Early on the morning of a whale watch, the captain and crew are busy checking weather and sea condition reports, making sure they prepare (both themselves and the boat!) accordingly for the upcoming trip. Some of the items on the crew’s packing list should probably be on yours as well! If you’re an avid whale watcher, chances are at some point you learned the hard way what it’s like to be unprepared, or maybe you just plain forgot to pack something that was on your boat bag list. If you’re new to whale watching, you may not know what is helpful to have. Not to worry – we are here to help make sure you’ve got everything you need!

The Whale SENSE team combined forces with Whale SENSE naturalists to bring you some pro tips for your packing list. Our first tip is actually for before you start packing: in addition to checking your regular weather forecast for the day, you can also check your local marine forecast to get an idea of wind and wave action. This may help you decide whether some of the things listed below will be necessary. 

Prepare for different types of weather 

  1. Kristin R. from Rudee Tours suggests “Layers of clothing, and of course a camera!”
    • Consider a rain jacket or windbreaker (waterproof jacket) if you get cold easily or don’t like getting wet.
  2. Sunscreen & chapstick
    • Even on cloudy or foggy days, sunburn is a real possibility for many people. Don’t be fooled!
  3. Kristen Y. from Cape May Whale Watcher suggests “Polarized sunglasses!”
    • Polarized lenses cut through the water better so you can see a whale before it even reaches the surface!
  4. A Hat 
    • hat hair is way better than boat hair! Just make sure it fits snugly so it doesn’t fly off your head while underway. 
  5. Anti-nausea remedy (i.e. ginger chews, sea bands, Bonine or Dramamine)
    • Most of these are preventatives, so use it BEFORE you start to feel sick for maximum effectiveness. Many companies also offer one or some of these options on board, so don’t fret too much if you do forget it!
  6. Closed-toe, flat shoes, preferably with a rubber bottom, such as tennis shoes
    • walking on a moving boat is difficult enough – set your sea legs up for success!

Prepare for viewing whales

  1. Aleta W. from Gastineau Guiding Company suggests “Binoculars and camera”. These are two excellent points!

Camera: To go a step further, use a camera that has a zoom lens. Your Whale SENSE company will be following their local whale watching guidelines and/or regulations, and that will involve giving whales some space. The whales may decide to come closer, but it’s likely you’ll need a zoom lens to get that money shot you’re hoping for.

Binoculars: Believe it or not, your captain and crew also use binoculars to find whales! There is no fancy equipment on board that will help them find whales, so you can help the crew spot for whales if you’re scanning the distance with your own binoculars.

2. Extra batteries and/or charger for your camera

The last thing you want to do is miss the photo of a lifetime because your batteries died! Especially if you are using your cell phone as a camera, your battery is likely to die more quickly at sea because you’re not always within cell phone reception range.

Prepare for a fun trip

  1. Pack snacks! Or cash to purchase food on board. Depending on the company, your trip can be anywhere from 2 – 4+ hours, and you don’t want to go hungry! Credit cards may be accepted, but some boats may be cash only.
  2. Annette S. from Gastineau Guiding Company suggests: “Bring your sense of wonder and an open heart!”
  3. Aleta W., also from Gastineau Guiding Company, suggests “Bring friends” 

We couldn’t agree more, Annette and Aleta! So gather your pod and book your next whale watching tour with a Whale SENSE company!

Screen shot or print our simple checklist below!

all images (c) WDC