Whale watching in Cabo San Lucas topped the list of activities our family wanted to do while vacationing in Los Cabos, partially because we were there in the winter months (the whale watching season extends from December through April) and partially because, due to its location, this area offers a wonderful opportunity to witness the whales’ annual migration. The Sea of Cortez hosts many whale species (gray, sperm and the blue whale in addition to the most famous humpback whale) as well as dolphins and orcas.
We booked our excursion with Cabo Adventures, one of the leading companies offering whale watching photo safari tours. Unlike some of the other competitors, they pick up and drop off their guests at their hotel with an air-conditioned van, stocked with water and soft drinks.
After a short check-in at the Cabos marina, we were ushered into one of their rigid, inflatable speed boats, which holds up to 15 passengers. This allows for an intimate environment and a true feeling of being up close to these magnificent mammals as they swim, sometimes alongside the boat, in the open water. Soon after leaving the marina, we made a quick stop to admire the famous Los Cabos land mark, El Arco, as well as a colony of sea lions in the nearby rocks.
We were then taken 5-10 miles out into the Pacific in search of whales. We were fortunate to witness a young humpback whale breach several times very close to our boat. Despite seeing many pictures and videos before, witnessing this in person was a remarkable experience. You should have seen our children’s beaming faces! After a while we also encountered a mama whale with its baby. They did not come out of the water, but we saw some great spouting action.
Before returning to the shore, our captain took a brief break to offer a short lecture on the wonderful sea animals and answer our questions. If you wonder why the whales breach, how much food they consume on a daily basis or how long they live, you are sure to find out!
A few words of advice as you consider taking this tour:
- Most Cabo San Lucas whale watching companies offer several tours per day, lasting approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours. We were told that the morning ones are best for calmer seas and/or better chance of spotting whales.
- The age requirement for children is 5 and up and everybody under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult, to help you plan accordingly. Also, pregnant women are not allowed.
- Make sure you bring a light water resistant jacket for everybody, as the ride is quite breezy even in warm weather. It will also protect you from splashing water as the boat makes its way out into the Pacific.
- Speaking of splashing, if possible, bring a waterproof camera. After taking the trip, I understand why most tour companies emphasize this (even though most tourists ignore the advice). We got quite wet, not by the whales (which you will, if you are lucky!), but by the waves crashing into and around our boat. Luckily our cameras survived, but it was a very close call a few times…
- The bumpy ride and unpredictability of whale appearances make it fairly hard to take good pictures, even for more experienced photographers with good cameras. For this reason we were glad that the tour company provided a photographer who took several pictures of our family in addition to capturing the whales. While the pictures/video come at extra cost, it may be a good (or for some, the only) option to bring the experience back home.
- Most tourists rush to the front of the boat to get “the best seats,” but the back of the boat is more stable and will give you an equally good chance to see a whale and/or take pictures since the boats usually circle around the animals once they spot them in the water.
- Last but not least, because of the bumpy ride, several passengers on our boat got sick, including one of our children. If you are prone to sea-sickness (and perhaps even if you are not), I strongly recommend taking a dose of Dramamine before heading out on the ocean so that this does not ruin your experience.
I hope these last couples of points don’t scare you away. Our whale-watching photo safari was a very memorable experience for the entire family and one I very much recommend.
This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.