Why whale watch?
It's so great to be able to hop on a boat and enjoy an abundance of marine life that's not trapped in a tank, right here in our own backyard. Not only is Orange County right along the gray whale migration route which takes place late January through May, but in the early summer months, blue whales usually show up to feed on krill (April - July). Humpback whales are considered one of the summer species that show up to feed on anchovies although it's not odd to see them any month out of the year. Other species such as minke and fin whales may be seen any month out of the year as it depends on food availability. We also get to see several dolphin species including common dolphin (year-round), Pacific white-sided (winter), bottlenose, risso's, and the more rare sighting of orcas.
How are whales found?
The only way to find whales is by simply going out on the ocean and scanning the horizon north, east, south, and west for spouts created from the whales breath, also looking for areas of bird life which will typically be feeding on the same thing the dolphins and whales feed on. Some whale spouts can be spotted from 5 miles away! There are no spotter planes or sonar used to find whales, just eyesight and communicating with other boats.
How many options are there?
While you may see many whale watch tours/excursions advertised online, according to the cities of Dana Point and Newport Beach as well as The U.S. Coast Guard, there are 6 legally operating companies: Dana Wharf, Davey's Locker, Dolphin Safari, Newport Coastal Adventure, and Newport Landing. All these companies communicate with each other to help find whales/dolphins. There are other options you will find listed online but booking with anyone other than the companies listed below greatly reduces your odds of finding animals due to lack of experience, knowledge, and communication with these other companies. Some of these other companies have fake reviews and will even appear as a great company but please invest your time/money in the following companies only.
Here are photos and videos taken off the coast of Orange County