Whale watching

Whale Watching in the Mediterranean (with Video)

When I was in Albay in the Philippines last year, I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t whale watching season and I didn’t get a chance to see these amazing creatures. Whilst I had heard there were some whales in the Mediterranean, I never actually considered the Mediterranean to be a place for whale watching, thinking they were just too rare. I was so wrong!

Are there whales in the Mediterranean Sea?

There are in fact several species of whales in the Mediterranean Sea. Grouped together with dolphins, they are also known as cetaceans – aquatic mammals. Some of the biggest whales you can find here are fin whales and sperm whales. Whilst those are apparently fairly rare to see, dolphins are much more common.

Almost all of my offshore sailing friends have seen groups dolphins at some point. On our “standard” routes between Barcelona and the Balearic islands, it’s actually rare to do a crossing where we don’t see dolphins. They love boats, and will hang out and accompany you, jumping around and racing you. And we even spot the occasional dolphin when sailing on small boats just a mile off the coast of Barcelona!

Whale & dolphin watching from a sailboat

I’ve seen lots of criticism of advertised whale watching tours in other parts of the world because whales seem to be fed to be encouraged to stay around. Whilst that’s surely still better than making the animals live in aquariums, it invades their natural feeding behaviour and may impact them. And if you’re patient and enjoying just being on the water, it’s also just not necessary.

All the whale and dolphin watching I’ve done has been off sailboats. We were doing long passages from Barcelona to Ibiza, Formentera or Menorca, and simply keeping an eye out for the wild life around us. Sail boats are ideal for this, as they don’t seem to scare the animals away, and we tend to travel at a fairly slow, even speed.

Video: Whale watching in the Mediterranean

Here’s my personal highlight of this year’s whale & dolphin watching so far: A pod of sperm whales who came to hang out with our Bavaria 50 sailboat during my recent offshore practice with Escola Port in Barcelona! Big credit to our skipper Raul for steering us as close as possible to these guys without scaring them off. Although in the end they were coming to us rather than the other way around!

Where to see whales in the Mediterranean

There is a whale research project South of Barcelona in the area we spotted “our” whales, where you can participate in projects. They do some amazing PR work and drone photography / videography, some of which I’ve shared in this recent article on a whale feeding at the surface.

Whalezone also used to do a trip, but their website is not operational as of 2019 so it may have shut down.

When to go whale watching / when is whale watching season in the Mediterranean?

This depends on where exactly in the Mediterranean you go, so it’s best to ask a local expert. To give you some points of reference: Here in Spain between the mainland and the Baleares, most whale sightings I hear off are in the spring, and Edmaktub, the research project I mention above, do most of their whale spotting tours from March to June. The project in Italy I mention sail / whale watch from May to September between the coasts of Italy, France and Corsica.

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