Seeing whales in the wild is one of the most breath-taking sights that nature has to offer. Whale watching is available as a day trip option in lots of holiday locations, but it’s one that presents a certain amount of risk as getting a good view of these creatures doing their thing isn’t always guaranteed.
So if you want to take a dedicated to trip and try to nab yourself a version of that perfect whale tail splash photo, where should you go? Below are four prime locations for spotting a variety of whale species, which cater for various different destination preferences. Whether you want to bask in the sun on deck, wrap up warm with a backdrop of snow covered mountains or catch sight of these beautiful mammals without leaving the UK, there’s a whale watching hot spot for you.
Species: humpback whales, sperm whales, pilot whales, occasional orca sightings, bottlenose dolphins, spotted dolphins and more.
The Caribbean offers a paradise for whale and other wildlife watching. White sandy beaches and clear blue water is ideal for spotting whales and dolphins, plus the climate is perfect for lounging in the sun while you wait for the sea life to show up.
Humpback whales come to the Caribbean, particularly the Dominican Republic, during winter to mate and raise their calves. This makes February to April the best time to visit for humpback sightings. There are about a dozen resident sperm whales near the island of Dominica so you have a good chance of seeing sperm whales there. Dominica is also known for being one of the most beautiful and unspoilt Caribbean islands; with lots of rare animal and plant life to look out for on the land as well as in the surrounding ocean.
Species: orca whales, humpback whales, beluga whales and more.
The northern most US state of Alaska is a beautiful, ice covered wonderland which thrives in large part on a long established fishing industry – sea food is the main export from Alaska and apart from the salmon, cod and pollock – and home to some of the world’s finest fishing. There are also some bigger mammals to see off the coast. Alaska is one of the best destinations to spot orca whales; also known as “killer whales”, orcas can be seen during the summer months along with humpback and minke whales.
Even in the summer you’re unlikely to be too warm in Alaska, so this isn’t the place to go if you’re looking to combine whale watching with a relaxing beach holiday. However, there is fantastic skiing available at the Alyeska resort near Anchorage, so winter sports fans might get a double whammy of holiday fun by choosing Alaska as their whale watching destination.
Species: orca whales, sperm whales, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, dusky dolphins and more.
The best place to spot whales in New Zealand is Kaikoura, a small town off the eastern coast of the South Island. The island is absolutely beautiful and there is a lot to do there beyond whale watching, so it’s a top destination if you want to explore New Zealand generally. You can do sea kayaking, scuba diving on the coral reef and other classic holiday activities like wine tasting. Kaikoura is also in easy reach of Christchurch, Blenheim and Picton – handy for ferries if you want to visit the North Island after your whale watching trip.
The best time to see orcas in Kaikoura is between December and March, whereas humpbacks are around in June and July. You can see various species of dolphin all year round so whether you want to visit in the summer or winter you’ll always have the chance to do some really memorable whale watching and see lots of other impressive wildlife too.
Species: humpback whales, minke whales, pilot whales, sperm whales and some dolphins.
You might not have realised that whale watching is also available much closer to home, so if you want to spot some beautiful sea life without venturing beyond our own shores you have a few options. Whale sightings have been reported off the coasts of Cornwall, Northumberland and Wales, and schools of common dolphins can be seen off the coast of Pembrokeshire in the summer months. But for the highest chance of seeing whales and dolphins you’re best heading north to Scotland.
The Shetland Islands are the place to go for potential orca sightings between May and July, as well as minke whales, harbour porpoises and various dolphin species. Humpback whales also make an appearance between May and September. The Hebrides and the Isle of Skye are also right in the migration path of many whale species, and you can see humpbacks and orcas during the summer months if you are lucky or very dedicated (or possibly both!). You can also see sei, sperm and fin whales while enjoying the spectacular Scottish landscape from your boat.
You’ll never forget the first time you see a whale in its natural habitat so make sure you pack a camera and wrap up warm if you are heading somewhere cold because it may take a little patience to finally get that magical sighting.