Tarifa is the Southernmost town on the European continent and known worldwide as the capital of wind. Tarifa is popular for whale and specifically orca watching in the Strait of Gibraltar.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
They cross the Strait and can sometimes be spotted. In 2016 firmm had 27 sightings in one whale watching season.
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.
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.