Whales: Even more fantastic than you think!

Bet you didn’t know that whales have hair. Most people know they’re mammals, but very few people think that extends to having hair, but it’s perfectly true. Whales are also accomplished singers, some can even dance, and they have highly evolved ways of communicating with each other over long distances. To stop them from drowning only one hemisphere of their brain sleeps at a time, and as well as being the world’s largest mammals, whales also win the award for longest lifespan. You’d think the size of whales would mean they’d be easy to see and understand, but they’re not and lots of us go to quite a lot of trouble to learn a bit more about them by watching.

You don’t have to be a marine biologist, whale watching tours run out of harbours on many coastlines, the best positions being along the annual migration routes, and they’re the easiest way to get close to one of these gentle giants. The experience will be different depending on the kinds of whales you’re binocular hunting and the time of year. Calving ground action is usually liveliest, but some species, like Orcas for example, are already more friendly and active. Each species has different body language, but breaching, jumping, tail whacking and fin slapping generally mean whales are trying to impress a mate and you can hope to see these kinds of behaviours in the mating grounds.

One of the main reasons people have for wanting to go whale watching is that they’re impressed by these huge creatures and interested in learning more about them, so a major concern is: does this do the animals any harm? Being crowded or chased by boats is not going to do any creature any good, but the right kind of whale watching can be beneficial in raising awareness for conservation and protection projects and countering the case for whaling - the key is in selecting the right company to go with. A good operator will make animal welfare a top priority, they won’t barge up to or frighten marine life and will respect regulations about how closely you can approach animals and at what speeds. As well as helping to protect animals you probably want to see because you’re in awe of, you will most likely find that slow and steady allows you to get closer to the whales, rather than trying to photograph their wake as they flee.
Finally be wary of any outfit which guarantees a sighting - it’s impossible to make that kind of promise - it’s the nature of the beast!

Your first sight of a whale may just be a glimpse of tail fin, but the magic of a whale watching excursion is that these are wild animals and as long as you bear that in mind you’ll be able to appreciate how incredible an opportunity this is and begin to comprehend how much respect these amazing creatures deserve.

Best Places to Watch Whales

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