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Ocean Life

There are many places where whales, dolphins, whale sharks, stingrays etc. can be seen by a guided boat tour, a snorkel trip or even from the costal line.

Ningaloo Reef is most famous for swimming with whale sharks and manta rays. Since 2016 humpback whale tours are also offered from Exmouth. April, July, and late September are the busiest months because of Australian holidays. Continue reading to figure out the best time for your visit to Exmouth.

Seasons | Whale Sharks - Humpback Whales - Manta Rays

The more than 260 km long Ningaloo Reef is an excellent destination for whale sharks and humpback whale interactions. The season starts late March and lasts until October. You always wanted to snorkel with a whale shark, seeing it close and passing by? Then April until July is your preferred time to travel to Exmouth. Coming up close to humpbacks even with a calf August to October are the best months for interactions.

Whale Sharks

Whale Shark

They arrive around mid-March depending on the full moon and stay for feeding until July and some until August. There are even sightings in September and October possible, but it's not any longer guaranteed. The highest chance for interactions and swimming with them is from April to July. The whale sharks are annually close to the reef at this time of the year. The water temperature is pleasant after the summer heat. The reason for the whale sharks coming to Ningaloo is the release of millions of eggs and sperm by the corals, which always happens roughly a  week after the full moon in March. Masses of krill are swarming to feed on the spawn that provides a feast for the whale sharks. 200 to 400 whale sharks mostly juveniles come for feeding to  Ningaloo each year. Whereas 2019 was different; very few sightings already in August but again in October.

Humpback Whales

Humpback mother and calf

Tours are offered from August to October. One of the largest population migrates from the feeding grounds in Antarctica to their calving grounds in the Kimberley region. Safety always first, but if it is possible, you may experience a truly unique interaction with these magnificent whales. We booked the humpback tour for two days in September, and both days were exceptional. Words cannot describe this mind-blowing days out on the sea. This massive big whales came up close, just below and the baby was watching us. One circled us twice; These were the best whale trips we ever did in our entire life. Humpbacks are peaceful, curious, and often coming up close. The water temp was really cold in the deep sea below 20°C.

Usually, the very best month of the year is August, where you may spot whale sharks and humpbacks as well. However, 2019 was different at Ningaloo. There were just two sightings of whale sharks in the first three weeks.

Manta Rays 

Manta Ray close to our guided humpback whale tour

They are always present at the reef but in abundance from May to September. Only view tours are offered to swim with Manta Rays. Usually, Eco Tours are available in August and September to swim with whale sharks when they are still around. In addition, you get the chance to swim and snorkel with the rays. We spotted several close to our boat, and one was jumping next to the vessel.

Avoiding Crowds

Ningaloo - empty beach during the shoulder season

It's quiet in March and again in May and June. Try to avoid April, especially if you don't like masses of tourists. It gets busy again in July and becomes quieter at the end of July. If you plan to visit in April or July book the tours and accommodation far in advance. Tours are usually fully booked for weeks. There are limited hotels in Exmouth and prices are at the highest in the peak season. Weekends are more crowded. August until mid-September is quieter until the spring break in late September.

Weather

Ningaloo during the end of the rainy season

The region of Western Australia has a tropical-hot-desert climate. In autumn and winter from April to September with pleasant temperatures around 25° C and cold night temps between 11 to 13°C on average. This causes an average water temp of about 22°C in the shallow sea. Overall after the "winter", the sea temp is chilly. A wetsuit is essential for snorkelling.  It's hot during the summer; expect a daily temp of 35 to 38°C, and the water temperature is around 26°C and higher. It doesn't rain much here; less than 30 days of precipitation with the highest chance for thunderstorms from January to April. Fewer clouds from August to December. Cyclones can occur and are more likely to happen from January to March. In March 2015 Exmouth was hit by the severe cyclone Olwyn. At the end of April 2014; record-breaking heavy rainfall caused flash floods.

