Thar She Blows: A World of Whales
If viewing whales in frigid arctic waters seems daunting, there are many opportunities to observe whales in the tropics, the winter breeding grounds for many marine mammals.
Every year, families of humpbacks visit the Hawaiian Islands, their winter breeding grounds. The best value in Hawaiian whale-watching is a three to five-hour trip with Captain Zodiac. (Three hours, $65; 4 hours, $75; 5 hours, $105; complete with beach landing and lunch.)
Captain Zodiac uses small, motorized inflatables to get within 100 yards of the creaturesclose enough to feel the spray kicked up when they breech. Boats carry hydrophones as they ply the waters of Kauai's spectacular Na Pali Coast. Trips run January through April from Kauai. There are similar programs for the Big Island. Contact Captain Zodiac, P.O. Box 456, Hanalei, Kauai, HI 96714, 800.422.7824, 808.826.9371 (Kauai), 808.329.3199 (Big Island).
For those looking for more than a one-day-trip, Eye of the Whale offers an "Earth, Fire and Sea" Hawaiian holiday which combines sailing, wilderness hiking and volcano exploration. Participants stay in bed-and-breakfast lodging with day-trips to observe migrating gray and humpback whales off the Big Island. The 6-day trips cost about $1,000 with departures year-round (whale season: January through mid-April). A 10-day trip visiting Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii with stays at bed-and-breakfasts runs $1,550. Contact Eye of the Whale, P.O. Box 1269, Kapa 'Au, HI 96755, 800.659.3544, 808.889.0227.
Two prime warm-water whale watching locations are the Caribbean and the Azores Islands. The Silver Bank area in the Caribbean just offshore from the Dominican Republic is the winter mating and birthing location for the humpback whale. Natural Habitat Adventures' "Caribbean Humpback" tour allows participants to observe and swim with the whales.
The 10-day March trips run $2,995 from Puerto Plata or Grand Turk. Natural Habitat also provides an unusual opportunity to really get close to sperm whales on their sailing trip in the Azores Islands in which participants aid scientists in collecting data on the sperm whale with the possibility of swimming with the animals as well. Eight or 10-day June and August trips cost from $2,195 to $2,495 (from Horta, Azores). For information on both these trips contact Natural Habitat Adventures, 800.543.8917.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication