San Diego Natural History Museum has noticed more than 400 grey whales coming south this season, which is a good number.
“This season has been phenomenal,” says Leslie Rapp, San Diego Natural History Museum whaler.
“We have seen whales in every cruise except two.”
Rapp and her colleagues frequent Hornblower Cruises to tell people about the mammals of the sea. February is the middle of gray whale southern migration, she says, and females are going down to Mexico. Also, northbound whales are on move, so San Diego is in between the transition of both migrations.
According to Joe Terzi, president of the San Diego Tourism Association, San Diego is quickly becoming a top whale-watching destination anywhere in the world. Even in February, it’s fantastically clear, and you can see the whales from three miles away.
“In winter season, we see gray whales, humpbacks, finback whales, four kinds of dolphins, common dolphins, Rissos, white-sided dolphins,” says Rebecca Milkey, director of marketing for Hornblower cruises. At summertime, she adds, different whales feed near San Diego.
On one Hornblower cruise, we saw whale tails and, after cruising 11 miles out, saw signs of finback and gray whales, which deep-dive for food. Huge flocks of Pacific white-sided dolphins jumped up and down in the water. This season, tourists haven’t seen a lot of dolphins, so that was a special treat.
We noticed that, unlike dolphins, whales move much slower and don’t waste as much energy. Moreover, whales don’t actually sleep the way we understand sleeping. They are conscious breathers, so they have to be awake to come to the surface to breathe.
“They somehow shut down half of their brain temporarily to kind of have slow sleep, but they are not completely in a sleep,” Rapp says. “They can still be moving.”
- Whale watching is a great tourist attraction in San Diego.
- Tourists from U.S., Europe, Mexico and China want to catch a glimpse of whales and dolphins.
- From a Hornblower cruiseship, you are able to see gray whales, finback whales and four kinds of dolphins at winter time. At summertime different whales appear in the waters of San Diego.
- El Niño is heating up the waters warm enough for whales to feed.
- Winter season on whale watching ends in April.