8 Best Places to See Whales in the Wild

Whales are beautiful, elegant in the water, and intelligent in ways we do not even fully understand. To see a whale in the wild is truly a privilege… And to go diving with whales is an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. If you are thinking of going whale watching but cannot decide where or when to go, we have put together a list of our eight favorite locations around the world to go and watch these magnificent creatures (and maybe even get in the water with them!).

1.Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an island country in south-east Asia that lies in the Indian Ocean. It is famous for both whale and dolphin watching, as well as beautiful wildlife on land including elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, and birds.

Blue, sperm, humpback, and Bryde’s whales can be spotted all around the coasts of Sri Lanka, with many blue whales spotted regularly off the south coast, and humpback whales seen mostly from the east coast. Unfortunately diving with whales is forbidden in Sri Lanka, but seeing them from a boat is very likely.

The best time to head to Sri Lanka to spot whales and dolphins is between November and April.

2. Scotland

Scotland is a country in the north of the United Kingdom, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west and the North Sea to its east. Scotland offers picturesque scenery and gorgeous, rare wildlife on land including deer, white tailed eagles, and puffins.

Minke, humpback, fin, sperm, and orca whales can all be spotted around Scotland, with the most popular spots for whale watching being the isles of Shetland and Orkney. It is possible to dive with whales in Scotland, although the visibility can be quite poor.

The best time to head to Scotland for whale and dolphin watching is between May and October.

3. Dominica

Dominica is an island nation located in the Lesser Antilles Archipelago in the south east of the Caribbean Sea. Known as the "wildlife capital of the Caribbean" because of its rich variety of flora and fauna.

Sperm, humpback, false killer, melon head,  short-finned pilot, and pygmy sperm whales frequent the island of Dominica. Steep underwater drop offs on the west coast create sheltered bays which are perfect for sperm whales to breed and calf. A limited number of permits are granted each year for people to swim with sperm whales in Dominica. This is to keep the whales relaxed and safe.

Between November and March is the best time to see sperm whales, however January to April is the best time to see humpbacks.

4. Baja California

Baja California is a state in Mexico and is thriving in large marine life. The towns of La Paz on the east coast, and Cabo San Lucas in the south are popular spots for tourists who want to get out on the water.

Gray, humpback, blue, fin, Bryde’s, sperm, and minke whales can all be sighted around the Baja peninsula. Magdalena Bay on the west coast is a small lagoon where gray whales come every year to calf. Watching them spy-hopping around the boats is a truly spectacular sight. Humpbacks can be spotted in large numbers from Cabo San Lucas.

The best time to see the gray whales in Magdalena Bay is in February, and the humpbacks stay around between January and April.

5. Hawaii

Hawaii is part of the Hawaiian islands that can be found in the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii is home to a rich history, friendly people, beautiful scenery, and great weather.

Hawaii’s warm waters and lack of predators are perfect for humpback whales to come to mate, calf, and nurse their young. Spinner dolphins also call Hawaii their home and can be found in several locations off-shore. False killer whales, short finned pilot whales, beaked whales, pygmy killer whales, melon headed whales, sperm whales can all be spotted from time to time as well. It is possible to both swim with, and possibly go diving with whales in Hawaii.

Whale watching in Hawaii begins in November and ends in May.

6. Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are the southernmost community of Spain, however they are closer to Marrakech than they are to Spain. The sunny Canary Islands are an archipelago made up of  Lanzarote, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, La Palma, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, and El Hierro, which all offer some exciting cetacean spotting.

Almost 30 different species of whales and dolphins reside in or visit the Canary Islands regularly, and can be sighted around 80% of the year. These species include pilot, sperm, and humpback whales.

Whales can be spotted year-round but to see the most, it is best to head there in the winter and spring months.

7. Azores

The Azores is a remote archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean that is famous for its untouched scenery of meadows, waterfalls, and lakes. As well as whales, you might also see many dolphins, beautiful birds, reptiles, and fish.

Sperm, humpback, sei, bearded, blue, short-finned pilot, orca, and fin whales all frequent the area. Diving in the Azores also offers blue sharks and common dolphins.

Late March to early June is the best time of year to visit the Azores for whale watching.

8. Iceland

Iceland offers picturesque scenery and the chance to see dolphins and whales in the wild. The North Atlantic Ocean is a fantastic feeding ground which attracts whales. Whale watching tours mostly run from the north or the west of Iceland. Mostly from Húsavik, but tours also leave from Reykjavík.

Minke, orca, humpback, blue, sperm, and sei whales can be sighted, as well as various species of dolphin.

It is best to go to Iceland between May and September for whale watching.

Responsible tourism

It is important to always show respect to these beautiful animals that we love so much. Many people go to see whales in aquariums or at similar tourist attractions, although this might be tempting, it is actually very problematic for the whales, who do not do well in captivity and who require a much larger space to live a happy life. Often they are ripped from their families in the wild and brought to these places for tourists to watch them do tricks or take pictures with them. If you truly love cetaceans, please try to see them in the wild, where they belong, and always research the tour or boat company that you are going with to make sure they practice safe and responsible tours that keep the animals safe and happy.

If you want to get involved in ocean conservation, join the SSI Blue Oceans community: A movement that supports the sustainable use of aquatic environments.