Best whale watching adventures: 6 exciting whale trips worldwide

Mar 06, 2020 BY Paul McWilliams

If you really want to experience the best whale watching adventures on the planet then it’s not just about catching a fleeting glimpse. The most exciting whale trips worldwide offer something a little bit more special.

Best whale watching adventures 6 exciting whale trips worldwide royalty free image from pxhere

It can be about getting up close and personal in the water. Or seeing whales play from an inflatable rib. Or visiting those parts of the world that other people rarely get to see.

Exciting whale trips worldwide

  • Azores: Scuba diving with blue whales
  • South Africa: Experience the Sardine Run
  • San Diego: Humpback, fin, orca, grey and blue whales from a rib
  • British Columbia: Kayak with killer whales
  • Antarctica: Adventure to see minke, orca, sperm and humpback
  • Dominican Republic: Luxury whale watching on a super-yacht
Killer whales on the Best whale watching adventures 6 exciting whale trips worldwide

6 best whale watching adventures

With this in mind, we have compiled this list of the six most exciting whale adventures worldwide. On these trips you’ll get a real understanding of how whales interact with each other and the world around them. All are truly unique and once in a lifetime experiences. 

Whale diving in the Azores

What do you get if you combine the paradise landscape of the volcanic Azores with the opportunity to actually be in the water with a blue whale? One of the world’s best whale watching adventures. That’s what. 

Pico Island in the Azores is one of the few places in the world where you can see whales both above and below the water. The sheer quantity of whales around the archipelago is what makes it so special. 

The Azores are found around 850 miles to the west of the Portuguese mainland in the mid-Atlantic. This group of nine volcanic islands are known for their dramatic landscapes and emerald green patchwork fields. But it’s in the blue waters around the islands where some of nature’s most spectacular creations can be found. 

blue whale NOAA public domain image from GoodFreePhotos

You can fly to the Azores from Portugal in around three hours. Whale watching spots are located within a 30-minute journey from Pico airport.

Diving tours are held between March and November on a daily basis. In the spring you can be in the water with blue, fin and humpback whales, with visibility good on most days during the diving season. 

The Sardine Run

It’s one thing to see whales in the water, it’s another experience altogether to see them feeding. And there is no better place to do this than along the coast of South Africa during the sardine season. 

At this time of year, usually between May and June, billions of sardines spawn in the cool waters off the coast in the Agulhas Bank. This creates a feeding frenzy as it travels up the eastern continental coast towards Mozambique.

Sardine run in South Africa one of the best whale watching adventures Flickr CC image by majiedqasem

The sardine run is thought to be one of the largest biomass migrations in the world, the shoals can be up to seven kilometres long and are clearly visible from the air. So, it’s no surprise that this also attracts larger animals on the hunt for food.

Dolphins, sharks, whales and other predators follow the shoals, waiting for their moment to strike. For decades, whale watchers would row out from the shore in wooden boats and watch this frenzy take place. And while these days the vessels are much better equipped, the spectacle is just as impressive.

Rib whale watching in San Diego

A rigid inflatable boat, better known as a rib, is used by navies around the world conducting fast paced and close quarters operations. These boats are fast and agile, which also makes them ideal for getting as close as possible to whales.

The low profile of the boats lets you get into the middle of the pods. Plus you cover more ground, giving you the best possible chance of getting up close and personal.

Rib whale watching in San Diego is one of the exciting whale trips worldwide Image courtesy of Adventure RIB Rides

Escape the crowds gathering on larger vessels which are forced to stay at a greater distance. Instead get a personalised tour and a thrilling ride around San Diego bay. Check out Adventure R.I.B. Rides Whale Watching for the best experience.

As well as sea lions, harbour seals and dolphins this is also the best vantage point for seeing the whales in the bay. Sightings of humpbacks, fin and orcas are all common. And the grey and blue whales both migrate through these waters.

Kayaking with whales

For an even closer experience head to British Columbia in Canada and jump in a kayak. Now we don’t recommend you literally jump, although it can give you quite a fright if a whale breaches a few metres from your kayak!

How about a six day Johnstone Strait whale watching kayak expedition? This and other options are available through Spirit of the West Adventures. With over 200 whales permanently living in the area you are guaranteed sightings.

Wilderness Kayaking Holidays: Image courtesy of Spirit of the West Adventures

On most trips there are close encounters. Furthermore you may also see minke whales, dolphins and sea lions. These trips are about getting into the wild under your own steam on one of the most exciting whale trips worldwide.

Antarctic adventures

Sometimes a whale watching adventure is not just about the incredible animals but the location where you see them. And if you really want a unique spotting experience, then head to the most remote part of the planet. 

Antarctica offers an incredible opportunity to see whales against one of the most breathtaking backdrops imaginable. This more or less untouched continent is complete with towering blue icebergs, vast mountains and swirling black seas. 

It’s hard to imagine that any living creature could thrive here. But various whale species, including the minke, orcas, sperm and humpback can be found in large numbers from October through to March.

iceberg in Antarctica pixabay royalty free image

They come to feed in the nutrient rich Southern Ocean. Before heading to warmer northern waters to breed during the summer months.

You can see pods of humpbacks or solitary blue whales, with full breaches a regular site. The whale heaves up to two thirds of its enormous body out of the water before crashing back down again. One of the greatest whale watching adventures on the planet. 

Dominican Republic luxury

Every spring, hundreds of humpback whales pass through the Silver Bank area off the coast of the Dominican Republic. It’s one of the best-known calving and breeding spots on the planet. And it just happens to be off one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean.  

Calves are around four metres long and will live on average to be 80 to 90 years old. As they breed, you’ll hear the whales calling to each other through the water – an unforgettable experience.

super-yacht TIARA whale watching expedition Dominican Republic

This is the single largest population of humpbacks anywhere in the North Atlantic Ocean. And if you want to be there to see these fabled ‘acrobats of the sea’ then why not do it in ultimate style? 

Enjoy a five-day luxury whale watching sailing holiday heading out to the Silver Banks to the north of the mainland. Traverse the area, following the whales and gaining an understanding of their habits and patterns. 

There will also be a chance to cruise along the stunning Dominican coastline before returning to port. Whale watching on the super-yacht TIARA, in one of the most beautiful places on earth. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Are these the best whale watching adventures on the planet? We think they’re hard to beat. But let us know in the comments if you think you have other contenders and perhaps we will add them.

We hope you found these exciting whale trips worldwide and inspiration. For a different marine experience check out the best places to scuba dive with whale sharks.


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