Whale watching

Whale watching is the practice of observing whales and dolphins in their natural habitat that is enjoyed by millions of people around the world every year. Whales are watched most commonly for recreation like bird watching but the activity can also serve scientific or educational purposes. Paid tour boats are common but oftentimes whales can be seen from shore or personal watercraft. Some practical ferry crossings pass through areas in which whales or icebergs may be spotted, but these normally do not announce whale sightings or deviate course to get a better look. Many regional whale watching groups exist that will share knowledge and sighting info with voyagers.

Stay safe

There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!Moby Dick, Herman Melville, 1851

General boating safety can be found in cruising on small craft.


See also: Animal ethics

The rapid growth of the number of whale watching trips and the size of vessel used to watch whales may affect whale behaviour, migratory patterns and breeding cycles. There is now strong evidence that whale watching can significantly affect the biology and ecology of whales and dolphins.

Environmental campaigners, concerned by what they consider the "quick-buck" mentality of some boat owners, continue to strongly urge all whale watcher operators to contribute to local regulations governing whale watching (no international standard set of regulations exist because of the huge variety of species and populations). Common rules include:

(Source: Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, WDCS)

Almost all popular whale watching regions now have such regulations. Campaigners hope that a combination of political pressure, free advertising and promotion by ethical tourism operators and boat operators' personal passion for marine wildlife compel them to adhere to such regulations.

One example of such regulations is the Be Whale Wise campaign of the Northeast Pacific.

Popular Locations

Tail of a southern right whale

South Africa




Iceland is one of the best locations in Europe for whale watching (see this website). The most suitable time to see whales is from May to September.

North America



United States of America

an Orca 'porpoising' in Hood Canal area of Puget Sound



New Zealand


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