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Humpback whales in Alaska using their bubble net feeding technique | © jerseygal2009/Flickr
Humpback whales in Alaska using their bubble net feeding technique | © jerseygal2009/Flickr
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The Best Whale-Watching Locations Around the World

Picture of Kyle Hulme
Updated: 30 August 2017
From the gigantic blue whale to the playful humpbacks, whales are incredible, intelligent animals and encounters with them are moments we’re unlikely to ever forget. Whilst you might think of them as elusive, whales can be seen all around the world – and a place to go whale-spotting might just be closer than you think. To help your dreams come true and make your travel plans a little easier, here are some of the best whale-watching locations all around the world.

Baja California, Mexico

Home to a large variety of whales, with some that are passing through on their migration from Alaska, Baja California is a great place to go whale-watching and offers a real chance to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures. Whether it’s humpback whales in the southern tip of the peninsula, or giant blue whales in the Sea of Cortez, tours offer the chance to touch whales from the boat or, better yet, join the whales in their realm by diving below the waves with them.

Playful humpback whale
Playful humpback whale | © Streamshare/Pixabay

Azores

This archipelago in the mid-Atlantic is not only home to breathtaking natural beauty, but remains a great place to observe whales in their natural habitat. The mild waters from March to May attract blue whales to the area, but it’s also possible to spot finback and sperm whales too. If you’re not a lover of boats, it’s also possible to watch them from a distance from the vigias dotted around the islands, all whilst enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.

Whale tail in the Azores
Whale tail in the Azores | © Guillaume Bavier/Flickr

Western Cape, South Africa

South Africa is no stranger to marine life, with many tourists flocking to see its great white sharks, but it’s also one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world, with Hermanus proving to be a particularly special area of the cape. The numerous bays and optimal water temperature makes it a popular spot for whales to breed, and so it plays host to plenty of whale types, such as the southern right, humpback and Bryde’s whales. Whilst it’s possible to get close to them on boat trips, it’s also an option to watch from the long cliffsides along the edges of the bays – the sight of whales playing and breaching from such a vantage point is one you won’t forget in a hurry.

A southern right whales in Hermanus
A southern right whales in Hermanus | © Brian Snelson/Flickr

Reykjavik and Husavik, Iceland

It’s possible to see whales on tours departing from Iceland’s cool capital, Reykjavik. The chances of spotting a whale are high in Iceland, with minke and humpbacks prominent in the area, and there are often also dolphins and porpoises frolicking nearby too. Whilst Reykjavik is a wonderful destination and a great place to see whales, Husavik makes for an even better opportunity. Located on the north coast on the edge of the Arctic Circle, it’s a charming town surrounded by waters that are incredibly popular with whales. So far north, Husavik offers the rare, magical chance to watch whales under a midnight sun or under cover of the Northern Lights – experiences that no other whale watching location can match.

Leaping whale in Iceland
Leaping whale in Iceland | © YanceTAY / Pixabay

Western Scotland

As much as a third of the North Atlantic’s whale population migrates along the western Scottish coast, including minke, humpback, fin and sperm whales, making it one of the premier destinations for whale-watching in the world. Not only that, but it’s possible to see pods of orca off the coast of the islands – a sight that shouldn’t be missed. With plenty of whales in the area and such a large variety, there is a good choice of tour companies offering the chance to see whales but you might only need patience and a stroke of fortune to see them from the mainland.

Whales spotted in Scotland
Whales spotted in Scotland | © afcone/Flickr

South Island, New Zealand

The South Island – and in particular the coastal town of Kaikoura – provides ample opportunities to see whales in a few different ways. With humpbacks, orcas, southern right and sperm whales prevalent in the area, as well as fur seals and dolphins, it’s a great opportunity to get as close as possible and swim and snorkle alongside these gentle, beautiful creatures. If you’d rather keep your distance, they have that covered too – there’s the option of flying across the water in a plane, providing you with a rare overhead view of the whales and a chance to truly appreciate their size.

Whale breaching in Kaikoura
Whale breaching in Kaikoura | © Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr

Vancouver Island, Canada

With resident orca pods present around Vancouver, you have an incredibly high chance of getting to see these mammals up close and personal. The northern coast has around 250 orcas living in its waters, as well as minke and humpback whales, and there’s even a migration of 20,000 gray whales past the west coast that has led to a whale festival being created. If you’re feeling lucky, elsewhere in Canada it’s possible to spot the elusive narwhals – though you’re much more certain to spot whales around Vancouver Island.

Orca pod at Vancouver Island
Orca pod at Vancouver Island | © Thomas Habauer/Flickr

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau is home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of humpback whales, and isn’t exactly short of orcas either. Here it’s possible to watch humpbacks perform one of nature’s marvels up close and personal; they catch fish through creating nets of bubbles under water, before launching themselves through the water and into the air, collecting the fish in their mouths in the process. It’s a jaw-dropping spectacle set against the backdrop of Juneau’s dramatic natural beauty – a truly once in a lifetime experience that should be on anyone’s to-do list.

Humpback whales in Alaska using their bubble net feeding technique
Humpback whales in Alaska using their bubble net feeding technique | © jerseygal2009/Flickr