Top Accommodations and Camping in Exmouth

Most visitors stay in Exmouth for two or three nights maximum. This is pretty short for all the opportunities in the Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Reef. We hiked through the Mandu Mandu Gorge and spotted a black-footed rock wallaby. Snorkelling at Oyster Stacks close to the shore shouldn't be missed. Therefore we recommend staying here at least four nights. Due to limited hotel opportunities in Exmouth, pre-booking is advisable. Usually, more than 90 % is booked in advance. Our top accommodations in Exmouth:

Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort

Mantaray Ningaloo Beach Resort

It’s a lovely hotel with a sensational restaurant. Getting quality food in Exmouth is not easy, but this kitchen is outstanding. The staff is attentive, and on top, you have free access to the laundry facilities. The pool is overlooking the ocean. You may even spot humpbacks from here or chose a room with an ocean view and enjoy the scenery from your balcony.

Exmouth Escape Resort

Escape Resort in Exmouth

The Resort is located a 15 minutes stroll outside of the town centre. The spacious apartments are spotlessly clean; very well equipped even with a washing machine. The large swimming pool is utterly amazing. The Whalers Restaurant is pretty popular for its sumptuous meals. If you don't stay here make a reservation for dinner and call 9949 2416
 

Sal Salis - Our Pure Luxury Tip

Sal Salis - Ningaloo with beach in front of the luxury tents

The exclusive eco safari tents are fantastically located next to the white sandy beach and the Ningaloo Reef. Enjoy kayaking and snorkelling directly in front of your tent. The outdoor dinner under the amazing night sky is top-notch. Kangaroos and wallabies are grazing around the tents in the evening. It's an hour away from Exmouth located in the Cape Range National Park. Very view places in the world offer such an outstanding location. The peak season is always fully booked many months in advance.

RAC Exmouth Cape Holiday Park - Our Budget Tip

RAC Exmouth - cabins and camping

For those who are looking for budget accommodation, the RAC offers cabins, double rooms, and dormitory rooms with shared bathrooms. The cabins are well equipped and clean. Many campervans come here, but the space for unpowered tent sites is poor. There are plenty of camp kitchens, facilities, and laundries around the huge Holiday Park. Yoga classes are offered next to the swimming pool. If you are seeking a quiet place for camping the Manta Way and the Marlin Stretch are best. Map RAC Holiday Park

AU Australia

If you want to experience a memorable whale watching tour, then we highly recommend San Diego. It’s one of the best locations on the West Coast of the U.S. for whale watching, as 70 miles of coastline in this area is directly in their migration path. Migrating whales can be found off shore year-round and, depending on the season, different types of whales are more prominent than others. Get up close and personal with these incredible creatures with a cruise that specializes in whale watching and knows where to go for the best chances of connecting with the whales.

 
Whale Watching Season | Overview


The image takes you to San Diego whale watching and other tours

The whale watching season in San Diego is split into two parts: You can spot gray whales in winter and spring. Usually from mid-December until late April. Blue whale sightings are possible in the summer from May to August. Humpback whales, fin whales, and minke whales can be seen year-round.

The best time for whale watching in San Diego is in the morning. The sea is usually calmer compared to other times of the day. Also, perfect sea and weather conditions make it easier to spot whales from a greater distance. The season doesn’t matter so much, as whales can be spotted here at any time of the year.

Disclaimer: Although San Diego is one of the best areas for whale watching activities, we and the tour operators cannot guarantee stunnning whale sightings at certain times. Wildlife on our planet is not 100% predictable. However, tour operators usually offer a free voucher for another tour in the seldom case no sightings happened. 

Recommended Whale Watching Tour | Pre-Book
 

The image above takes you to our preferred tour! While almost every whale watching tour operator is great in San Dieg, we prefer the Hornblower Tours for three reasons:

  1. They have the largest boat which makes it less likely to get seasick
  2. They probably have the most experienced captain
  3. Their staff is extremely professional, knowledgable and very friendly

Reserve a spot here: San Diego Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruises by Hornblower (via GetYourGuide with excellent service)Important: Pre-booking is highly recommended(!), as tours sell out quickly and you run the risk of not getting a spot. Read more details about the Hornblower Tour and other tour tips in our Whale Watching Tour Tips section below.

