- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2003

Get a thrill on your next vacation by taking advantage of the growing number of places where you can go whale-watching and get up close and personal with some of the planet’s most majestic creatures.

Here is just a small sample of the many Web sites advertising whale-watching tours, Atlantic and Pacific, small inflatable rafts to three-masted schooners.

Winter is whale-watching time in Hawaii, where humpback whales go to mate and give birth. Maui Activities — www.maui-activities.com/zzwhale.htm — has links to several providers in the islands, including Blue Dolphin, with a 44-foot sailing catamaran, and Windjammer, a three-masted schooner. The Island Marine Institute — www.whalewatchmaui.com — offers boats with underwater cameras and promises that a portion of each fare will be donated to whale research.

On the mainland, finding a whale-watching tour in the Seattle-Vancouver area of the Pacific Northwest is fairly easy. Just visit the Whale Watch Operators Association Northwest (www.nwwhalewatchers.org), look for the members list and then pick the port where you want to start. The association also publishes Best Practices Guidelines it expects tour operators to follow.

California’s Monterey Bay offers two whale-watching seasons, winter for grays and the rest of the year for humpbacks and blues, according to Monterey Bay Whale Watch (www.gowhales.com), which says each trip is led by a marine biologist.

Farther south, along Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, gray whales visit lagoons on the Pacific side in winter, and other species use the Sea of Cortez between Baja and the mainland year-round.

Miramar Adventures (www.miramaradventures.com/Baja_Whales.html) provides details and a calendar of planned trips this winter and next spring. Then take a look at Gray Whale Advocate (www.greywhale.com) for more Baja information.

New England has a growing fleet of whale-watching boats, often combining a chance of seeing a whale with a more reliable opportunity for deep-sea fishing. Atlantic Whale Watch (www.atlanticwhalewatch.com) sails the Atlantic Queen II out of Rye Harbor, N.H. Massachusetts’ Cape Ann Whale Watch (www.caww.com) touts a record of successful voyages and offers photos and links to whale information.

Visiting Boston? The New England Aquarium has its own whale watch (www.neaq.org/visit/wwatch) with trips in summer and fall. Blue Ocean Society’s site (www.blueoceansociety.org) has information on whale sightings, a slide show and links to selected companies in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Want to learn more? Stop by Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown, Mass. (www.whalewatch.com), check out its rates and then peruse the “mother lode of all whale links.”

For more, the environmental group Greenpeace has an entire Web site devoted to whales (whales.greenpeace.org) with a fat section of Web links.

Don’t neglect the Caribbean, where the Dominican Republic declared a sanctuary for North Atlantic humpbacks, which breed in the area during winter. A travel company called Caribbean Bike & Adventure Tours (www.caribbeanbiketours.com) offers whale-watching trips.

For the rest of the planet, Whale Guide (www.whaleguide.com) provides a directory of whale-watching companies just about everywhere.

E-mail comments and tips to [email protected]ap.org.

ASSOCIATED PRESS


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