Bella Vida by Letty

New England Whale Watching Tips

I’ve been away having secret adventures which means a brand new series of posts featuring all the fun, wacky and weird experiences I had while road tripping in the grand state of Massachusetts.  I have so much to share with you.  I’m excited to get started.

Whale Watching Collage

I’ve always wanted to see whales up close and I know this is something that is on many people’s travel bucket list.  If you get the chance you should absolutely go.  This is an activity suitable for all ages who enjoy spending hours on the ocean close to nature.  I had an amazing whale watching experience in Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts.  Thanks to the Plymouth County Development Council, Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism for all of their helpful staff, tips and help organizing this trip.

The company I sailed with is Captain John Whale Watching & Fishing Tours of Plymouth. Located on the Town Wharf in the heart of historic Plymouth it’s very easy to find. The company offers whale watching excursions, deep sea fishing trips and private group charters.  There is public parking conveniently located within walking distance.  Just don’t forget to feed the meter.  We saw so much wildlife our trip ran long, not that anyone was in a rush to get back.

There were so many people in the group that day we sailed out in two vessels.  All of the boats help and alert each other to sightings so the more eyes the better.  The large two level vessels sailed out of Plymouth Harbor and into Plymouth Bay.  We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect afternoon which is pretty amazing considering July is rainy season.  The sun was shining brightly and the flat waters were like glass reflecting big fluffy clouds.  We found several groups of humpback whales that day including two mothers with calves.  I believe we saw somewhere around 11 whales, a group of seals and several migratory flocks of birds. My one word summary = amazing.

These are my tips to prepare you to have a great time on your next whale watching adventures.  My experience was in New England and while most of the advice works for other locations I would recommend checking your local tour guides website for specific tips.

Did you know World Wildlife Fund ranks Massachusetts as one of the top 10 whale watching spots in the world? 

The best time for whale watching in Massachusetts is during their feeding season which runs from April to October.  The weather and location provide premium feeding locations for a variety of whale species.  Later when the cold weather arrives the whales relocate to warmer weather to mate and give birth.

First things first: Prepare if you suffer motion sickness

If you get seasick be sure to take any motion sickness medication half an hour before boarding.  Thankfully I do not get seasick but friends who do have told me the wrist bands do not work as well as over the counter medications.  Some boats may have some on board but some do not.  I would go prepared ahead of time.

Dress for the experience

Whales are huge creatures therefore found in very deep waters.  In order to reach those deep waters your boat captain may have to drive an hour or more into the ocean.  We were lucky to experience our first encounter only 7 miles out.  As you can imagine everyone was excited and enthusiastic about what we would see as we continued deeper into the ocean to Stellwagen Bank.  The temperature out on the ocean can be anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the dock you sailed out of.  I recommend dressing in layers, wearing jeans, sneakers, a hat, sunglasses, a scarf and towel if you have the space.

Sunscreen

Even on cloudy days the sun will have an effect on your skin.  Protect yourself from sun damage and use sunscreen.  I managed to get a nice tan since it was such a gorgeous day I never wanted to leave the top deck.

Water and Snacks

Expect to be out on the water for at least four hours.  Check to see if your boat provides snacks and water and what their rules are regarding bringing a picnic.  We left after lunch so all we purchased was water to remain hydrated and some tasty chocolate chip muffins as a snack on our trip.

Whale Watching Collage

Choosing a Tour

I travel to learn as well as be entertained.  Our boat had a naturalist on board who entertained us with her extensive knowledge.  She identified different birds and sea life.  We saw some seals from far away.  She also talked to us about whale behavior and migration patterns.  Best of all she was even able to identify the whales we saw by name because of the particular markings on their tails.  I found her love for the ocean and it’s creatures contagious and made me want to know more.  She even keeps a blog documenting all of her finds and trips which is a pretty amazing read.  You can find it here.

Photography: Step Away From the Camera

Yes, most of the time okay always everywhere I go you will find me snapping away with a camera.  One tip I can give you is to remember to put it down and view this incredible experience with your own two eyes instead of worrying about getting the perfect shot.  In this case your subject is wild and unpredictable.  In addition the boat will be maneuvering around to get the best views and everyone will crowd together to block your view.  Make sure to live and take in this miraculous moment where you are face to face with one the planets most magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.  It is a beautiful experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

I watched two sets of humpback whale mothers diving for dinner with their calves.  They were large yet incredibly graceful.  I felt very at peace watching them.  I also witnessed several separate groups of humpback whales socializing, spouting and diving.  We were even close enough to hear the sounds they made while clearing their spouts.  It was amazing.

Whale Conservation

It is beautiful to go into the ocean to peacefully visit some of the largest creatures on Earth.  It is all of our responsibility to care for this planet.  Whales were heavily hunted until the 1970’s and even though there are many laws and restrictions whales are very slowly rebounding.  Simple things you can do to help are donate to whale conservation agencies, volunteer and the easiest one of all do not throw garbage into any body of water.

This was my first whale watching excursion and it is something I will definitely do again.  Have you been whale watching?

Sponsored post, enthusiastic opinions mine.

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