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Guide to Summer Whale Watching in San Diego

During the summer, the San Diego coast is teaming with Blue whales as they make their annual migration, making for ideal summer whale watching. Watch the largest creatures on Earth swim along the San Diego coastline beginning in mid-June and extending through the month of September. Out of those three and a half months, you may wonder what is the best month to go whale watching in San Diego? With migration in full swing the month of July counts as the peak season for whale watching with some 2,000 to 3,000 Blue whales feeding off the California coast.

These marvelous sea mammals, who can stretch up to 100-feet, can be spotted when the creatures spout a 30-foot column of water in the air that can be seen from miles away. The Blue whales make their way from Antartica, to California to Costa Rica during their migratory patterns. Blue whales are presently documented as an endangered species with only about 2,500 individuals left in the North Pacific population. Luckily over the past couple years, variations in ocean temperatures and a great amount of krill in San Diego waters have attracted way more whales to the coast than in the past. However, since blue whales tend to swim further out to sea than other whale species it is necessary to hop on a ship or boat trip to experience amazing views that are not visible by just standing on the shore.

What other kind of whales are in San Diego? With Blue whales being the most prevalent type of whale present in the summer months in the Pacific ocean, there are several other whale types available for viewing year round in San Diego. Baleen whales, a whale that has plates of whalebone in the mouth instead of teeth for straining plankton from the water, are common in San Diego waters. As well as Blue whales, the Eastern Gray Whale is a large baleen whale commonly spotted off the coast during the Winter and Spring season. Gray whales complete the longest annual migration of any mammal traveling 6,000 miles each way from its northern feeding grounds in the Alaskan Bering Strait down to its Winter breeding and calving grounds in the lagoons of Baja Mexico. Not as massive as the Blue whale, Gray whales reach about 50 ft long and weigh up to 72,000 pounds when they’re fully grown adults. The months of April through May is the best time to encounter Gray Whales with their newborn calves heading back home from Baja Mexico. Another baleen whale present in San Diego is the Humpback whale. This creature, similar in size to the Gray whale, weighing up to 80,000 pounds fully grown, is extremely docile and has been nicknamed the acrobat of the whale world. Humpbacks feed mostly on minuscule krill, other zooplankton, and tiny school fish like herring, anchovies and sardines. Humpback whales are widely spread over all Earth’s oceans with distinct seasonal changes in their distribution. San Diego goers who are seeking a glimpse at these whales can spot a Humpback during any month of the year. Each humpback fluke has a special marking, like a fingerprint is unique to each human, which can allow whale watching experts to track the whales more easily. Ranking in as the second largest whale after the Blue whale, is the Finback whale. Finback whales are another type of baleen whale spotted around San Diego but not as often as Blue or Gray whales. It is found in all the major oceans around the world, including the Pacific and only absent from waters close to the ice pack at the poles and relatively small areas of water separate from the open ocean. The highest population density occurs in temperate to cool waters. The Finback’s food consists of small schooling fish, squid, and like other baleens, krill.