People from all over the world visit San Diego. After all, with a perfect stretch of Southern California’s coastline, there is plenty of sun and sand all throughout the year. However, with all that San Diego has to offer, humans are not the only ones who like to visit the area. In fact, San Diego is also a popular destination for one of the most distinctive animals in the world.
Gray whales live in the Pacific Ocean and spend most of the year near Alaska. However, during the winter, these massive mammals make the journey down the coast for the warm waters near Baja California. Once in these warm waters, the gray whales often birth calves and see their numbers grow before taking the young back north. This yearly migration takes them right by San Diego, giving guests a unique opportunity to see these impressive animals in their natural habitat.
The migration of gray whales occurs anywhere between December and April, which encompasses their round trip. However, the best month to catch a glimpse of these marine giants is definitely January, which is the time when the vast majority of the whales pass through the area on their way south. Most gray whales move in small pods of two or three, which gives visitors a number of chances to see groups passing along the Southern California coast. Larger groups sometimes opt to make the long trip together, which can make for a magnificent display for watchers. Therefore, for those who are looking for the best opportunity to whale watch, be sure to try whale watching this January in San Diego.
1. Cabrillo National Monument. This park is one of San Diego’s finest attractions for a number of reasons, but in the winter, it is the view from Point Loma peninsula that truly shines. From Point Loma, guests have a spectacular panoramic view of the water, which is perfect for spotting whales. Better still, the park has a recently renovated observatory to provide a better whale watching experience. This observatory is made of glass so as not to obscure the full view of the water. There are also a variety of whale-related exhibits to educate visitors, and guests can listen to a taped narration for additional information. Rangers are also on hand to answer questions and point out things guests may miss.
2. Birch Aquarium. The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is dedicated to the preservation of marine life in Southern California. Therefore, it is no surprise that the aquarium celebrates whales in the winter months. During this time, there are a number of exhibits and activities about whales for guests to consider. However, the aquarium also has a great vantage point overlooking the water. Guests can visit the aquarium and hang out in the outdoor tide-pool plaza. From here, guests can not only see the impressive tiny lifeforms in each tide-pool, but they can look out across the water to see whales on their migration. The Birch Aquarium has various events and guided tours available for a more structured experience.
3. Whale Festival. Although the entire month of January is fantastic for whale watching, there is no better opportunity than the Whale Festival. The Whale Festival is a fairly new event, hosted at the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier in San Diego. Here, guests can partake in any number of activities to celebrate these massive seafaring mammals. Of the numerous attractions, the walk-through whale is always very popular, offering guests a unique look at the impressive anatomy of a gray whale. There are other educational exhibits on hand in addition to a number of fun-filled activities. This includes face painting, bounce houses, a trackless train and a mural coloring project. There is even live music and dancing. Plus, the museums along the waterfront are open at discounted prices, and local boat tours also provide services at reduced rates during the festival.
4. Boat tours. While there are plenty of opportunities on the coast, some of the best whale watching experiences are on the water. A boat tour is a great way to see these creatures up close, offering guests a unique experience with these awesome mammals. There are a number of privately owned tour companies in San Diego, each with its own tour schedule. These tours are often hosted by knowledgeable guides, providing guests with information while on the tour. While there is no guarantee of spotting whales during any tour, these companies are well informed regarding the migration habits of the animals and will often pick their course to offer guests the best possible chance of seeing whales. These tours are also great for seeing the San Diego coastline, making them a wonderful opportunity in the winter months.
5. Kayak tours. Like boat tours, kayaking tours give guests a closer view of the whales. However, kayaking gets guests even closer to the water, which is why kayakers sometimes have the most intense encounters with whales during their migration. While anyone can rent a kayak and take to the open water, going on a guided kayak tour can be a good way to find the hotspots for whales. These kayak tours are often led by skilled kayakers and whale experts, which promotes safety and allows guests to learn about whales and their migration during their tour. Be sure to bring a waterproof camera during such a trip, because some of the encounters are well worth capturing for posterity. Kayak tours require more physical fitness than other whale watching opportunities, although the experience is often the most intimate.
Whether by sea or by land, whale watching is a fantastic experience for people of all ages. Guests will enjoy their first glimpse of the gray whales in their natural habitat, but it is also a wonderful activity to experience time and again. Therefore, consider the options and be sure to try whale watching this coming January in San Diego.
- Whale pod feeding frenzies caught on camera (cbs8.com)
- Top 12 Things to Do in San Diego in January 2014 (hmghotelsblog.com)
- Should SeaWorld Free the Killer Whales (crossfire.blogs.cnn.com)