Monday, January 4, 2016

Dolphins, Whales, And A Glorious Day With The Monterey Bay Whale Watch Company

A Long-Beaked Common Dolphin Racing Our Boat
For some of you, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a whale watching trip is, seasickness. I know that's what my husband and son were thinking, so they stayed home while my daughter and I braved the seas. Actually it was a beautiful day with a light breeze so there wasn't much to brave. I gave my daughter half a dramamine pill ( I didn't want her to get too sleepy) and I took nothing. We stayed in the front of the ship with the wind in our face - my daughter felt fine and I only had a few moments of slight queasiness. We were so glad we took the risk!

Warm And Happy!
Whale watching trips are not "budget trips," but you can choose a trip that gives you the best value for your money. I chose the Monterey Bay Whale Watch Company and definitely felt I got good value. The company is owned and led by marine biologists. Our guide was very informative - speaking through a microphone to tell us many interesting facts about the Monterey Bay and its’ marine inhabitants. But he also knew when to be quiet and just let us enjoy the show. To tell you the truth, I didn't pay close attention because I was too busy taking in the sights and sea air.

The Whale Watch Center Is Located In Fisherman's Wharf On Del Monte Avenue
Their Comfortable, 65 Foot Catamaran - The Blackfin
We saw so many animals. Right off the bat - or should I say boat - we saw sea otters and brown pelicans. Cruising by the jetty, we saw thousands of sea lions basking in the sun. The boat paused there, giving us plenty of time to take pictures.

The Coast Guard Breakwater - "One Of The Main Haul-Out Sites For Sea Lions"
"Sea Lion Numbers Peak Off Monterey From Fall Through Spring"
Two Females (?) Enjoying The Sun
Then, just past the breakwater, we came upon a huge school of Long-beaked Common Dolphins. We were on them and they were on us (they love boats) in a minute - hundreds of dolphins ahead of us, to the sides, behind and underneath, racing our boat. The captain slowed down to practically nothing and we got to enjoy the show for a long time (I have no idea how long, but it was perfect). The lady next to me was so excited, she kept saying, "I love you! I love you!" to each dolphin that passed beneath. We were all excited.

These photos don't do the dolphins justice; luckily my daughter took some video. Here's a little glimpse of what it was like to be surrounded by dolphins.


Then we were on to the whales - gray whales migrating over 12,000 miles from the Bering Sea to Baja California. According to the naturalists on board, we saw 16 gray whales! Usually, they swam in groups of two. We got close enough to see well, but not as close as I would have liked. But I understand, the captain was keeping a respectful distance from the whales so they wouldn't be disturbed. I had trouble getting a good photo, but enjoyed it all the same.

Once They Sound (Dive) They're Down For 2 To 7 Minutes
Heading back in, we came upon another school of dolphins close to the harbor. They were Risso’s Dolphins, about 80 of them.

The Naturalist Said Risso's Dolphins Are Like "Gangsters Of The Sea - Proud Of Their Scars."
The whole cruise was about three hours. It was wonderful; my daughter and I would definitely do it again. In fact, in the spring they have another longer trip to view humpback whales, orcas, and blue whales! I can't wait!

The End To A Beautiful Morning

If you go: The 3 hour Gray Whale and Dolphin tours run from Dec 12 - March 31st.
                 Adults $40, Children 4 to 12 $27, Children 3 and under $15.
                 There is a 20% discount for members of the Monterey Aquarium

Sea-sickness  You can take dramamine, but be aware that it can make you very sleepy. That is why I skipped it. If you are sensitive like I am, I recommend only taking half, or even a quarter, of a dose. Regardless of whether you take dramamine or not, it's really important to stay hydrated, starting the day before. The day of, make sure you have a solid meal and stay hydrated. I brought food and water on the boat. In the beginning, I felt a little queasy but I also noticed I was a little hungry. I ate a snack bar, drank some water and felt much better. Just listen to your body.  I also recommend taking a morning cruise; they are usually calmer. Also, I waited till one day before the trip before making my reservation so I could check the weather - you want a light breeze. Speaking of breezes, avoid the cabin and stay in the front or sides of the boat (on the main level, not up high), and avoid the diesel fumes in the back. If you do all this, I think you will have a good chance of avoiding seasickness. Good luck.

What to wear: dress in layers and definitely bring warm clothing. I wore two shirts, a down jacket, a baseball hat and light gloves. I also brought a windbreaker that I took on and off depending on how fast the boat was going. No matter how sunny it is, the wind on the ocean will make you cold. Also, don't forget sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, water and snacks.

Photography: definitely bring your camera, But if you are having trouble getting good shots, put it away and just enjoy the sights and the wonderful smell of the ocean. You won't forget it.

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