Whale Watching – Majesty on the Open Seas

On our recent trip to Monterey, I had little to nothing planned, something that I rarely do. That’s how I found myself on the second night of the trip Googling “Monterey with Kids” and “Things to do with kids on Old Fisherman’s Wharf” after the kids went to bed. My searches brought up one thing I hadn’t planned over and over again, Whale Watching. “Darn, I should have booked a whale watching trip” I tell my husband. He suggests I try, “Maybe we’ll get lucky”. And apparently, we did! I snagged some of the last seats on the last Monterey Bay Whale Watchers 3 hour tours for the next day. Our tour was booked!

The next morning, after reading more about whale watching, I quickly realized we had NOT packed for this type of trip. The warmest layer my kids had were a light long sleeve shirt, and my son had only packed shorts. I was able to dig out the school uniform pants he had worn on the drive down, and decided he could just wear them for the trip. But we needed to stock up on warmer layers. On Old Fisherman’s Wharf were a number of shops. We picked up reasonably priced fleece and sweatshirts for the kids, and a hat for my husband who didn’t have a hood. We were told that you were less likely to get sea sick if you ate beforehand, so we grabbed a quick snack at Water and Leaves, and packed crackers and salty snacks in the backpack for the ride. Finally, it was time, and we lined up on the docks and got ready to board!

Shopping for the warm layers we knew we would need on this ride

Another trick we had been told was that the back, outer edges were the areas that rocked the least and were best to avoid sea sickness. Knowing my husband and daughter had delicate stomachs, we rushed to grab those seats. I got my daughter strapped into a life vest, and then we listened to the safety and sea sickness speech again before we took off! (Sea sickness will be a recurring theme here).

As we went out from the land, we immediately saw some wild life. Sea otters were playing in the water, sea lions lounging on the rocks and under the piers, and hundreds of birds were flying overhead. Then, once we were out of the immediate harbor the boat picked up speed and was off!

Right as we went out, we saw hundreds of sea lions resting on the rocks near the pier

There were even a few who found a cozy spot under the pier*

One thing that I didn’t count on was wet. We were all dressed in our warmest layers, and were immediately glad we had bought them. The wind was cold, and we had been warned the sea was choppy today. We weren’t warned about, waves coming over the side. We discovered that one the hard way, when the waves kept coming over and soaking the bottoms of our pants and shoes. After that I could not get dry or warm. I was wet and cold from my knees down the entire 3 hour ride.

The water were choppy and just got worse the further out we went*

About an hour into the ride, I was feeling well, and hadn’t needed to get up and go to a side, as some of our other riders had. I was cold and told my husband I was going inside. My son came with me. We went in and I almost immediately realized why they said to say on the outside edges. In the middle on the inside you feel every wave and swell and I could NOT keep upright. I almost immediately began to feel a little queasy and headed right back out. Nope, I was not riding inside. The outside wet and cold it was for me.

About an hour and a half in, we slowed down. Some whales had been spotted, and our boat, the Sea Wolf and another boat the Sanctuary, stopped to take a look. And wow oh wow, what a look. It turns out, Sea Lions, Birds and Whales all hunt together. I saw some churning in the water ahead and couldn’t figure out what it was. Then I realized it was hundreds of sea lions jumping around on the surface of the water! That enough was amazing, but then we saw it. A huge spray of water come up from the surface! Followed by a massive body coming out and the… the tail coming up to the surface, and splashing down on the water. It was incredible!

First, you would see hundreds of sea lions break to the surface…

…then the whale breaks through, splashing down his giant tail*

The whales were close together, and got close to the boat, showing their agility and grace, despite their size*

I could not tell one from another, but according to the Marine Biologist who came along to narrate for us, we saw at least 10 different humpback whales, hundreds of sea lions, and thousands of sooty shearwater birds. I was worried the kids would be bored, but not at all! Both made sure to squeeze their way up to the front, so they could watch these whales and sea lions swim around. I loved hearing the “Whooooh!” Every time the whale would break to the surface. They were excited, jumping up and down and loving every minute!

My kids made sure to get front row seats, watching intently as the whales and sea lions surfaced

Unfortunately soon our time was up and we needed to get back to Monterey. So the Sea Wolf opened the throttle and went straight back to the pier. For the hour long ride, we watched no less then 10 people have to go to the side of the rail and “feed the fish” as they say. The stop to see the whales and been quite rocky, so I had had my husband buy Ginger candy, which we sucked almost non-stop the whole ride home. My kids, they ate cheese crackers, walked like old pros on the the boat, and even found a way to get comfortable on the hard bench and sleep a little on the ride back. They were bouncing off the boat and asking for dinner. My husband and I were trying to stay steady and not think about food.

Cold and wet but still loving the adventure*

Let’s be honest. Whale watching was for me and my husband. The kids were along for the ride. And they were two of only 3 kids on the boat. I had more than a few people tell me it was too much for the little ones. But I pride myself on taking my kids on all adventures, not just “kid friendly” ones. I turned out to be right. They loved riding the boat, seeing the whales, and pretending they were pirates. It reaffirmed my faith in taking my kids on outside-the-box adventures.

Monterey Bay Whale Watch

*Starred photos taken by Atma Photography

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