Friday, June 8, 2012

Blue Whale Season

The San Diego Natural History Museum in partnership with H and M Landing  offers a fleeting opportunity to see the biggest animal on the planet—ever. 

Photo Courtesy of SDNHM and taken by: Diane Cullins.

Blue whales—the largest mammal, and possibly the largest animal to ever inhabit Earth—can be spotted swimming and feeding off the coast of California from mid-June through October. With increasing populations, and the presence of their food in local waters, the blue whale has become a recent regular local visitor in the summer just offshore from Point Loma, San Diego. At over 100 feet in length, this leviathan is incredible to observe in the wild.

According to Captain Frank Ursitti with Pacific SeaFari, “Many Southern Californians are familiar with the migration of the Pacific gray whale. This species has the longest migration of any animal on Earth and we are fortunate here in Southern California to be able to observe both south- and north-bound migrations. This occurs just offshore between the months of December through April. What few know about, and are fortunate to witness, is the presence of blue whales off our coast in summer months.” Seeing blue whales near San Diego is an opportunity that may not last for long.

Says Ursitti, “We are currently in a cooler water cycle. As a result of deep-water upwellings, these cooler water temps are nutrient-rich and set the stage for massive plankton blooms, which in turn provide ideal conditions for krill to flourish in the region.” Every year the krill congregate in different places, following the cool waters and these massive blooms. Blue whales thrive on krill—an example of one of the largest animals on our planet surviving by consuming one of the smallest.
There are only a few places on the planet where one can observe this behemoth, and San Diego is currently one of the premier destinations.

In the past people who wanted a blue whale adventure had to go far and away to see them. Now they can see blue whales just off-shore in San Diego, which is not only a convenient location but a world-class destination, offering so much more for people to do and see than other areas where one can see blue whales: museums, beaches, restaurants, and all types of outdoor activities" said Phil Lobred, GM for H and M Landing in San Diego.

H&M Landing, has been conducting whale watching for the last 50 years, offers Pacific SeaFari blue whale-watching adventures every Thursday and Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM. The first cruise for the 2012 summer season will be on Sunday, June 17. The season will end in mid-October.

“What sets Pacific SeaFari tours apart from others offering this activity in the area is that all trips are fully narrated by experienced captains who have been observing wildlife offshore for decades. Many captains traverse the waters south of the border and miles offshore throughout the year and have an unparalleled background in wildlife observation and interpretation as a result."

Additionally, in partnership with the San Diego Natural History Museum, the cruises exclusively include commentary and interpretation with the museum’s trained volunteer staff of shipboard naturalists, the “Whalers.” There is no comparison with the experience of a SeaFari tour to that of harbor cruise offered by others in the region,” promises Judy Lawrence, Lead Whaler.

The journey out to sea begins with a tour of historic San Diego Bay, once a favorite breeding ground and calving lagoon for gray whales. Now a strategic military and viable commercial port, San Diego Bay is an eclectic waterfront. On the way out to sea and back, adventurers also have the opportunity to see fin whales, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea birds, and other marine life. “Once encountered, sometimes the whales themselves are as curious with us as we are with them,” says Capt. Ursitti.

Not too long ago we encountered a pod of orca whales just eight miles offshore. It would have been easy to mistake this pod for a group of escapees from SeaWorld, as the hour-long activity was nonstop breaching, spy hopping, and lob tailing,” recounted Ursitti. “On another day a pod of seven humpback whales snuggled right up to the boat and continued swimming circles around the boat until it was time for us to go home.”

Since 1954 H and M Landing has been considered the West Coast marine natural-history headquarters. All of H&M’s vessels are U.S. Coast Guard-inspected and documented.

Shipboard accommodations include seating, comfortable lounges, a budget-conscious snack bar and outdoor viewing. SeaFari vessels are comfortable, with a limited number of adventurers on board, thus offering the most rewarding experience available. The crews on each boat are experienced, knowledgeable and accessible to guests.

Tickets to the 6-hour cruises are:

$80 for adults 
$55 for children (15 and under). 

Tickets can be purchased at the San Diego Natural History Museum and H and M Landing. Both H&M and the Museum will be selling special discount “combo packages” to visit the Museum and visit the whales ($90 for adults and $60 for children 3–12; not valid on separately priced exhibitions). Packages can be purchased by calling the Museum at 877.946.7797. 

For more information click here or visit H&M Landing.


  1. I loved seeing the whales in Australia

    1. These whales are amazing! I bet that must've been something to see them in Australia's open ocean. :)