to hunt a smaller prey - anchovies and krill. Humpbacks will often spend several days feeding in the same spot, giving whale watchers a predictable location to find them. "This year there's been so much krill it looks like the sea is stained with red," a representative at Princess Monterey Whale Watching says. And more krill means more whales.

A Whale of a Resurgence

Back in the 1980s, Black notes, most whales were endangered and hard to spot. There were few gray whales, and the population of humpback whales off California numbered only 500. Now many of them have made a strong recovery. Gray whales are no longer an endangered species, and Black predicts that humpback whales will be next off the endangered species list.

Monterey Bay also provides a haven for whales that are seriously endangered elsewhere in the world. Blue whales, for example, are "doing well" in the Monterey Bay area, according to Black.

Seagoing Surprises

The resurgence of the whales means that whale watchers are almost guaranteed to see one on any excursion. "Odds are, 98% of the time" a whale watcher will see whales, Princess Monterey Whale Watching says.

Sometimes, however, the whale watching opportunities even surprise the seasoned veterans. "There was a week this summer where we were seeing 100 humpbacks in a quarter mile," says Black. "They were bumping into each other."

At other times, whale watching boats must sail around a little bit to find the whales. Despite what viewers see in popular culture like the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Black is quick to point out that the boats cannot spot whales on radar. "It's not like going to Sea World," she says, noting that whales operate on their own schedule, not a human timetable.

The unpredictability, however, means that visitors can go out on a whale watch every day of the week and see something completely different - and many do. It's the daily novelty that Bruno likes the best, even after nearly 30 years of running whale watches. "You never know what you're going to see out here," he says.

Tips for First-Time Whale Watchers

Monterey's knowledgeable whale watch leaders have several tips for novice whale watchers.

Dress warm!

"I don't care how nice it looks," says Bruno. "Dress warm." It's always much colder on the water than it is on land. Sunny days are deceiving, he says; if it looks sunny, it's often colder because of a breeze on the bay. Shake adds that knit hats and gloves can also be a good idea.

Wear sunscreen and shades

"It's bright and reflective on the ocean," Shake says, emphasizing the need for both sunglasses and sunscreen. "Just because it's foggy doesn't mean you can't get burned," says Black. Weather conditions may also be different at sea than they are on shore. Slather on sunscreen before you board your vessel.

Take sea-sickness medication

Prepare for your whale watching excursion by taking seasickness medication at least an hour before boarding your boat, Black advises. This will give the medication time to take effect and ensure that you can enjoy the whale watch without getting queasy. If you prefer to avoid medications, Shake says, ginger products can be an effective and natural anti-nausea remedy.

Wear flat, rubber-soled shoes

The deck is likely to get wet as you sail, and a wet deck is a slippery deck. For safety's sake, Bruno says, "wear rubber-soled shoes." Leather-soled shoes are slippery and can lead to spills, he says. Shake adds that flats are the way to go. "High heels are not very fashionable on a boat," he jokes.

Secure your camera or binoculars

Some of the world's best cameras are lying on the floor of Monterey Bay. Black says that visitors get so excited to see whales, they sometimes forget to put their camera strap around their neck. One good wave, and their prized gadget is left to sleep with the fishes. Make sure that your cameras, binoculars and other gear are strapped securely around your neck (or wrist, for shorter straps).

Book Your Whale Watching Trip Now!

Seeing whales in person is a truly awe-inspiring experience. Visitors have called the experience life-changing and say it gives them a new perspective on our oceans. Book your whale watching trip now and find out what it's like to meet a whale face-to-face!

Whale Watching Cruises

Click to Show Map

Chris' Fishing and Whale Watching

48 Fisherman's Wharf #1 , Monterey, CA 93940
Phone  (831) 375-5951
Fax  (831) 645-9895
Deep Sea Fishing & Whale Watching tours year around in the third largest deep submarine canyon in the world.  more

Monterey Bay Whale Watch

84 Fisherman's Wharf , Monterey, CA 93940
Phone  (831) 375-4658

Princess Monterey Whale Watching

96 Fisherman's Wharf #1 , Monterey, CA 93940
Phone  (831) 372-2203
When safety, experience, comfort and quality count, choose Princess Monterey Whale Watching for an experience of a lifetime! Come aboard the Princess Monterey and the Greatland, the largest and... more

Randy's Fishing Trips and Whale Watching

66 Fisherman's Wharf #1 , Monterey, CA 93940
Phone  (831) 372-7440
Fax  (831) 372-7442
Full-service boat chartering company that offers whale watching and recreational sport fishing trips, specialty cruises, sailing and more. more

Sanctuary Cruises Whale Watch

7881 Sandholdt Road
Dock A , Moss Landing, CA 95039
Phone  (831) 917-1042
Fax  (831) 643-0128
Year-round whale watching and special charters on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Come aboard the vessel Sanctuary for an eco-friendly, personal, educational, and up-close experience with... more