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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. 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 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 September 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 come for feeding to the reef each year. Whereas 2019 was different; very few sightings already in August.

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. This massive big whales came up close, just below and 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. I 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

In general, Galapagos is a world-class destination at any time of the year. For divers, the best time is from June until November, when also Whale Sharks can be spotted. For snorkelers, warmer ocean temps from January to April may suit better. The sea is calmer, but rain can occurs in the afternoon.

Climate/Weather Galapagos for Diving
  • Rainy Season - Snorkel Season 
    Green Sea Turtle in front of a Snorkler


    December through May is the wet season. While often sunny and warm, you can expect afternoon showers. The sea is calm with a good visibility and the sea temperature is between 21°C and 26°C / 70°F and 79°F. It's the best time for snorkeling.
     
  • Dry Season - Diving Season 
    Free Divng at the Galapagos Islands; LosTuneles


    The Humboldt current brings cold water to the islands from June to November. The sea is nutrient rich which attracts a huge variety of fish, therefore sharks, seabirds like the albatross, and penguins as well. It's mostly cloudy with a higher surf. During August and September, the sea is very rough. The sea temperature varies between 18°C and 24°C / 64°F until 75°CF. From September to November the Galapagos Islands are an outstanding place to enjoy marine-life. You are able to find schools of hammerhead at Darwin & Wolf Island. Hammerhead sharks occur throughout the year at Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock). It is easy to get to Leon Dormido by guided boat tour from San Cristobal.

Check out our detailed Galapagos Guide to experience the islands underwater and also the rich biodiversity on land. 

EC Ecuador

Whale watching tours are offered from April to October. The duration of the orca whale watching trips in the morning during summer is roughly 3 hours. All other trips are approximately 2 hours long. The year 2018 was different; there were fewer orca sightings. Instead, more sperm whales were spotted in May and June. Very unusual orcas were spotted again in October. Therefore, we can give you an idea what you may see and when, but marine life is not predictable and guaranteed. It's always worth a try. We recommend booking at least two trips at different times of the day. One thing is guaranteed; YOU get addicted to it. 

Pilot Whales in the Mediterranean Sea close to Tarifa

Tarifa is the capital city of wind. From time to time the Levante is too strong that neither fisher boats nor whale watching boats can leave the harbor. In 2018 July was perfect with almost none wind, but instead, in August the boats couldn't leave the harbour for 17 days.  If there is too much fog in the morning whale watching trips are also canceled. Book your trip in advance and confirm a day before.

Update 2019: The ocras already arrived in June; that's earlier than the year before. The tuna already migrates and pods of orcas can be seen this July. Even sperm whales were spotted again in the Strait of Gibraltar. 

Dolphins and Pilot Whales

Dolphin in the Strait of Gibraltar

Dolphins and Pilot Whales can be seen throughout the year. Pilot whales are night active diving deep for hunting their prey like squid. At daytime, they rest on the surface of the sea. 

Orcas

Huge Orca in the Strait of Gibraltar

Orcas follow the tuna migration into the Mediterranean Sea and out. They come for the tuna in June and can be spotted until August. The tuna is too fast for them to catch with 90 km/h and orcas are clever. They only appear when the fishermen are out in the sea, and they try to catch their tuna from the hook. Tours are offered in July and August in the morning and last for about 3 hours all other whale watching tours last around 2 hours. In 2018 the orcas were spotted from the end of June until mid-July only. Instead, 2016 was an outstanding year for orcas. The big surprise there were sightings in October in 2018 which is unusual. Therefore, we can give you an idea when you might spot them, but wildlife is not predictable and guaranteed. 

Sperm Whales

Sperm Whale

They can be spotted from April to August. They appear at the surface for about 8 minutes to breathe before diving again. 2018 was an exceptional year with plenty of sightings in May and in June on 12 days.

Fin Whales

They cross the Strait and can sometimes be spotted. In 2016 firmm had 27 sightings in one whale watching season.

Crowds

Peak season in summer. Prices for hotels and apartments increase, and advanced booking is essential. Most of the rental houses are offered from Saturday to Saturday. Spring, September, and October are less busy and less expensive. Anyhow the orca season runs from July to August only. 

