Credit: Kathy Rothenberger with Kenai Fjord Tours

That is honestly a great question, but unfortunately there is no direct answer. Whale watches are intended for humans to see whales, but the whales do not know that! Therefore, whales simply go about their everyday lives and we are fortunate when we do see them. It is completely unpredictable to know what will be observed during any whale watch.

Another good question is whether an earlier whale watch time is better than a later one. The answer again is, we do not know! Whales work on a different clock than us and their behaviors vary significantly day to day. But what we can tell you is that all Whale SENSE companies have trained captains who do their absolute best to ensure you get a great experience.

These captains are trained not only to maneuver around whales, but to find them as well! When at sea, it can seem a bit intimidating to scout the entire vicinity for whales. This is why they communicate with other captains in the same situation as them! Different Whale SENSE boats that take off to find whales travel in different areas to scout for whales and then coordinate with other companies once there has been a sighting. This teamwork reduces lost whale watching time and also allows for the whales to be watched in an organized manner, reducing the risk of disturbance that could result from too many boats near a particular whale or group of whales.

Conditions, like weather, play a big role in how easy or difficult it can be to spot these whales. Sunny whale watch trips are the ideal setting, where the average eye can see for miles at sea. Unfortunately, it is not realistic to expect perfect days all the time! Some days can be rainy or foggy, but it is still possible to find whales. It takes skill and technique (and sometimes other senses besides eyesight!), but with enough patience, it can be accomplished. One of our founding members of Whale SENSE has beaten the odds and was capable of finding a whale in even the worst conditions:

(c) Whale and Dolphin Conservation

“We were in desperate straits. Our crew and 200 passengers had been sitting in thick fog and light wind for over an hour. We’d been listening for the telltale sound of whales exchanging air in the distance. Still nothing and time was running out.  As we listened, the crew hesitated. Something wafted by on the breeze, something faint but rancid. The unmistakable smell of whale breath!  We proceeded to sniff our way over a mile upwind and finally located a humpback whale- Diablo.  She saved the trip with some good looks and a parting tail shot!  Oh, the sweet smell of whale breath!” – Jon Brink, Senior Naturalist, Hyannis Whale Watcher

This is one of those success stories of a whale watch trip being saved after hours of no luck. Sometimes miracles like this happen, but other times they don’t, and that is where rainchecks come into the picture! Most companies will issue a raincheck for a complimentary trip for those who do not get to see any whales or dolphins on their whale watching trip. The big question with these rainchecks is – do they ever expire?

Raincheck from 2011

As we understand it – the answer is no, they don’t! But it’s a good idea to call the company before planning your visit just to be sure.

You may or may not see whales on every trip, but that is what makes each trip absolutely unique! At the end of the day, the only real guarantee is that all Whale SENSE companies always put their best efforts in trying to ensure you have a great time at sea. And remember, every trip is different, so if you have the opportunity, we always recommend going more than once! 

Samantha Gallardo
Samantha Gallardo

Samantha is a Conservation Intern at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation. In addition, she is studying Environmental Studies and Biology at San Jose State University.