I drove from Salinas to Monterey in the morning with the dream of hopping on a whale watching boat. For some reason, I didn't plan ahead. I hadn't purchased a ticket nor did I make a reservation on any of the whale watching tour websites; but instead I zipped my way to the bay, crossed my fingers, and ran down the Old Fisherman's Wharf at 9:30 a.m. hoping to find a boat that was still taking passengers for a 10 a.m. tour. (I did find a pamphlet at my hotel that listed various whale watching tour schedules, and most of them departed at 10 a.m. -- and that's as much planning as I did do.)
And I got lucky.
As I was walking towards a shack with a sign that read, "Princess Whale Watching Tour," I passed a man standing outside of a building who just announced that he had room for more people on his 10 o'clock tour. I hopped inside the little storefront for Chris's Whale Watching Tours, signed up, and got a ticket to board the Star of Monterey.
During our three-hour tour, we saw two pairs of humpback whales, some gray whales, and what we think was a minke whale. I also spotted several groups of orange jellyfish floating as we sailed around the bay. And of course there were hundreds of California sea lions and cute little sea otters hanging out.
The tour was fully narrated by the captain, and he provided an excellent lesson on the marine life in Monterey Bay. First, I didn't realize that Monterey Canyon is one of the largest underwater canyons in the world, and it sits right in the middle of the Bay. It's about as deep as the Grand Canyon, and it's home to diverse marine lifeforms. Second, it's also quite the kelp forest (which I learned more about during my visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium). The bay is great for whale watching because it is in the migratory path for different whale species, like the humpback and gray whales.
I'd love to come back and go whale watching during the peak of migration season. It would be great to see a humpback whale breach/jump into the air, the way you see them in exciting Discovery Channel footage.
I had an amazing time on the boat, even though it was freezing cold on the bay. And I'm glad I was fortunate enough to hop on board and see humpback whales happily swimming (in pairs!) and flipping their tail fins up at us.