Cornwall is a hotspot for basking sharks and they first turn up here. The migration follows the coastline and passes Land's End in spring. They are attracted by the high plankton concentration.
The season for basking sharks usually starts in May and last until October. Actually, the best time is mid-May until mid-July. However, there is no guarantee to spot these sharks. In 2017 the best time was April until the beginning of May. In 2018 the first sighting of two sharks was at the end of April. In recent years, fewer basking sharks were spotted. In 2019 two basking sharks were already seen on March 12 which is pretty early.
Very important are good weather conditions, a sunny day and calm wind to spot them on the surface of the sea and for snorkeling with them as well. Book your trip at short notice. First, check if basking sharks are already around the coast.
What Else to Spot
- common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins
- minke whales (very shy)
- pilot whales
- leatherback turtles
- sometimes sunfish
- blue sharks; season starts end of June, more reliable to spot them but not predictable
- seals from mid-May until October
Check out the recent sightings for SW England
Where to Stay
There are many lovely B&B's in Penzance to choose from. Don't come here in a rush and for the basking sharks only. There is so much more like Kynance Cove, St. Michaels Mount, Minack Theatre and the hanging gardens to mention just a view. Our absolutely favorite B&B is the Marine Lodge. The view alone is worth to stay here. The Marine Lodge is spotlessly clean with wonderful owners. You couldn't wish for better.
Antarctica: Stunning and dramatic landscapes, as well as superb wildlife-viewing opportunities are like no other place on earth.
Expedition cruises to Antarctica are only possible during the southern summer between late October/November and March. This is the time when the ice break ups, which allows cruise ships to pass. Depending on the month, there are slight variations in what you’ll see and which antarctic animals you may spot:
November (Icebergs, Seals)
Best time to see the ice breaking into large icebergs and amazing sculptures. Wildflowers are in bloom, and it’s a great time to spot breeding elephant seals. However, it’s still very cold. Temperatures are way below freezing.
December (Warmer, Seals, First Penguins)
Days are long, with 20 hours of sunshine. Still a great month to spot seals and already some active penguins. It’s also getting warmer with temperatures around freezing.
January (Warmest Month, Penguins)
The perfect month for wildlife viewing, with plenty of penguins active, as well as seabirds and a few whales. Days are still long. It’s also the ‘warmest’ month with temperatures slightly above freezing.
February - March (Whales)
The best time for whale watching such as humpback, sperm, and orca. You can also spot fledgling penguin chicks, especially in February. It’s getting a lot colder again in March.
April - September (Winter)
Winter in Antarctica. The temperatures are freezing (up to -30°C). No possible way to visit, as the polar ice blocks the ship traffic.
Kaikoura famous to be one of the best places for whale watching is situated almost 200 km north of Christchurch. It's less than three hours drive on Hwy 1.
Kaikoura is a popular tourist destination and the best in New Zealand for whale and dolphin watching throughout the year. There are resident sperm whales with a 95 % chance of a sighting. Common, Hector, and Dusky Dolphins are also spotted year-round. Usually, there are two seasons for whale watching but exceptions occur, and you watch an unexpected pod of orcas during the winter. Continue reading to figure out details when to spot the different whale types in Kaikoura and what kind of trips are offered.
2 Whale Watching Seasons
- During the colder season from May to October migrating whales are spotted; southern right whales, humpback whales, pilot whales and sometimes even blue whales.
During spring and summer, you may spot pods of orcas and sometimes blue whales as well.
Crowds / Fully Booked 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. Either book an early morning whale watching trip or 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 (book in advance)
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 canceled. Often the wind increases in the afternoon, and it's pretty rough on the boat. Be prepared if you struggle from sea-sickness.
Seal Colony in Kaikoura
There are day trips available from Christchurch to Kaikoura and back just for the whale watching trip. If you are limited in time that's a good idea. We loved to stay in Kaikoura for three reasons; First tours can get canceled due to poor weather, second, if there isn't any whale sighting you get 80 % refunded and you could book a second trip, third there is so much more to explore in Kaikoura like the fur seal colony. Bookmark the link for the best accommodation deals in Kaikoura and stay here at least for two nights.