 

Monthly Reports | San Diego Whale Sightings and Weather
 

In January you can spot gray whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and other whales. Weather: 66°F (average high) and 6 rainy days. Typical sightings: ‘A pair of gray whales popped up. They were surfacing for breathes and then went for deep dives. Fascinating! We also saw a pod of about 50 Risso Dolphins and over 200 common dolphins acting playful’

In February you’ll most likely see gray whales and dolphins on a tour, maybe Humpback and others as well. Weather: 66°F (average high) and 7 rainy days. Typical sightings: ‘On the morning tour we encountered a total of 4 southbound gray whales, as well as a few Pacific White-Sided Dolphins and at least 20 common dolphins around our boat’

In March gray whales are still migrating along the coast. Humpback whales, dolphins and other types of whales are possible. Weather: 67°F (average high) and 7 rainy days. Typical sightings: ‘We saw three northbound gray whales, two adults, and a calf. Throughout the day we encountered a total of 14 gray whales, at least 10 of them in close proximity to the boat. Unforgettable!’

In April you usually have the last chance to see a gray whale on its migration. You may even spot a baby gray whale with its mother. Additionally, dolphins and perhaps Humpbacks or fin whales are possible, sometimes even a blue whale already (but, that’s kind of rare in April). Weather: 68°F (average high) and 4 rainy days. Typical sightings: ‘We spotted one northbound gray whale on its migration. It surfaced quite often. What a sight! On the way back we were accompanied by a pod of 100+ dolphins.’

In May the blue whale season usually officially begins with many of them circling not too far from the San Diego coast. The largest creature ever existed on our planet! Weather: 70°F (average high) and 3 rainy days. Sighting Example: ‘On our morning trip we encountered a total of three blue whales and one fin whale, as well as a megapod of common dolphins. One of the blue whales seemed comfortable close to our boat which provided excellent looks and resulted in a great experience!’

June is another month with great opportunities for blue whale sightings, as it’s still their peak season. Weather: 72°F (average high) and 1 rainy day. Typical sighting: ‘We encountered one blue whale not too far from us. This one spent quite a while at the surface for excellent photo opportunities. And again, a pod of at least 50+ playful dolphins. A great trip!’

In July you can not only see blue whales, it’s possible to spot fin whales and humpbacks in San Diego water. Weather: 75°F (average high) and 1 rainy day. Sighting report: ‘We came across three different whales: One humpback, one blue whale, and one Bryde’s whale! All three were amazing, but the highlight was the blue whale. It was so close and then even swam underneath our boat for 3(!) times. What an exciting close-up encounter!

August is the last month where you have a good chance to spot the incredible blue whales Other whale sightings are possible as well. Weather: 79°F (average high) and 1 rainy day. A sightings report from a day in August: ‘No signs of a blue whale today. However, we saw a minke whale and a humpback. The minke whale was really close to our boat and was even swimming belly-up! What an amazing experience to watch! We also saw two big pods of playful dolphins.’

In September you might still see blue whales, but it’s not very likely to spot them on one single tour at this time of the year. Weather: 77°F (average high) and 1 rainy day. Sighting report from one tour: ‘Again a calm sea and great visibility on our morning tour. That’s why we could easily spot some spouts in a distance. Two humpback whales produced these. Both were later close enough to our vessel for stunning photos and an unforgettable sight. Additionally, we happened to come across a megapod of about 1000 common dolphins!’

In October you may come across humpback whales and possibly some rare whale sightings, as well as pods of dolphins of course. Weather: 75°F (average high) and 3 rainy days. Sighting example: ‘A passenger spotted a spout in a greater distance. We identified a humpback whale which approached our boat later, providing a stunning sight! We also saw pods of dolphins and one hammerhead shark during our tour.’

November has a good chance of seeing humpback whales as they migrate south. While rare, it’s also possible to spot exotic species like killer whales. Weather: 70°F (average high) and 4 rainy days. Sightings report: ‘The weather and sea conditions, as well as the sightings, were spectacular today. We encountered a total of eight(!) humpback whales on our morning tour. We observed their mighty spouts and took some incredible photos!’

