Where are the Whales?
Recent sightings in Monterey Bay
Sightings in the Channel Islands
Worldwide whale watch on the web
I usually try to see them on their Northward migration and Not without risk I use an intercept technique to paddle among whales.
From March to May I look for an overcast, calm day in between storms. I avoid stormy or windy conditions.
Where to see California Gray Whales
1. Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.
I paddle out but stay close to shore as I look for sprouts to the South and then intersect their route to the mouth of Drake's Estero. The sea boils here as they feed in very shallow water usually just beyond the surf break. Once you're on the water look for disturbed water.
They usually have their calves with them so don't get between them and their calves or this might happen I don't recommend chasing whales. Just let them pass peacefully underneath you.
You can tell the difference between mother and calf as the calf will have no barnacles on it's skin whereas the adults will have many barnacles distinguishing the individual whales.
2. Map of Laguna Manuela
Every year I like to go to Laguna Manuela which is about 450 miles South of the US border near the town of Guerrero Negro to see the start of the North Migration. The intersect technique of whale watching works perfecf here. This is a great spot to sea kayak and to beachcomb. The shifting sand dunes reveal many treasures. Many complete marine mammal skeltons are uncovered each year.
3. Pt. Cabrillo Whale Festival
Another great spot to see the whales is the Pt. Cabrillo Lighthouse whale festival. It's an awesome experience. Lots of great people and family fun. Usually held for 2 weekends in March
"Mendo," is always a world class sea kayaking destination.
How to see the Whales
Look for spray against the horizon. The cooler the weather the more you can see the condensation their warm moist breathe make. When you see a whale spout you'll probably see others shortly. Whales seem to make 4-8 short 1 minute dives before going on a deeper dive up to 5-6 minutes underwater. If you see the tail/fluke out of water it's going for a deep dive.
A spectacular sight is a whale breaching, jumping out of the water and falling back in with a big splash.
Once I saw several whales breaching off Tomales Point I investigated and saw 2 orcas feeding on a dead whale. I think the whales were trying to scare off the orcas but I didn't get too close. Experts believe the breaching is an attempt to lose parasites. When I saw them I think they were trying to scare off the killer whales.
If you see a whale breaching usually you see many more breaching before it's over.
Gray whale tutorial
On their Southward migration they seem to swim further offshore.
2000 was a rough year on the Gray Whales;
2000 The year of the dying Gray Whales
I documented 7 dead Gray whales washed up on the beaches between Pt. Bonita and Horseshoe Cove. 59 whales were counted by others washed up inside SF Bay
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copyright Storm Steiger 2000
created November 2001