Each year beginning in December and running through April, over 20,000 gray whales make a 10,000 mile round-trip journey from Alaska to the lagoons of Baja California, where the females give birth to their calves. They typically spend several months in the warm Baja California waters, time for their young to grow strong enough to make the journey home, before making their way back north again in the Spring. It is the longest known distance any mammal migrates on an annual basis and is truly an extraordinary spectacle to observe. With 70 miles of coastline directly in the migration path, San Diego is an ideal destination to see this impressive parade of gentle giants. According to the Birch Aquarium in San Diego, gray whales generally travel alone or in pods of two or three but more may be seen traveling together during peak migration season. These giants are roughly the width of a basketball court and cruise at an average speed of five knots (about six miles per hour).
Blue whales, the largest creatures on earth and thought to be among the most endangered of the great whales, may be found in San Diego mid-June through September. In fact, the largest group of blue whales in the world, 2,000 to 3,000, feed off the California coast during the summer months. These magnificent mammals give away their location by spouting a 30 foot column of water in the air that can be seen from miles away Blue whales have also been observed acting more like dolphins than whales, rolling over on their to look up at spectators. Less is known about the migratory patterns of blue whales but they have been tracked from the Antarctic to California to Costa Rica. Changes in ocean temperatures and the abundance of krill over the past few years have attracted far more blue whales to San Diego's coast than in the past. Blue whales tend to be found further out to sea than their grey whale cousins so it's recommend to book one of sightseeing excursions specializing in whales sightings in order to catch a glimpse of a blue whale.
There are a number of different ways to experience whale watching in San Diego. A couple of great spots to view the grey whale migration from shore include the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the Cabrillo National Monument and Torrey Pines State Reserve where the hiking trails offer expansive views of the Pacific. If you're interested in a closer look at these majestic creatures, a host of sightseeing and tour operators in San Diego offer a variety of whale watching excursions. This is also the best way to see a blue whale as they tend to stay farther out to sea. A whale watching trip is also a great way to experience the ocean and see San Diego's beautiful skyline from a different point of view. Many of the tour operators have extensive knowledge of the whales and their migration habits and will happily share this information during the tour. This is definitely a recommended activity for all ages and a great addition to your San Diego itinerary during the winter/early spring and summer seasons.
For more information on whale watching in San Diego, California, view one of the articles or visit one of the tour operators below.