What is Whale Watching?
Whale watching is a unique activity where spectators watch whales from the deck of a boat while they are undisturbed in their natural habitat. Whale watching accentuates the beauty of these miraculous creatures and reminds humans that these animals need to be treated well.
Where can you whale watch?
Whale watching is an extremely common activity throughout coastal areas as there is easy access to the ocean. Within New England, there are a variety of whale watching tours which are all listed on the New England Whale Watch Tours website.
In early May I was fortunate enough to go whale watching as a field trip in my marine biology class. My tour was based in Plymouth, in Cape Cod Bay and part of Stellwagen Bank, a marine sanctuary. We were able to see a variety of animals! See below.
When should you go?
According to Whale Watching Boston, the best times to go whale watching are May, June, July, August, September, and October. Each summer the whales migrate to Massachusetts, but return to warmer waters when winter arrives.
What can you expect to see?
I wanted to include a list from Taj Boston because it covers the most frequent sightings on whale watches:
Atlantic white-sided dolphin (quite common in Spring and Fall, but less abundant in the Summer), common minke whale, finback whale (the second largest animal, after the Blue whale, to ever exist), harbour porpoise, and the humpback whale (the most common whale in Massachusetts).
If you get lucky, you might just see one of these uncommon cetaceans: long-finned pilot whale, North Atlantic right whale (there are only an estimated 524 right whales left but have been showing up in Massachusetts Bay more often), risso’s dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin, short-finned pilot whale
These whales and dolphins are very rare but have been seen on occasion: atlantic spotted dolphin, common bottlenose dolphin, Orca whale (these fan favorites make an occasional appearance in New England during the Summer months), sperm whale (these whales were once common in Massachusetts), striped dolphin, and the white-beaked dolphin.
As you can see there are a HUGE variety of animals that can be seen on any tour. Tours like New England Aquariam Whale Watch even offer free tickets for the future if there are no animals seen, so it is garunteed that at some point you will see some action! On my tour, I was able to see several animals including birds, humpback whales, seals, right whales, fin whales, minke whales, and white-sided dolphins.
What should you bring?
CAMERA: As a photographer this was a MUST for me, but you will want to take photos of all of the animals that you see.
SNEAKERS: Depending on the conditions, the boat may hit a few waves causing the deck to be pretty slippery. It is a good idea to bring rubber-soled shoes to avoid any falls while on board.
BINOCULARS: If you want to see close-ups of each animal, I highly recommend bringing binoculars. They are portable and easy to use, especially when on a whale watch!
CLOTHES: Yes, I know it may sound strange, but the temperature out at sea can be drastically different from that on land. When I went whale watching it was a decently nice day (around 55°), but once we were at sea it was freezing!! Bring a jacket or sweatshirt to layer up once you reach the colder conditions. Additionally, if you plan on standing on the outside of the boat, there is a chance that you will get wet from the waves! Bringing extra clothes is a great idea when whale watching.
SNACKS & WATER: Usually the boats have both snacks and restrooms, but it can never hurt to bring some food and water just in case!
SUNSCREEN: The sun is hitting you directly when out at sea, so make sure to protect yourself! Applying sunscreen throughout the tour will keep your skin safe.
MEDICINE: Unfortunately it is common to become sea-sick on board. If the conditions are extremely wavy, there is a higher chance that one can become a little nauseous. Personally, I have never been one to get sea-sick, but during my tour, the conditions were extremely wavy and I got pretty dizzy by the end. If you are prone to sea-sickness I would recommend checking the conditions before to make sure that you can fully enjoy the experience. Bringing some medicine is a good idea in order to avoid potential drowsiness.
Go Find The Whales…
Whale watching is truly a breathtaking experience because naturally, humans do not get to interact with whales often. Each tour will show different types of wildlife, but no matter what you see you will be astonished. Explore the New England Whale Watch Tours website to find what tour is suitable for you!