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Oceanic Society Whale Watching—A whale of a time

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The annual “parade” of 15,000 gray whales migrating from Arctic feeding grounds to their Baja California breeding and calving grounds is a magnificent spectacle, and you can experience it just off the coast of San Francisco. Each year from December through May the Oceanic Society runs viewing trips led by expert naturalists who assist with locating whales as they pass by.

Gray whale breachingFrom May through November, the whales—and their calves—are headed north, and many feed near the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where you may see up to 23 different species of marine mammals. The huge rookery hosts a dozen species of nesting seabirds, including tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, and shearwaters.

Watch for blue, humpback, and minke whales; Risso’s dolphin, Pacific white-sided dolphin, northern right whale dolphin; harbor and Dall’s porpoises. California and massive Steller’s sea lions (Endangered); northern elephant seal, northern fur seal, harbor seal, and sea otter are also possibilities.

Did you know: Blue whales, which measure 80 to 85 feet long and weigh up to 100 tons, are the largest animal that has ever lived on earth. Their worldwide population status is Endangered; the current California population is about 2,000 individuals.

SF Waterfront Editors Recommend…

Whales, Mighty Giants of the SeaWhales: Mighty Giants of the Sea. This gorgeous, information-filled, pop-up children’s book is part of a series by National Geographic Society. It’s about $65 new, but good-quality used copies are easy to find for under $5. Buy Whales: Mighty Giants of the Sea.

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