Whoever said whale watching was difficult certainly hadn’t done his homework. Admittedly, undoubtedly, without doing a little preparation and a bit of good luck, it’s possible to spend hours gaping at a seemingly empty sea. Patience and planning are the two main essentials of successful whale watching. Planning is necessary because there are specific whale spots where you stand high chances of sighting them because the large species split their lives separate breeding and feeding grounds. Thus, hardly stay in one location for more than a couple of months at a time. There are few places on the globe – in Europe, where you’d have to wear a blindfold not to spot whales. The following are the best whale watching tours in Europe.
The Bay of Biscay, Spain/France: Sperm Whale
Sperm whales are capable of holding their breath for more than two hours. In between dives, they may lie on the surface as they catch their breath. Males prefer the colder and higher latitudes, for instance, the coast of Norway while females prefer the warmer waters in the Mediterranean, Azores and the Canary Islands. A fast and inexpensive way to spot the whales is to board a passenger ferry serving the Bay of Biscay.
Disko Bay, Greenland: Bowhead Whale
The bowhead is the only known large whale that lives solely in the Arctic. This whale species is recognized as among the longest-lived creatures on earth. Its record stands at 211 years. The whale was hunted down by whalers. Its possible it may have lived longer.
Disko Bay is among the best places to go whale watching. Whale numbers peak to 1,200 in March, April and May. It’s not unusual to sight 20-30 Bowheads in a day outside the Qeqertarsuaq harbour.
Isle of Mull, Scotland: Minke Whale
Minke whales are usually overlooked in favour of their much larger relatives. Nevertheless, they are still gigantic, measuring up to 300 feet long, and approach boats. They can be spotted in most areas of Europe and more so in Britain. Minke whales are the most common in Scotland because of their preference for shallow, inshore water making it readily visible. Most sightings are reported in the summer, and one famous spot is west of Scotland. Sea Life Surveys offer whale watching sailing expeditions on the Isle of Mull.
Hamburg, Germany: Harbour Porpoise
Unlike the majority of its relatives, the little and aloof harbour porpoise never leap about. A peek of its black back, and the trilateral dorsal fin is all it usually shows of itself. Nonetheless, it prefers the shallow coastal waters hence can be seen from the shore of many European countries. Great Britain is considered to be a bastion for the Harbour Porpoise, while it’s the centre of focus on tours in Denmark, Sweden, and Germany – predominantly the island of Sylt. The Harbour Porpoises are increasingly being spotted in Germany’s largest rivers and as far as Hamburg where residents observe the whales from pontoons in Teufelsbruck and cafes along Elbchaussee.