What is Whale Watching?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
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  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Whale watching is a form of tourism which involves traveling to look for whales. Most commonly, a whale watching trip requires boarding a boat and sailing offshore to see the whales, but people may also simply travel to the seashore when whales are expected. Whale watching trips are especially popular along the West Coast of the United States and Mexico, where the annual migrations of gray whales are very predictable, although people also watch whales in other parts of the world.

Some people find whales very interesting. These cetaceans are among the largest living organisms on Earth, and they are often used to symbolize the plight of the world's marine mammals and oceans. Whales have historically been hunted by numerous civilizations, and they have also been topics of fascination and sometimes horror, as in the case of Moby Dick, when a whale destroys a whaling ship and its captain goes on a quest for vengeance.


On a well-organized whale watching trip, people will at least have a chance to see whale spouts, created when whales surface after a drive and clear out their blowholes to breathe. If people are lucky, they may be able to witness some of the above-water behaviors exhibited by whales, such as spy-hopping and fluking. When a whale spy-hops, it literally pokes its head up above water to get a view of the surrounding area, looking sort of like a groundhog emerging from its den. Fluking involves lifting the tail all the way out of the water and slapping it; some whales may also slap their fins.

Sometimes, a whale watching trip passes through an especially active pod of whales, and the whales may breach, launching their bodies out of the water for a moment. In regions where whales are protected, curious animals may also approach the ship to get a closer look, which can be exciting, although if the whale blows out its blowhole to clear it of water, people may be in for a stinky shower.

People who are interested in going whale watching should look up the best times to see whales in areas where they would like to travel. Booking a trip on a whale watching boat is the best way to see whales, since the boat can travel out to see whales offshore; such trips can last a few hours or a few days. It's a good idea to prepare for a boat trip with lots of layers of clothing, along with binoculars and a camera, and people who get seasick should take appropriate precautions. For those who don't feel like boating, hanging out on cliffs or headlands to wait for whales can sometimes yield results.


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Post 1
Whale watching excursions are also available on the eastern coast of the United States. For example, such trips are available near Cape May, New Jersey at various times of the year.

Are certain whales more "popular" for whale watching trips, such as grey whales and killer whales? What about other whale species, such as blue or humpback whales? Do more whale watching trips happen along coastlines or in deeper water?

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