The Monterey Coast, just 2.5 hours drive from San Francisco is the home of several types of marine wildlife from sea lions to sea otters. The area from the San Francisco Bay to Monterey Coast is now part of the National Marine Wildlife Sanctuary, a designated place where marine wildlife can live freely, protected and studied constantly by zoologists, naturalists and marine biologists. The Monterey Coast is a particularly special place because it has a very important and rather huge inhabitants that fascinates people from all walks of life. This very special inhabitants are whales – large, magnificent creatures that migrates here all year around. This would explain why whale watching is such a popular past-time in the Monterey Coast.
This is my second time whale watching in Monterey and I have to say this particular trip is better that the first. Though I saw whales here on my first trip, the second trip brought us to this large creatures seriously close surprising every passenger on the boat including a large group of 5th grade students. Around this time of year (late winter to early spring) the whales you’ll see at Monterey Bay are humpback whales. To my surprise we found about six or seven of them, the first 20 minutes from sailing from the docks and out from the bay. The whales that we saw were about six to eight years old according to the marine biologist onboard, and there were no “adult” whales present. The whales were quite playful even during feeding time. In the later part of the year, most people will mostly see gray whales around here instead.
Tips on Whale Watching:
Book your trip in advance – making reservations is the best way to ensure you have a spot on the boat. There are many whale watching companies in Monterey, however depending in their size of their boat, they can only accommodate a certain amount of people. This is a very popular thing to do in Monterey so book you tickets in advance.
Bring your camera – If you have a “serious” camera like a DSLR, bring it with you. If you have a telephoto zoom lens, all the better, use that instead because you’ll never know how far you’ll find the whales. The boat cannot get too close to this animals so not to scare them away. They are protected species in these parts. But if you only have a point and shoot camera that works too. Anything better than a camera phone is always ideal.
Wear layers – Even in the summer, the waters of the Monterey Coast can get chilly, especially when the boat start heading away from the coast. So be sure to bring or wear layers especially if you have waterproof ones to avoid water splashing on you.
Try to get to the upper deck of the boat – if the whale watching company allows you to be at the upper decks of the boat (if they have any) try to get access to it. That way you can see the whales in almost every angles.
Come early – there is no assigned seating on the boat but if you want to best spot for whale watching, come early so you can get in front of the line.
It is very, very rare to see whales swimming in the San Francisco Bay. So for a totally different experience in Northern California, I recommend driving 2.5 hours south in Monterey County to see these magnificent mammals. It is a sight you do not see every day.