If you’ve ever read your ‘Origin of Species’ you’ll know that our distant ancestors emerged from the primordial ooze gazillions of years ago and that is perhaps why so many of us have this strange affinity to the sea and some of the animals that inhabit it. Dolphins and whales are a prime example of this fascination with whales in particular exerting a strange attraction — whether it be for their sheer bulk or just their combination of grace and gentleness. I have enjoyed the good fortune of witnessing various species of whales relatively close up in places like the Azores, Tenerife and South Africa. There are literally dozens (if not hundreds of locations around the globe where you can experience these leviathans of the deep in relative proximity but here are my top five destinations if you want to try and get up close and personal:
Alaska offers a grand whale watching opportunity, as around 20,000 grey whales from California travel along the coast of south-east Alaska on their way to their summer feeding grounds. Whales migrate through this region, year after year, and especially to Point Adolphus, part of Glacier Bay National Park, Chatham Strait and Alaska’s highly famed Inside passage to the south. Summer is the ideal time to visit the region. Cruising along the area often offer excellent whale sightings. Two decent whale-viewing lodges in the state are The Lodge at Whale Pass in Ketchikan and favorite Bay Lodge in Angoon. The Lodge at Whale pass, as evident from the name offers excellent viewing of several species of whales. At Favorite Bay, humpbacks, orcas and porpoises are spotted.
Norway ranks as one of the best places to catch the sight of killer whales. The legendary Lofoten Islands, an archipelago above the Arctic Circle is the best place for sighting the whales. The nutrient-enriched deep waters of the location guarantee sure sighting of whales but you need to make an hour long boat trip, traveling six nautical miles offshore, to reach the destination. Late October to mid-January is the ideal time to visit the place, when the whales track shoals of Atlantic herring.
South Africa boasts quite an extended whale route, stretching around 1,200 miles from Cape Town to Durban. You can spot an array of species of whale and dolphins in this water and the great thing is that the animals are often found near the shore. Hermanus is the best land-based centre and the whale season stretches from June to September. The annual Hermanus Whale festival is famous worldwide. The place also offers wonderful walking and hiking opportunities. You can view whole extended families of whales including their cubs, frolicking a mere 50 or so metres off shore where they can be viewed from the high cliffs that overlook the area and which are located in the centre of Hermanus.
Vancouver Island offer some superb whale viewing opportunities, as 20,000 grey whales migrate from their winter shelter off the Mexican Baja Peninsula to their summer refuge, pass the west coast of Vancouver Island. Humpback and Minke whales are commonly sighted at this location however, the most treasured sightings are of the orca or killer whale. You can also view the whales with a guide from the King Pacific Lodge.
Enjoy excellent whale-watching trips on wonderfully restored fishing vessels in north-east Iceland. Minke whales and white-beaked dolphins are commonly seen in the region and you can also catch rare views of humpback and blue whales. The Husavik’s amazing Whale Museum located by the port is worth visiting. Unique in its own way, the museum showcases the cetacean species found in Iceland along with whale skeletons.