In December you can spot gray whales again, as they leave their feeding area in Alaska waters, migrating to the south along the coast. To spot them join a tour from mid-December. Before that, it’s more likely to see a humpback whale. Weather: 66°F (average high) and 6 rainy days. Sighting report: ‘Besides pods of dolphins greeting us, we spotted two southbound gray whales on this tour right before Christmas. They didn’t get too close to our boat but we were able to take enough amazing photos!’

 

Winter and Spring Whale Watching


A gray whale in San Diego waters

  • Season/Months: Mid-December until late April
  • Whales: Gray Whale
  • Recent Sighting Record: It’s not uncommon that you may see a pair of gray whales. It gets even better: Recently in a January, the passengers on one tour spotted 20(!) gray whales. That’s absolutely breathtaking!

Every winter and into spring, the magnificent gray whale (up to 20,000 of them!) migrates south from Alaska down to Baja, California. That’s about 10,000 miles. The gray whale is huge – about the width of a basketball court (50 feet) and weighing up to 40 tons. To see them in the wild is truly a treat. Their goal is to reach the warmer waters so that the females can give birth to their calves. Then, when their offspring are strong enough, they head back north to Alaska around April.

San Diego whale watching in January is when things just start to heat up in the whale-watching world. A telltale sign that the Grey Whale is close by is the spout of water you will see off in the distance. The curious ones will come right up to the boat, and your heart wells with excitement to see such a humongous and mysterious creature so close in the flesh. Other Baleen whales and Toothed whales are also common sightings. And let’s not forget the harbor seals, green sea turtles and many species of birds that may choose to say “Hi!” to you along the way.

Further, in the winter season, the whale watching in March is when things start to slow down for gray whale sightings as they start their journey back up north. But that’s not to say that things cannot be any less exciting! You just never know when you will come across one or an entire pod of them. You might even see moms with their calves in April.

 

Summer and Fall Whale Watching


A nearby blue whale. Stunning!

  • Season/Months: May until August
  • Whales: Blue Whale [Fin Whale: Peak Season, Bryde’s Whale (rare) in July/August/September]

“Look! That blue whale just surfaced right beside us, so close to the boat! WOW!!” That’s what I said to my teammate when we went on a tour in August three years ago. It was so stunning!

Each summer the blue whale migration brings hundreds of blue whales near the coast of San Diego. You can spot blue whales usually from May until August. Sometimes they can even be seen as early as April or later in September when the blue whale season ends. Theoretically, you may also spot them at any other time of the year near San Diego, but that’s not very likely.

The blue whale is even larger than the gray whale. In fact, it’s the largest animal on earth and even larger than a dinosaur! San Diego sees the largest group of 2,000 to 3,000 blue whales feeding off the coast during the summer months. They can get as long as 100 feet and spout columns of water up to 30 feet. So, you can imagine that this is a great way to spot one, even from miles away! These guys will migrate from Antarctica to California. That means pods of blue whales pass by the coast of San Diego as they travel further north. Blue whales are usually found further out to sea, whereas the gray whale tends to keep closer into the shores of California.

 

Year-Round Whale Watching | + Dolphins


A humpback whale near San Diego

  • Whales: Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Minke Whale
  • Dolphins: Common Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins
  • Recent Sighting Record: Usually it’s possible to come across one, two or even three Humpbacks on a single tour. However, a recent record for humpback whales was 7 on a tour in December 2017. Once we saw a humpback breaching at least 10 times throughout the tour!
  • Recent Dolphin Sighting Record: Often you see dozens of dolphins. However, once there was megapod of about 1000 dolphins spotted on one tour!

Surfacing juvenile humpback whales are common during every season. They might even hang out in the same area of water for weeks. One of the glorious things to witness is a pod of dolphins feeding right alongside a whale or two. Humpbacks tend to move around the water a bit more than others, sometimes even zig-zagging close to your boat. Their spouting and particularly their breaching behavior are truly spectacular. Regardless if they are up close near the boat or in the distance. While you can spot humpbacks throughout the year, there is often a peak in March and April for them.

Minke whales are smaller and are able to swim underneath the boat as they are checking out the tourists (that is, if they are so inclined!) They have white sides and “Minke Mittens” which are white on its flippers.

