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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

A Whale of a Day in San Diego

San Diego, California

San Diego, California

I’ve gone whale watching all over the globe. Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii (both Lanai and Molokai); about the only well-known places for whales I haven’t been are southern California and Alaska. Well, after a New Years trip to see the family in San Diego, I can now mark one of those spots off my list.

My sister and I emailed back and forth before I made the drive out, trying to decide what we wanted to do with our family time. Part of me wanted to just sit around and play games with my nephews and watch the college football games on television. I had seen a few things in San Diego already, so I felt no huge desire to do a ton of sightseeing. But then I recalled that the winter months are whale season for the area. And lucky me, they’re having a record year for the number of gray whales in the area – a species I had yet to see.

The American as seen from the Cabrillo National Monument

The America as seen from the Cabrillo National Monument

Trent working hard

Trent working hard

Thanks to my sister’s research, we booked the Americaa schooner that is all sail-powered. Well, kinda. If the wind is down, then they use the engines. And while we did have the sails up on this journey – my eldest nephew even doing a bit of yo, ho, ho’ing to help – the wind wasn’t really feeling like blowing. So we had to motor about the harbor and along the border with Mexico to search for whales. I can’t say anyone complained much about this, since it was 77 and sunny the whole time.

There was also the bonus of whales. Bunches of ’em. They were everywhere. One here, one there off in the distance, and a pod of five or six right under us. Probably twenty in all.

Cameras clicked all over the place, mine probably the most of all. I couldn’t take enough pictures, 356 in all in about four hours. It wasn’t all whales, though. I got shots of a few sea lions, some pelicans, and the U.S.S. Carl Vinson – the aircraft carrier best known for bin Laden’s burial at sea.

The U.S.S. Carl Vinson

The U.S.S. Carl Vinson

While all of the sights interested me – whether natural, military, or civilian – I was there to see the wildlife, the whales most specifically. And as I said, they were out in plenty that day. Here are some of my favorite gray whale photos from our cruise:

Gray whales dive much like humpbacks

Gray whales dive much like humpbacks

A gray whale and Tijuana, Mexico

A gray whale and Tijuana, Mexico

Splashing about, having fun

Splashing about, having fun

A pod of gray whales

A pod of gray whales

Another fluke shot

Another fluke shot

A gray whale fluke

A gray whale fluke

Two gray whales and San Diego

Two gray whales and San Diego

There’s also this sequence I snapped:Gray Whale San Diego California 1Gray Whale San Diego California 2Gray Whale San Diego California 3Gray Whale San Diego 4Gray Whale San Diego California 5Gray Whale San Diego California 6

We also were fortunate to spot some risso dolphins. As one of the crew members said, they’re like regular dolphins on steroids. And apparently they’re also classified as whales. So, mark off two new whales species for me that day. The pod of a half dozen or so that we we saw were quick, so I only captured a couple of shots as we sailed back to port:Risso Dolphins Pod San Diego CaliforniaRisso Dolphin Sighting San Diego CaliforniaBy the time we returned to shore, we were all nice and tan – or, in my case, at least a little tanner – and more than happy with our experience. It’s hard to say it was the best of any of my whale watching trips, though, since I’d put them all on the same level – amazing. Every single one of them has been fantastic and unique in their own way, this one on a great ship, with a fantastic crew – including an actor from the Russell Crowe movie Master and Commander – and on a beautiful day, all with the family.

And there’s not much more you can ask for than that – thar she blows!

That she blows

That she blows

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6 Comments on “A Whale of a Day in San Diego”

  1. Traveling Ted January 20, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    I have never seen whales, but I recently spotted hundreds of manatees in Florida. I would imagine the experience is similar just on a much larger scale with whales. Hope to see this one day. Your photos are quite inspirational and the series of the tale going down is awesome.

    • Jason's Travels January 20, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

      If I lived by the ocean, I would have to consider getting a job with a whale watching company, I love it that much. It’s such an enjoyable activity, each and every time I travel.

  2. agnesstramp January 24, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    Wow. To be honest, I’m so jealous of your experience. I would love to see a whale in the see. I swam with dolphins once, but nothing like this!

  3. xbl July 3, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    just came across this post. i’ve been to most of the places on your list (not Antarctica but Alaska), but by far the best whale watching is in Baja California. For gray whales, go to guerrero negro, san ignacio, or magdalena bay, and you will see dozens to a hundred whales on a single boat ride, with some (including baby whales) coming up to you and allowing you to pet them on the “muzzle”. To see Blue Whales go to Loreto, where you can come as close as maybe 10 yds from 80 ft whales.

    enjoy reading your blog, happy travels!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] but they’re up against some pretty stiff competition between the sunset at La Jolla and time out on the water whale watching. Both of those offered some pretty spectacular panoramas, but I don’t think they hold up […]

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