For anyone visiting Dana Point, whale watching should be at the top of their list of plans. It certainly was for us, and though we’ve been whale watching before (like here in San Diego with Hornblower Cruises), we never get tired of it. And when we saw that the Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching company did Sunset Cruises, that sounded good to us and we booked our tickets.
We arrived in plenty of time and had a quick chat with the owner, who told us they saw 2,000 dolphins on that morning’s cruise. Wow! Here’s hoping we see something. There was plenty to see as we waited near the boat, while the crew cleaned up and did the safety procedures.
There was a snowy egret perched on the side of the boat, and a pelican swimming in the water. Gulls and terns were whirling over the waters of the harbor, looking for supper. From time to time a bird would suddenly spiral down in a twirling dive, even disappearing briefly under the surface, and usually coming out with a fish.
Soon we were on board, and we set off bang on time at 5pm. and at 5.30 we make our first sighting – a fin whale, the Captain tells us. He says this is the 2nd largest mammal ever to have lived, after the blue whale, and is the fastest whale of them all. It weighs about 100 tons – the same as the Dana Pride boat.
Some people see a California sea lion leap clean out of the water – who knows, maybe he’s being chased by something beneath the waves? We missed it, as there’s a lot of luck involved with something like that – you have to be looking the right way at the right time.
But we do get more good views of the fin whale as it moves around. We watch it go below the surface, then the Captain tries to anticipate where it might come up again, although he tells us they can stay below the surface for several minutes and could be moving in any direction.
If it surfaces some distance away it’s then an exciting chase to try to get close to it, as they only stay near the surface for a short while. Fin whales don’t show their tales before they dive, like other whales do, so we’re deprived of the chance of that magnificent sight. But we get lots of great sightings of several whales that seem to be in the same area. We see one spouting, another gives us a good view of its arched back,
It’s all over far too quickly, but it’s still a really exciting hour or so and when the whales appear all the passengers gasp and chatter away, pointing and trying to take photos. They’re all obviously as impressed with the experience as we are, young and old alike. We’re impressed by the boat and crew too, and the whole operation. The Captain keeps us informed of what’s happening, comes out on deck from time to time to answer questions and give more information. It’s obvious the entire crew love the whales and the other creatures we see, even though they come across them every day – it’s far from being just a job to them, and their enthusiasm, and the whale sightings we had, made this a whale watching cruise we’ll never forget.
Allow plenty of time to find the office, and the right wharf. Once you’ve done it, it seems obvious, but the Dana Point Marina is a big place, with several different harbors. Dana Wharf Sportfishing are on the western side of the most eastern harbor – see the map!
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