Where to Stay in Tarifa

It depends on what you like to experience in this region. If you just come for one day for whale watching it doesn't make sense to stay here. We spend a whole week in this area. Therefore, we'd chosen one of the many rental flats. Bookmark the link for the best-rated apartments around Tarifa. Don't miss the gorgeous Bolonia Beach and Dune. The dune is one of the largest shifting dunes in Europe. 

Bolonia Beach close to Tarifa

ES Spain

The West Indian Manatee migrates to Crystal River and the surrounding springs roughly mid-November and stays around the springs until mid-March. Guided tours are offered from November to end of March. You experience most activity during the early morning. If you like to get interactions with manatees book the early morning tour in advance! The most popular and best swimming tours are offered by River Ventures USA: Crystal River Florida - 3 Hour Swim with Manatees (safe and reliable booking via GetYourGuide, with excellent service). Book in advance (see below)! Even if you don't plan to swim with manatees, visiting the area to spot these amazing creatures is amazing.

The manatees come here during winter time because they get stressed by the cold gulf if the temp goes below 68°F / 20°C. Although they look like to be prepared for cold temperatures. Their bodies have not much fat for insulation. The springs have a constant temp of 74°F / 23°C. The reason that they gather around the springs. During high tide, they move to the Three Sisters Springs, and at low tide, they gather outside in the channel at Idiot’s Delight I and II. Often hundreds of manatees can be seen at the springs at once.


Florida Manatee Calendar (Summer - Winter)

While manatees can be found in large numbers from mid-November until mid-March, exceptions are possible. In 2018 for example they already left the springs mid-February due to an unusual high day temperature. On the other hand, in one year they stayed until April, even early May. But still, you should stick to most likely months:

Mid-November | December | January | February | March

This is the time to spot Manatees and swim with them. The population in Crystal River goes up to 600-800 manatees. That's why so many visitors are coming in the winter months. Be prepared for competing with the best tour spots with hundreds of others. That's why it's critical to book in advance: Crystal River Tours - Florida (via GetYourGuide, safe booking and extremely reliable). You can also find the famous Manatee Swimming Tours by River Ventures via this link (or use the link at the top of this article) Tip: Book in advance!

April | May | June | July | August | September | October

These are the unpleasant and unlikely months. From spring (April and May) throughout summer (June, July, August) until the fall (September, October), you won't see large numbers of Manates in Florida, as they migrated to the ocean. That's why the manatee population ranges between 60-90 only in the Crystal River area outside of the winter months. That also means, there are still some manatee residents, and there is a chance that you might spot one or two. It's still a nice overall experience as it's much quieter of course with very few other visitiors. 


Best Time of Day

It is almost impossible to avoid crowds while swimming with the manatees. Even in the early morning expect 30 to 40 people in the water. The Three Sisters Springs, however, are tranquil when they open the gate early in the morning and the manatees are most active during that time of day. That means, early morning bookings are necessary for the best experience, regardless of other visitors. Just want to spot the manatees without swimming? Also get there early in the morning, as this is the time when the manatees are active.


Weather

During the peak season of the manatees, it can be pretty chilly in the morning. On average it's roughly 50°F / 10°C cold in the early morning. We experienced 28°F / -2°C which happens rarely. It was pretty cold when we got out of the water. Day temps are usually between 58°F / 15°C and 70°F / 21°C. Precipitation occurs year-round with its peak in the summer months. It’s quite hot and muggy in the summer and temps are around 90°F / 32°C.


How Long to Stay

Regardless if you plan to swim with manatees or just want to spot them, we highly recommend staying here for a couple of days. Visit the Three Sisters Spring, have a look to one of the many other springs like the Rainbow Springs and enjoy the manatee encounter. Actually, we planned camping in the Rainbow Springs State Park. Due to the cold night temps of 32°F, we booked a room at the Hampton Inn Crystal River instead last minute. It was just a 5 minutes drive to our manatee tour the next morning. We loved the great breakfast each day. More alternatives can be found here: Hotels in Crystal River - via booking.com with price guarantee

US United States

The park opens throughout the year at 8 a.m. but closes before sunset to protect the wildlife and to avoid disturbance  (like deer, foxes, bobcats, and owls). Camping is not permitted. Clearer skies, warmest average temps and the best moths without fog are September and October followed by April and May during the harbor seal pupping season.

