Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Whales and Sea Lions in Newport Harbor (Part 3 of 3 re: Newport Bay/Balboa Peninsula)

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - www.dalmdad.com and https://www.facebook.com/Dalmdad.)

January, 2012: Whale watching is a popular California past-time; from Crescent City, in the far north, to San Diego, in the far south.  From organized whale hunting cruises on all kinds of boats heading out of various California harbors to families of people sitting on benches and roadsides, at places such as the Whale Watcher Cafe in Gorda, CA on the Big Sur coast, with binoculars or without.  Husbands and wives, as we have experienced first hand, typically have friendly fights, over some nachos, over whether or not one saw a whale blowing or diving.

It is our experience that seeing whales on whale cruises is a crap shoot.  Companies usually offer 3-4 tours a day; starting early in the morning.  

The chance of seeing a whale is the same, whether you go in the morning or the afternoon.  However, that does not mean the experiences are the same.

The early morning cruise will have less people.  This is good because it makes it easy to run from side-to-side of the boat depending on where the whales are (especially if you are using a HUGE lens).  Furthermore, the water may be calmer on morning tours.  The downsides to morning cruises are: colder temperatures and deep and damp fog.  In our experience with morning cruises, the fog tends to break just as the boat is steaming back into harbor.  
Going Down...In the Fog (approx. 9:39AM) - Monterey Bay
Back In Harbor With Clear Sky (approx 12:48PM) - Monterey Bay

While the crowds of the later cruise may turn you off, white caps, visible during later in the day, may also make it harder to see the whales.  However, it is frequently the case that all the different whale cruise boats are in constant contact with each other and identifying the most likely places to see a whale.

Whale watching is on the expensive side for a family activity ($30+ a person on the weekend) and it is printed on your ticket that there is no guarantee you will see a whale.  However, it is our experience that most of the reputable captains will give you a free trip at a later date if you don't see anything.  You will likely see dolphins no matter what.
Gray Whale Fluke (Newport)
Gray Whale Fluke (Newport)
Gray Whale Spouting (Newport)

View of Irvine from off Newport

Gray Whale Fluke Between Boats (Monterey)

Gray Whale Pectoral Fin (Monterey)
Dolphin (Monterey)
You are also likely to see loads of sea lions.  You can tell these are sea lions and not seals because they can sit up and have ear flaps.  The flippers of a seal are not built for climbing, walking, or standing.  Seals must drag themselves out of the water and up the beach.

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