Fin whales can be seen in San Diego waters especially in the summer months. They’re incredible it is the second-largest species on our planet after the blue whale! Its color is black or dark brownish-grey. However, the underside is white.

More ocean life: On a tour, you can experience even more fascinating ocean life such as White-sided Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, and the Common Dolphin. They are usually sighted on a boat tour every season. The only dolphins that are not all-year-round are the white-sided variety, which typically show up in the winter months. They migrate down here from the Pacific Northwest waters. Dolphins are very playful and eager to interact with the tour boats. Risso’s dolphins can also be found, although they are rarer in these waters. You may also witness sea lions, several species of sharks and many different sea birds. The Mola Mola fish, a species of ocean sunfish, is also spotted in summer off the shores of San Diego.

 

Rare Sightings | Orca (Killer Whale), False Killer Whale, Pilot Whale, etc.

On a San Diego whale watching tour you could even see some rare species. Some of them are spotted less than 6 times a year and some every other year only.

 

US United States

The Orcas usually approach the bay to rub against the pebbled beach in shallow water close to the shoreline, in as little as 1.8 m (6 feet) of water. It can be very close to the beach during high tide. The sea should be smooth and avoid windy days. The chance to spot them increase if you overnight at the campground at Bere Point Regional Park and select an ocean view site. The campground is serviced during summer only.

Orca watched from the Bere Point Regional Park on Malcolm Island

In the evening we spotted Humpback Whales and in the morning we heard Orcas rubbing on the pebbles.

Weather and Season Details

The precipitation of Vancouver Island's east coast is just 700-800 mm per year. In contrast, the west coast of the island is exposed to moisture-packed winds blowing from the Pacific Ocean and receives plenty of precipitation from October to March. Summers are in general relatively dry.

Malcolm Island Bere Point Campground sunrise end of summer

Spring (March-May)

Spring is always a great time to visit Vancouver Island. Daily temperatures range from 11-15 ºC. It's a great time for wildlife viewing. The Pacify grey whales are on their route to Alaska, Grizzly and black bears finish their hibernation a looking for food along the shoreline.

Summer (June-August)

From June through September, Vancouver Island is typically sunny and mild, although the temperature at Malcolm Island seldom goes beyond 15-17°C but can reach up to 25°C. 

Fall (September-November)

In fall you may see a lot of fog, especially in the morning, which could last until mid-day or afternoon. The temperature is on average, around 12°C.

Winter (December-February)

Vancouver Island enjoys a moderate and mild winter in most regions. This allows outdoor activities such as fishing and hiking in the south-coastal areas, even in January.  

Bere Point Malcolm Island sunset

CA Canada

When is the best time? May, June, July, August, September and October are the months for whale watching from Boston with great sighthings. Each summer the whales migrate to Massachusetts and back to warmer water when the weather gets cold.

Make sure to check our 7 Top Tips for Whale Watching from Boston at the end of this article.
 

Time of Day

In terms of sightings there is no big difference between mornings or afternoon. Mornings are usually less crowded though. That's we recommend the first tour in the morning. From mid-June until early September the first one starts at 9 AM from Monday through Sunday. During other months it can be 10 AM or even later. Click on the tour link below and check available times. 
 

Weather and Sea

During the months of July, August and September the weather is generally more consistently pleasant. However, the whales even come out in the rain. If sea sickness is an issue for you check the weather forecast first to choose a calm day for whale watching. Marine Weather Boston Harbor
 

US United States

The whale watching season starts in November until the end of April. The very best months are March and April for blue whale sightings. The sea is calm in the morning and rough in the afternoon. The whale watching tours start very early in the morning between 6 and latest 7. May to October whales can be spotted, but less in number and the sea can be rough. Anyway, booking is possible at low season, give them a call view days in advance. Be aware May, and June is also the worst time of the monsoon.

Mirissa Blue Whales watching

At the peak season, the chance for sightings is 90 %. We went there in January and spotted one blue whale a couple of times. We got told that they sometimes spot up to eight in one day. Another good option is Trincomalee from June to October with best sightings in August and September.