Crowds in Summer

The beautiful coastline at Point Lobos Reserve

This magnificent and popular State Reserve is located close to Carmel on HW 1. Point Lobos is a year-round destination and super busy during summer and especially at weekends. Limited parking within the reserve; 150 cars only. At weekends and especially Sundays during summer it’s advisable to arrive before 9 a.m. or later in the afternoon. Otherwise, you have to line up or park your car outside on the shoulder and walk in.

If possible visit the reserve mid-week. However, Point Lobos is also much loved by school classes due to the many opportunities to experience and learn about nature and wildlife. The foundation supports schools with transportation and offers adventure programmes for 8 to 12 years old youth in summer which fills up soon.

Weather

Point Lobos is often foggy during the summer

It’s a moderate cool coastal climate. The average temperature ranges from about 55 to 65°F / 13-18 °C year-round.  Spring is sunny and cool before the foggy summer season starts with fog until the afternoon. Fog banks emerge from the cold water (around 50 °F / 10°C)  and the warm coastal air to condense into fog.  Fall (September to November) is the sunniest time of the year although evenings are more chilly. During the winter mist and showers occur between November to March.

Seasonal Highlights

  • Harbor Seal Pupping Season 
    Seal pup

    From March until June you may spot harbor seals giving birth to a puppy at China Cove. It’s amazing that the new-borns start to swim just 20 minutes later. The best months to witness this spectacle are April and May.
     
  • Southern Sea Otters 
    Sea Otters at Point Lobos

    They may be spotted offshore in the kelp beds during calm days. On windy days they are more often found in protected coves. They are living in waters with a temp between 35°F and 60°F / 1,5°C up to 15,5°C. This is important for their constant body temp of almost 100 °F / 37°C. They mate and give birth in the sea throughout the year with a peak of pupping from January to March, fewer from August to October.
     
  • Whales 
    Whales at Point Lobos
     
  • They can be spotted throughout the year. Perfect spots to observe whales are South Point and Sea Lion Point.
    Grey whales are most commonly seen from late December to January and again from March until early May.
    Humpbacks are frequently seen from March until December.
  • Minke whales are sometimes spotted from January until April. They migrate in larger numbers but due to their smaller seize often missed.
  • Blue whales are sometimes spotted in summer.
  • Orcas; three different species of orcas can be found. The transient orcas feed on mammals, therefore, frequently seen when gray whales migrate with their calves their preferred prey. They can also be spotted at other times of the year hunting seals, porpoise, and dolphins. The resident orcas feed on fish especially salmon and always stay in the same area. Nowadays resident orcas from Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca can be found around Monterey. The offshore orcas are mostly seen during winter feeding on squid, fish and even sharks.
     
  • Sea Lions 
    Sea Lions at Point Lobos

    The sea lion population is much smaller in late spring and summer due to migration to the south for mating.
     
  • Birding 
    Birding at Point Lobos

    Spring and summer is the nesting season. The bird island trail is great to spot lots of birds in the morning or late afternoon. Two cormorant species can be found year-round; nesting on rocks offshore from March to August. We spotted several birds like the scrub jay and dark-eyed junco.
     
  • Wildflowers
    Wildflowers along the coastal path

    The wildflower season in spring; California Poppies, Douglas Iris, lilac Ceanothus and many more
Diving

Diving at Point Lobos

A permit is required, and reservations can be made up two months in advance. 15 diving teams always two divers are allowed to dive at Whalers Cove and Bluefish Cove each day. Some caves are accessible in calm seas. Diving map of Point Lobos State Reserve

Where to Stay (bookmark the links)

Unfortunately, there isn't any campground or accommodation offered inside the reserve. The best-located hotel is the Hyatt Carmel Highlands with spectacular views. Nearby is the popular town of Carmel with a vast variety of hotels and lodges. An alternative and half an hour drive is Salinas. We'd chosen the Super 8 Salinas where breakfast is included.

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 Orcas which were 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 

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 

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 

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 

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