Spotting a blue whale in the wild is a rare sight, but luckily, Sri Lanka is one of the best places to see them. They’re the biggest animal to have ever lived, so as you’d expect, they usually hang out in the deepest part of the ocean. But, because Sri Lanka’s southern tip is close to the deep waters of the continental shelf, they can swim close to the land giving you the chance to see them.
You don’t necessarily have to travel far to catch sight of the sea-dwelling mammals. The peaceful under-the-radar Canary Island La Gomera is right next to Tenerife, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, making it perfect for whale watching. There are around 300 whales that frequent the shores, including pilot, sperm and beaked whales. And because the area is such a popular sea life highway, they can be seen almost all year round. Boat trips run from coastal towns all over the island.
Around 10,000 humpback whales migrate from as far as Norway to the Dominican Republic in mid-January, and they hang around right until the end of March. The best place to see them is the Samana Peninsula, which is around an hour’s drive from La Romana. Huge colonies come here to breed in the warm waters and you can see them at play on a boat trip out into the bay. Some get so close to the boats you can almost touch them, and you might even see a calf or two if you’re lucky.
Humpback whales, minke whales and orcas can be seen off the coast of Iceland. Conveniently, a lot of the whale watching excursions depart right from Reykjavik harbour. So if you’re staying at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina or CenterHotel Arnarhvoll, you’ll be just a short walk away from the marina. Our own whale watching trip heads out to sea via Faxaflói Bay for a couple of hours to maximise your chances of seeing them. Whale watching tours operate from Reykjavik all year round – just remember to wrap up warm if you’re heading out in the winter months.
Tenerife, the largest Canary Island, is home to 28 species of whale. And because the island’s waters are always warm, there are both native and migratory species all year-round. There are lots of local tours and excursions to choose from. Most trips offer an 80-95% success rate, so you’ll have a good chance of getting some impressive snaps and videos.
South Africa is an animal lovers’ paradise. From lions and elephants to sharks and huge humpback whales, you’ll tick so many once-in-a-lifetime animal sightings off your bucket list. At Walker Bay, there’s a cliffside walkway where you can actually see whales leaping out of the water – you don’t even need to head out to sea. It’s said to be one of the best land-based destinations to watch whales from, and the perfect time to visit is between August and November.
It’s almost impossible to avoid seeing some amazing creatures on a trip to Costa Rica, from slumbering sloths to tiny glass frogs. Thanks to two migratory pods of humpback whales visiting the shores of Costa Rica at different times, you’ll be able to see them almost all year round, with only June and July being low season. As well as humpback whales you can also see fin whales, Sei whales and sperm whales. They’re mostly spotted in the south of the country near Marino Ballena National Park, but occasionally can be seen in the north - near Playa Flamingo.
If you want to tick more than one species of whale off your list – Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta on Mexico's Pacific Coast is the place to be. You’ll get the chance to see humpback whales, grey whales, Bryde’s whales and even blue whales if you’re lucky. Whale watching season is from November to March, but the peak time for seeing them is between February and April.
The south coast of Madeira is full of whales and dolphins and can be seen almost all year round thanks to the warm sea temperatures. During the summer months, from May to August, you can see a variety of species including humpback, sperm and pilot whales – even orcas occasionally pay a visit too. There are loads of excursions running from Funchal around two or three times per day in peak season. After heading out to sea, you can even visit the Madeira Whale Museum to find out more about the magnificent creatures and see some full size models and 3D movies.
We’re not the only ones attracted to the tropical turquoise seas and colourful coral reefs of the Maldives – whales loves it too. 23 species of whale have been recorded here, including sperm whales, Bryde’s whales, orcas and beaked whales from February to April and October to November. The calm, quiet waters mean you get a relaxing whale watching trip, and the chance to see some more unusual species such as melon-headed whales, too. And if that’s not enough, you’ll can also see manta rays, whale sharks, turtles and all species of seabird, too.
The Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura features a sauna and a hot tub where you can warm up after a day’s exploring.
Enjoy incredible views from the rooftop pool of Hotel Playa Calera, a stylish little number on quiet Canary La Gomera. The beach is a five-minute stroll away and all rooms have balconies.
You’ll be just 10 minutes’ walk away from Sri Lanka’s nightlife capital at the Hikka Tranz.
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