LK Sri Lanka

Kaikoura is a popular tourist destination and the best one in New Zealand for year-round whale and dolphin watching. You encounter resident sperm whales that have a 95 % sighting chance throughout the year. Dusky dolphins, as well as Common and Hector Dolphins, are also spotted year-round. Usually, there are two seasons for whale watching , ut exceptions occur, and you watch an unexpected pod of orcas during the winter. Continue reading our updated 2019/2020 guide to figure out details when to spot the different whale types in Kaikoura and what kind of trips are offered.

2 Whale Watching Seasons | Migrating Whales
Blue Whale in Kaikoura Whale Watching
Blue Whale

Besides the resident sperm whales, which you can spot throughout the year, there are two different whale watching seasons for migrating whales around the Kaikoura Coastline:

  1. Colder Season: During the colder season from May to October you can spot migrating whales: Southern right whales, humpback whales, pilot whales and sometimes even blue whales. According to experts, the best time to see many species of migrating whales in Kaikoura during the colder season is between June and August.
  2. Warmer Season: During the summer, usually from November until March, you may spot orcas passing by in pods between 6 - 12 whales. Sometimes you spot blue whales as well. While there are slightly fewer sightings of migrating whales in summer,  a whale watching tour during the warmer season is an absolute must-do! 
     
Crowds / Fully Booked Tours


Breaching Humpback Whale - The image takes you to the Kaikoura Tours

It's a very popular attraction and advisable to book these tours in advance, especially during the peak season in summer. Early morning trips are not always fully booked, but from 10 am onwards the boats fill up pretty fast. However, we would book in advance regardless of the time of day. That being said, book your trip far in advance if you prefer a later tour. One of the best tours is  being offered by Whale Watch Kaikoura: Kaikoura Whale Watching Cruise (please book in advance otherwise you run the risk of not getting on the tour when you're there!)

Weather Kaikoura

Seal Colony in Kaikoura
Seal Colony in Kaikoura

Temps are pleasant from November to March, often around 20°C during the day. Nights temps are usually around 10°C. From April to October, the temps are on average above 10°C up to 16 °C. Significant rainfall can happen throughout the year. The wettest months occur from March to August. Due to the forecast, tours can get cancelled. Often the wind increases in the afternoon, and it's pretty rough on the boat. Be prepared if you struggle with sea-sickness.

Types of Whale Watching Trips and Prices

  • Boat: A boat trip is common and the cheapest option for whale watching. Price per adult roughly $ 150 and child $ 60. The swell picks up in the afternoon. Sea-sickness remedies are helpful. The best boat tour: Kaikoura Whale Watching Cruise
  • Plane: Nowadays 30 and 40 minutes flights by small planes are offered, When they spot a whale, they circle around 150 meters / 500 feet above. It's much shorter, but the planes are not depending on the sea conditions. Boat trips get more often cancelled due to a rough sea. Price per adult between $150 -180. Excellent flight/tour: Kaikoura - 30 Minutes Whale Watching Flight
  • Helicopter: Also, helicopter flights are offered at 150 meters height. You can book trips from 30 minutes up to an hour. It's worth it, but also quite expensive depending on the number of people in your group for two adults more than $300 p.p. You'll love the tour (booking via GetYourGuide): Kaikoura - 30 Minutes Whale Watching Helicopter Tour

5 Great Kaikoura Tips


Very tasty Paua Sandwich!

  1. Paua Sandwich: Have a look for a snack stall close to the fur seal colony and try a Paua Sandwich (see the picture above). Although the black color looks strange, it is tasty and interesting. The Paua shell is famous for its beautiful colors and sold as a souvenir.
  2. Morning Tour: The sea is calmer in the morning and before the afternoon breeze gets up, it's a good idea to book a morning tour. It doesn't need to be the first one, though.
  3. Sea Sickness: If you experienced seasickness before,  be sure to take a sea-sickness remedy no matter how calm it looks.
  4. Tour Cancellation: Tours may get cancelled due to harsh weather conditions. Confirm your trip a day before with your tour operator.
  5. Highway: Highway 1 south of Kaikoura gets closed in poor weather conditions. Check the weather forecast and get in touch with your tour operator.

 

NZ New Zealand