The magnificence of a whale is unparalleled. Their intimidating size is coupled with a rather contrasting set of qualities- they are intelligent, instinctive and overall, mostly harmless. I have always been a huge fan of the porpoise family. Their communication, movement and demeanor is fascinating to me. And I am hardly the only one. People around the world have spent hours observing (mostly on the internet) and learning more about these majestic marine animals. However, for an ardent fan like me, while the views of a whale on the internet are cherished, there is always a yearning to see one live. If your wishes align with my own, here are the locations where you can enjoy the live company of a whale.
Note: While it is undoubtedly a stunning sight, we request everyone to be respectful of laws as well as the treatment of animals while on a sighting.
Found in every ocean in the world, these whales are recognised by their large pectoral fins, light coloured bellies and dark upper body. These intelligent creatures are known to communicate through a series of sounds, often referred to as music. Some of the best locations to view humpback whale in their prime element is Reyjavik and Husavik in Iceland, Baja California Sur in Mexico, Pacific coast in Columbia or Maui in Hawaii. Pacific coast, in particular, is a hotspot as it is a breeding ground (well, not literally) for whales from both the southern and northern hemisphere. They are abundant enough that one can spot them right from the beach or engage further with a short trip in a boat. Another comparable experience can be found in Husavik in Iceland, which is a prominent feeding ground. Maui also offer spectacular views of these whales in the early months of the year (January to April).
The largest of them all, a peak at the Blue Whales is a coveted sight. An astonishing length of up to 100 feet and weighing around 200 tons, they are the largest animals known on earth. These baleen whales (whales that have fringed palates) have a blue-gray back and yellowish belly. Sri Lanka, Azores in Portugal, Iceland and Mexico are known to have the best sightings of these behemoths. Sri Lanka is a reliable option where the chances of spotting a Blue whale is very high. January to April is the ideal time period to go spotting. The Azores in Portugal are also another location to count on. In fact, the location offers views of a multitude of whales. Or instead visit the waters at Baja California in Mexico to try your luck.
Arguably the cutest of the lot, Beluga whales have a face that seems to always be smiling. It is hardly possible to not like these admirable creatures. Friendly and social, these white whales also have an identifiable bulging forehead that adds to the charm. Interestingly, these creatures have a flexible neck that turns in all directions. The best place to turn heads (of these whales) is Canada. Manitoba and Quebec are worth your bets. Hudson Bay coastline is known to have the highest concentration of Belugas where they come together in large numbers in the months of summer. Quebec consists of a marine park that supports 1,600 species, with a significant population of belugas.
While other whales may present themselves within view quickly, the elusive Minke whales are unpredictable. At times they may be far away and suddenly appear right next to your boat. One of the smallest of the baleen whales, these creatures are playful and curious. They have blue-black bodies with often white on their flippers. These whales are commonly found in the Antarctica, Greenland and Scotland. Scotland is known to have many local whale watching tours to spot Minke whales.
The smart kids on the block, Sperm whales are known to have the largest brains of any creature in the world. Their large heads and round foreheads are easy identifiers in the oceans. Seen together in pods, these whales migrate to the equator for breeding season. They are also intelligent creatures that use echolocation to spot and target prey. Kaikoura in New Zealand, the Azores in Portugal, Andenes in Norway and the Canary Islands in Spain are popular hotspots. Out of these, Kaikoura in New Zealand is the safest bet due to the sustainable habitat for sperm whales in the deep fjords. Norway and New Zealand house male sperm whales all year round.
Fun Fact: If you were searching for Killer Whales on this list, you may be mistaken. Killer whales are a part of the dolphin species and are not actually whales.