Joshua Horwitz is the author of War Of The Whales, just published by Simon & Schuster, that narrates the battle between conservationists and the U.S. military over the use of high-intensity sonar in whale habitats.
During the seven years I spent researching and writing War of the Whales, I travelled around the world to interview whale researchers, U.S. Navy dolphin trainers, and environmental activists – and of course, to see the whales themselves first-hand. As the life stories of the characters in my book demonstrate, watching whales up close in their natural habitats is a truly transformative experience.
But you don’t have to travel the world to enjoy fabulous whale watching. The US coastal waters feature some of the most dramatic cetacean sights to be found anywhere.
Here are five top-rated whale-watching tours that are hard to beat:
Cape Ann Whale Watch
415 Main St
Gloucester, MA 01930
Named one of the “Top 5 Whale Watching Destinations in the World” by the World Wildlife Fund, Cape Ann Whale Watch runs tours April-October. Located near the feeding grounds at Stellwagen Bank, they guarantee whale sightings on every tour. Their guide’s knowledgeable narration, set against beautiful scenery and the breaching of humpback, sperm, sei, pilot and (occasionally) blue whales, easily makes this one of the most comprehensive tours out there.
Cap’n Fish’s Whale Watch
42 Commercial St
Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538
Family-owned for three generations, Cap’n Fish’s Whale Watch boasts the fastest boats, the latest whale-tracking technology, and the best on-board naturalists in Maine. Having been in Boothebay the longest, the captains of the boats are experts at sighting and maximizing time spent with the whales. Operating May-October, Cap’n Fish is a great choice for their experience and water-smarts – and if you want to relax with whales along the beautiful Maine coastline, they’re hard to beat.
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Monterey Bay Whale Watch
84 Fishermans Wharf #1
Monterey, CA 93940
There are many whale-watching operations in Monterey Bay, but few can claim to be owned by marine biologists. The tours at Monterey Bay Whale Watch focus on learning about the whales and their environment, as well as conserving their habitat and being respectful towards them as living beings – the same of which cannot be said for many other local companies. Monterey Bay Whale Watch leaves you with an intensely deep respect and love for the animals you (almost certainly) observe.
Wild Side Specialty Tours
85371 Farrington Hwy
Oahu, HI 96792
Wild Side Specialty Tours offers year round whale watching tours, guided snorkeling, and the potential for swimming with wild dolphins. Tours are intimate (6-10 passengers) in order to maximize the time spent with marine life. Another benefit is the climate – the water is warm and clear, so seeing – and swimming with – the marine life is easy and enjoyable. An award-winning company, Wild Side Specialty Tours combines whale, turtle, seal and other marine life sightings with a mixture of rich history and scientific fact.
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495 S Franklin St
Juneau, AK 99801
Due toe the krill rich ocean waters, Juneau is an important summer feeding ground for hungry humpback whales, and although orcas are generally nomadic, it’s not uncommon to see them in the Juneau area feeding on sea lions and salmon. With decades of experience, Orca Enterprises sets the bar high for Alaskan whale watching.
Tip for choosing your whale-watching adventure:
Perhaps the best resource for browsing of whale-watching tours is the consumer-review site Planet Whale, where you can browse trips by country, by whale species, and by time of year. Keep in mind that most whale populations are “transient” rather than “resident”, so for instance, the humpbacks that mate during the winter off the coast of Maui are best viewed during in the summer in their feeding grounds off Alaska. Planet Whale also emphasizes environmentally sustainable whale-tours, which is, after all, the priority when watching whales in their natural habitats.