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A Whale of a Time: Enjoy Whale Watching Year-Round in Monterey County

A Whale of a Time: Enjoy Whale Watching Year-Round in Monterey County

January is the peak of the great gray whale migration as thousands of these majestic creatures travel through Monterey Bay on their way to Mexico for breeding and calving. While gray whales can be spotted during the migration in Monterey County, other species of whales and dolphins can be seen throughout the year including blue whales, humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales, sperm whales, orcas, northern right whale dolphins, Risso's dolphins and many more!

"You can spot as many as 10 species of whales and dolphins from the back deck of Monterey Bay Aquarium," says Mimi Hahn, Aquarium Chief Marketing Officer. "They are spectacular signs of the vibrancy of Monterey Bay and why we like to say it's actually our best exhibit."

A number of whale watching tour companies operate out of Monterey and Moss Landing. Sea captains take visitors out daily to observe these magical ocean creatures and educate guests on their behaviors and patterns. Several species of whales and dolphins are easier to spot in Monterey Bay due to one of the deepest submarine canyons on the west coast– the Monterey Submarine Canyon. The canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, is just off the Monterey coastline and supports a variety of habitats as well as provides plenty of nutrients for marine mammals.

"There is no better place to see these gentle giants from shore or by boat than right here in breathtaking Monterey County," says Tammy Blount, President and CEO of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Seeing a blue whale, the largest animal on earth, swim by your boat, a humpback whale breach right offshore or a gray whale passing by with its calf is really an incredibly inspiring and memorable experience."

The exciting gray whale migration begins with pregnant mothers leaving the Bering Strait in October for Baja, Mexico. They are followed by the general population and then juvenile whales who all head south for the warmer waters of the lagoons in Mexico. By the third week of January, vast numbers of whales can be seen heading south. While daily sightings are highly probable, they cannot be guaranteed as these are wild animals.

Join the celebration of the exciting migration this year at the 8th Annual Whalefest held on January 27 and 28, 2018, at Old Fisherman's Wharf. This free, entertaining and interactive family event celebrates the migration of the gray whales and local sea creatures with music, activities, educational displays and an informative symposium with lectures by the worlds' leading marine scientists and advocates. The event brings together the community and benefits many local and national marine organizations that educate, inspire and empower the public to protect the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

But the fun doesn't stop there, around mid-February gray whales can be seen heading north again to Alaska and continue to travel until April when the mothers return with their calves. The pairs must cross over the cavernous canyon where killer whales lie in wait and often attack the calves. Mothers can save their young if they can head to shallow waters and the chase is something incredible to see. It's no fluke that people migrate to Monterey, the Whale Watching Capital of the World™!

For more information on year-round whale watching and tours in Monterey County, please visit

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