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Whale Watching Adventure off Cape Ann

How many times have I thought about going whale watching and just haven’t done it? Well, we can finally cross it off our bucket list. We selected our date at the last minute, hoping for a warm clear day and calm waters. We were lucky. The day was gorgeous. In the mid-’80s onshore, perfect. The girls were so excited about the trip.

Honestly, even though it was a beautiful day I’m so glad I read the info on the website about it being colder on the water. Of course, I knew this but several miles out to sea it really is colder. We brought winter jackets which we were thankful for. It was surprising how much the temperature dropped past the harbor wall. And reversely it felt like a wall of heat on the way back into the harbor. So amazing. I guess that’s why being out on the water is so appealing on a hot summer day.

setting off, Whale Watching

It took us about 35 minutes to get out to the feeding grounds which we spent 2 hours at in total. We visited 3 different locations to see the different whales and porpoises we saw. Since it’s all done at high speeds the wind was strong but as you can see it didn’t stop the girls from being in the front of the boat. Checking it all out. Ready to see the whales.

2 whales
One whale is surfacing and the other is blowing out air

The captain and crew were fantastic. There were several crew members walking around checking on the guests, making sure everyone was doing well. Offering to get you anything you might need. Suggesting different places to get the best view of the whales from and even where to sit to get out of the spray of the water. They really were there to help the guests. One lady even suggested to a guest to drink and eat something to make her feel better. They really were attentive to all the guests.

the whole whale
You can see the spray from the whale’s blowhole and the length of the whale here

When we got to the feeding grounds the educator on board explained everything that was happening. If we were waiting for whales to surface, he would explain their feeding habits or why the ocean in the North Atlantic is green or why the Caribbean is blue. Do you know why? I do. It was wonderful. I learned so much, I was amazed. We saw Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, and porpoises. The educator even knew the names of a few of the whales we saw.

I found it amazing that whales come back to the same feeding grounds every year. The whales migrate from their feeding grounds in the North Atlantic to the Caribbean to give birth to their calves in the winter. The calves have no blubber on them when born and would get hyperthermia and die if they were to be born in the North Atlantic. The Caribbean is much warmer which allows the calves to acclimate to life before the journey north. During this time in the Caribbean, the whales are fasting or using the blubber they’ve stored up during the summer months of feeding up in the North Atlantic. I was surprised to learn the Caribbean is mostly void of food for the whales. The water is blue because there isn’t any plankton.

2 whales, 1 submerged
There are two whales in this photo. The white/green image at the bottom of the picture is the underside of a whale. You can really see the “green water” here. Also, notice the underside of the second whales tail.

In the North Atlantic, there is a lot of plankton in the water which makes the water green. That plankton is feeding the fish which in turn feeds the whales. The Humpback and Fin whales are baleen whales. The baleen acts as a filter system allowing the water to be expelled while trapping the fish and krill that the whales eat. The whales are in the North Atlantic from April through October and are feeding up to 18 hours a day. They are just as likely to feed at night as during the day. They feed and rest the whole day long.

The whales are able to stay submerged for quite a while so when we saw the same whale go down and then come up again within a few minutes it was wonderful. Honestly, I think the whales get a kick out of seeing the boats. They would come so close as if to say “hello”.

whale tail action too

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Whale tail
The whale was playing for us in these three pictures, flopping his tail around.

Scientists studying whales have learned the whale’s tail markings are as unique to whales as our fingerprints are to us. No two are alike. This is why the educator on board was able to point out the two Fin Whales we saw and tell us their names. He told us that Fan and Spoon have been in the waters off Cape Ann Massachusetts since the 1970s.

a whale flapping his tail
Let’s see how big of a splash I can make.
Whales blow hole
You can see the ‘heart-shaped’ blowhole of the whale in the picture

Porpoises we learned, are actually small toothed whales. Who knew? It was interesting to learn that porpoises have two blowholes. These blowholes allow the porpoise to use echolocation as their many sensory systems. I loved how the porpoises came close to the boat but never bumped into us. They kept bobbing their heads out of the water at the edge but sadly didn’t jump out of the water for us. You can see another whale watching tour boat in the distance.

Porpoises, Whale Watching
Porpoises, Whale Watching
A pod of porpoises
porpoises, Whale Watching
porpoises swimming away

Some whales use echolocation as well, while others do not. The baleen whales we saw do not have very good use of echolocation but toothed whales like the Beluga Whale, Sperm Whale and Orka’s do. I asked the educator about this. He told me the whales are still able to hear the boats coming since sound travels faster in water than in air. They knew we were there and they came up to greet us. It was a treat for sure.

baleen picture and real sample, Whale Watching
a section of the baleen on the left with the open mouth of a Humpback whale on the right.

This was an afternoon adventure for us. We had lunch at home but as being on the water often does, the sea air made us all hungry. Therefore, I was grateful the ship had a snack bar on board. Everyone enjoyed potato chips, Doritos and Ainsley even had a hot dog she was so hungry. I was just glad they offered real food as well as the snacks.

Family pic, end of the trip
All smiles at the end of the trip.

We had a great time on this whale watching adventure. I would love to take another whale watching trip in another location, possibly on the west coast or even near Alaska to see if there would be different species of whales that we would see.

If you like water sports I’m sure you will like going sea kayaking in Camden Harbor, ME. See the adventure we had here with Maine Sport Outfitters.

Have you been on a whale watching adventure? Where did you take your trip from? What whales did you see?

This Post Has 54 Comments

  1. Jaclyn

    I love whales and I love whale watching! You have some great photos!

    1. Leeanne

      Thanks, the whales were really showing off for us.

  2. kathy

    Thanks for sharing! Whale watching is one of our favorite things. We’d highly suggest Hawaii. :o) Great photos!

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, I’d like to see whales in the Pacific as well.

  3. Melody Destler

    That looked like so much fun! I would love to go whale watching someday. Thank you for sharing your adventure. 🙂

    1. Leeanne

      Whale watching is definitely a great experience, definitely go when you have the opportunity.

  4. Maggie

    Wow! I can’t believe how great your photos look! When I went whale watching near Boston, I just couldn’t seem to get my phone out fast enough lol. Still an incredible experience

    1. Leeanne

      We were in a few pools of whales so everyone had their cameras at the ready. I have to say some of the photos my husband took and some I took so I had twice the opportunity to capture a shot.

  5. kristene furan

    i love all of the beautiful pictures!

    1. Leeanne

      We were amazed too by how many came up to visit with us.

  6. Stephanie Tapert

    Oh my gosh! This is so amazing! I love whales. We get the Grey Whales out in front of our home, but they are not as active as the pictures you are showing. They come to eat the ghost shrimp from the sand bar that is right out our back door. It’s very entertaining.

    1. Leeanne

      That’s pretty fun too. We were out in the open ocean not against the shore so that could really be why these whales were so active.

  7. Jennifer

    I love whales. This trip sounds amazing. It’s so great that the whales came up to say hello.

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, Jennifer, it was amazing how many different whales came up close to the boat.

  8. Cathy

    Wow! This is definitely on my bucket list! I love the video! Thanks for sharing this great adventure!

    1. Leeanne

      Check out the company you go with first. Also, ask when the whales are generally in the area. You don’t want to be looking for whales in the north when they are in the south breading.

  9. Shaunna

    Looks like a great trip! I love seeing animals in their natural habitats! Nice post!

    1. Leeanne

      Agreed. These whales really enjoyed playing too.

  10. Alyssa Stump

    Amazing pictures! I would love to see the whales one day! It looks like you all had an amazing time!

    1. Leeanne

      We did. I couldn’t get over how the whales were having so much fun with the boat right there.

  11. We went on this same whale watch last summer and had an awesome experience. We saw so many whales and two did full body breaches. We also had some waving and slapping with the fins. It was such an amazing experience. You enter it thinking what are the chances? Maybe we will see one? Maybe dolphins? Is was a priceless experience!!

    1. Leeanne

      I’m so glad you had just as great an experience as we did. I couldn’t get over how the whales came so close to the boats.

  12. Alison

    What a great whale watching adventure! Your pictures are amazing!

    1. Leeanne

      Thanks, Alison. We had a great time.

  13. Carey

    Amazing! Such a once in a lifetime trip and to see so many whales.

    1. Leeanne

      It really was amazing to see so many that came so close to the boat. I couldn’t believe it.

  14. Pam

    What a cool experience. I have always wanted to go whale watching. Next time we visit an area that offers it, I’m for sure going to check it out.

    1. Leeanne

      Definitely do that, Pam. I’m sure you will love it.

  15. Stacey Billingsley

    What a cool adventure! We’ve talked about whale watching on both coasts, but we haven’t done it yet. I hope to soon! It looks like an amazing experience!

    1. Leeanne

      We really did have an amazing experience. I think this year would be even more so.

  16. Lisa Manderino

    What a cool adventure! I want to go do this too!

    1. Leeanne

      We really enjoyed our day out. I would love to do it again near Alaska.

  17. Tricia Snow

    What an awesome adventure! This is definitely on my bucket list since they are so close. We see them in FL once in a blue moon but not like this.

    1. Leeanne

      We see them off the coast where I live too but to see them like this you really do need to go out on a boat.

  18. melissa

    What an amazing way to spend an afternoon! We definitely need to get out on a whale cruise up here; I am sure that the kids would love it (and I would, too!). I have always worried that we wouldn’t see any whales, but it seems like you had a great variety to watch! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Leeanne

      We really did get to see lots of whales. I was really impressed by the amount and how close they came to the boat.

  19. Sara

    I went on a whale watching tour from Gloucester and I don’t think we saw nearly as many as you did. You went on a great day.

    1. Leeanne

      I guess we had better luck than you, sorry about that. It might depend on the time of year too. We went in late May.

  20. Cindy Mailhot

    I love whale watching! It looks like you had some great sightings on this trip!

    1. Leeanne

      We really got lucky, Cindy. Everyone was so thrilled to see so many different whales.

  21. Missy

    Yes, I have watched whales in Alaska. What time of year do you recommend visiting to avoid crowds? Or are there private tours?

    1. Leeanne

      You can certainly book a private tour but honestly to avoid crowds go during the week in early June.

  22. Cindy

    Wow how amazing! I’d love to see a whale up close. What a special adventure.

    1. Leeanne

      I honestly couldn’t believe how close the whales came to the boat. It was truly amazing.

  23. Eva Keller

    This is awesome! I went whale watching twice this year in California and only saw dolphins. Maybe third time’s the charm!

    1. Leeanne

      It really is interesting that you can see so many on one trip and only dolphins on another. I guess that is why they call it the wild, you never know what you will get.

  24. Shirley

    This article makes me want to pack my bags and go whale watching off of Cape Ann!

    1. Leeanne

      I’m sure you would have a great time, Shirley.

  25. kmf

    Wow…what a perfect day! Great photos! I didn’t realize porpoises were small-tooth whales. Such a cool experience!

    1. Leeanne

      I didn’t know that about porpoises either til we went on this trip. I guess you do learn something new each day.

    1. Leeanne

      It really was a wonderful trip.

  26. heather J jandrue

    Whale watching is so much fun. It has been a while since we have done it here at home. I hope to this summer. Our most recent whale watch was in Canada. It was amazing!

    1. Leeanne

      I’d love to go on a whale watch in the Pacific too.

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