There She Blows! Whale-Watching Season Begins

Onboard the Marietta

Onboard the Marietta. Courtesy: San Diego Shooter, via Flickr

By Bekah Logan, naturalist

This year’s whale-watching season aboard the Marietta is off to a great start! Great weather and, for the most part, calm seas have been prevalent, and so have the whales.

This time of month is perfect for spotting gray whales along their southbound migration to Baja California. The majority of our twice-daily tours have encountered about five whales. Most common sightings are solitary gray whales, but we’ve seen a few pairs and groups of three – even a few mother-and-calf sightings! Pregnant females typically give birth in the warmer waters of Mexico, but every once in a while deliveries happen along the way. These pairs will continue on to Baja so the calf can nurse more easily in the calm, serene lagoons.

We’ve witnessed gray whales blowing, snorkeling, and sounding. Sounding refers to a whale’s behavior when it prepares for a deeper dive, which lasts 3-5 minutes. Sounding whales take a few breaths at the surface, lift their backs and flukes out of the water, then disappear, leaving a slick area of water behind them called the whale’s footprint. We always love seeing the flukes, which vary significantly from whale to whale.

While gray whales are most commonly seen in San Diego waters around this time, that doesn’t mean they’re the only large whales to be found nearby. One cruise happened upon a darker-colored whale with a small dorsal fin, eventually identified as a young humpback. This whale followed the Marietta for a bit, but turned back while we were observing two grays.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale sighting!

Some other notable animals we’ve seen include common and Pacific white-sided dolphins. They love to speed about in our wake and ride the bow for short periods.

Hopefully we’ll continue to see plenty more whales as the season continues. We never really know what we’ll come across, but we’ll take whatever Mother Nature gives us!

Join us and Flagship–San Diego Harbor Excursion for twice-daily whale watching excursions, now through April 15. Download a coupon and save up to $30!

Sounding Diagram


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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego