Whale Watching




What is Whale Watching and when did it Begin?

Whale watching is when people go to observe whales in their own natural habitat. Most people do this for fun and recreation, but this practice also includes many scientific and educational benefits. There’s so much more students can learn about these magnificent creatures by watching them in their own environment as opposed to reading about them in a book.

How Whale Watching Has Helped the Economy

Organized whale watching is only a recent development which began in the 1950’s when the San Diego Cabrillo National Monument was officially declared a public venue for observing Gray Whales. Today, this industry has really boomed. It is estimated that in 2008 almost 13 million people from around the world went whale watching. Whale watching today generates over $2 billion in worldwide tourism revenues and employs over 13,000 people.
As one can imagine, whale watching has really benefited coastal developing countries. These countries can now take advantage of the presence of whales in their territories to attract tourists and generate much needed revenue.

All About Whale Watching â€" A complete resource on whale watching including why people go whale watching, history of whale watching and great locations for whale watching
International Whaling Commission â€" Official site of the International Whaling Commission, a governmental body charged with managing whaling and whale conservation
Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society â€" This society is dedicated to the welfare of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) worldwide

A Bit about Whales

Two little pieces of information that all school boys know are:
Whales are huge â€" To be precise, whales are the biggest animals on the face of the earth! In fact, the blue whale is considered to be the biggest animal to ever live on earth. A blue whale can grow up to 105 feet and weight up to 200 tons; that’s how much 30 elephants would weigh!
Whales are mammals â€" These awesome creatures are no fish! They don’t have gills, but rather breathe air via their blow hole. Also, they give birth to live young which they suckle.
BUT! Did you know dolphins are also a type of whale? Yes! In fact the whale family includes dolphins, porpoises as well as the animals we generally recognize as whales. These three marine animals are together referred to as cetaceans.

Types of Whales

There are primarily 2 main types of whales:

  • Toothed Whales (odontoceti) â€" These include animals such as dolphins, porpoises and whales such as beluga whales, killer whales and sperm whales.
  • Baleen Whales (mysticeti) â€" These include whales such as the blue whale, humpback whale, bowhead whale, etc.

Whales are Endangered!

Something very important that everyone should know is that whales are endangered. They were (and still are) hunted in many countries across the world for their meat as well as their fat â€" called blubber â€" which is very useful for making oil, soaps, candles, etc. Whales are still hunted in some countries today and this practice is called whaling.
You’re still thirsty for more information on whales? Then check out the links below:
Whale Facts â€" Very brief yet helpful information on a whale’s life
10 Facts about Whales, Dolphins & Porpoises â€" What is a whale? How many types are there? How long do they live? Where do they live? How do they give birth? And more great info!
Whale Facts You Should Know â€" Some well-known and some little known facts about these giants of the animal kingdom

The Best Places to go Whale Watching

The following are some of the best places in the world to go whale watching:

  • The Azores, Portugal â€" These nine volcanic islands with their plentiful fish are great for observing whales, specifically the sperm whale and short-finned pilot whale. For the best view, try Faial, Pico or Sao Jorge.
  • Cape Cod, U.S.A â€" Cape Cod, located in the Atlantic Ocean, is considered one of the top 10 best places of the world for whale sightings. Whales that frequent this fabulous resort include: humpback, minke and finback.
  • Hawaii â€" Every winter, thousands of visitors flock to these beautiful islands to gaze upon the whales, which are also just making a pit stop. Hawaii’s clear waters, which allow for visibility up to 100 feet below, are ideal for whale watching. Maui is considered the best island for whale watching, followed by Wailea, Kihei and Lahaina.
  • Hermanus, South Africa â€" Located on Walker Bay at the most southern tip of Africa, Hermanus offers arguably the best shore-based whale watching opportunities in the world. Each July, thousands of visitors come down to the cliff side path which makes for an ideal spot for gazing upon the whales. The whales especially love the warm and shallow waters at this time of year.
  • Kaikoura, New Zealand â€" Kaikoura is ranked as the number one spot for sighting sperm whales; throngs of which gather along its coast at all times of the year. If you happen to be there at the right time of year, you might also spot Orcas (between December and March) and humpbacks (between June and July).

10 Best Places in the World for Whale Watching â€" The 10 best places in the world to observe the biggest creatures on planet earth according to weather.com
Whalewatching.com.au â€" Great whale watching packages for residents or visitors to Queensland, Australia
Whale Watching Sydney â€" If you’re in Australia and in the mood for whale watching, look no further! Click on the link and book your trip
Whale Watch Kaikoura â€" With a 95% success rate, this New Zealand tour company offers a great opportunity to catch sight of a whale or migrating dolphins

Popular Whale Species to Look Out For

The following are some of the most popular whale species to look out for when you go whale watching:

  • Blue Whale â€" Called ‘blue’ because they appear that way when submerged in the water, this species of whale is popular due to its humungous size. It is considered to be the largest animal on earth ever and can weigh up to 200 tons.
  • Humpback Whale â€" Also called the ‘singing whale’ because of its haunting whale song, the humpback is often sighted doing amazing acrobats, e.g. leaping out of the water despite their impressive size and then crashing back down.
  • Sperm Whale â€" The largest of the toothed whales, the sperm whale gets its name due to the shape of its head. The sperm whale can grow up to 60 feet in length.
  • Killer Whale â€" Although it is called a whale, the killer whale is actually the largest of the dolphin species. Although they are top-level predators with no known enemies, the killer whale has never been known to eat humans. In fact they are extremely sociable and playful with people.

List of Cetaceans â€" A very comprehensive article on most of the popular cetaceans (whales and dolphins) along with great diagrams and photographs
5 Popular Whale Species â€" Some basic yet helpful information from whalefacts.org about 5 popular whale species, and 1 bonus species!
Types of Whales â€" Great information on all types of whales and dolphins from across the world
Sighting of World’s Rarest Whale â€" In November 2012, one of the world’s rarest (if not the rarest) whale species washed up on the shore of New Zealand. This article provides some great info.
Pictures of the World’s Rarest and Most Popular Whales â€" Amazing pictures of these gentle giants of the deep

Whaling vs. Whale Watching

There is a great deal of difference between whaling and whale watching, as you may have already guessed. While whale watching refers to observing whales for pleasure or educational purposes, whaling refers to hunting them for their meat, fat, etc.
Although there may be some need for whaling in order to control the population of whales, with the huge boom in the whale watching industry, many people are now arguing that whales are much more lucrative alive than dead.
Why Whale Watching is More Beneficial than Whaling â€" An article that argues that even from an economic perspective it makes more sense to support whale watching over whaling
From Whaling to Whale Watching â€" An interesting article that details Queensland’s journey from being a center of the whaling industry to its recent adoption of anti-whaling policies and support for whale watching
Whaling and Whale Watching go Head to Head â€" This article details the struggle between the industries of whaling and eco-tourism and the complex reasons for this struggle

Online Resources for Whale Watching

The following are some more helpful online resources on whale watching.
Australian Dept of Environment, Water, & Natural Resources â€" Some helpful links to whale watching resources
South Australian Whale Center â€" Great information on whale watching, whale watching tours, whale research and other resources
Effect of Whale Watching on Whales â€" People love whale watching, but what do the whales think of it and how are they affected? Read on to find out…

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