Coastal CA

Whale Watching in Monterey Bay with the Wildlife Conservation Society

Tuesday October 25, 2016

On Sunday, we were lucky enough to tag along on a Wildlife Conservation Society whale watching trip. What a cool experience. We’ve been meaning to do this for years, but never managed to.

(Before we get into it, WCS didn’t pay me or even ask me to write about them. I’m doing it truly because this experience had such an impact on me and, I think, everyone else on that boat. They did ask me to take some photos for them, which I was obviously happy to do.)

We set out Sunday morning to crisp blue October skies that quickly turned dark gray. The water was black and choppy below, but the whales didn’t seem to mind. We got to see four humpback whales including maybe a mother and calf pair. One whale spotted us and beelined right over (we all apprehensively watched the bubbles slowly surface in the water as she approached) before she dove under our boat, emerging the other side to dramatically flip us a tail.

As we approached Moss Landing, we spotted a storm of churning white water in the otherwise black sea. Getting closer, we could see it was actually a mass of hundreds of California sea lions jumping, swimming, and feeding. Some swam closer to check us out before rejoining their sisters and brothers.

The coolest, though, was the universal look of awe and wonder on everyone’s faces on the boat. This mixture of great curiosity and euphoria at what was happening around us.

And even more remarkable is knowing that this feeling is mutual. The whales and sea lions wanted to know more about us, seemingly to even play with us, as much as we wanted to engage with them. It is this feeling that we all share, across species, and I can’t get over it.

WCS has been integral in tracking and surveying humpback whale populations since the early 20th century, first using whaling logbooks to determine humpback whale breeding and feeding grounds (that whales still return to today). Recently, WCS has been leading surveys to understand how the Southern Hemisphere humpback whale population has recovered following the end of (most) commercial whaling. By focusing their conservation efforts on these known breeding and feeding grounds, WCS is looking to protect humpback whale populations worldwide.

There is this disconnect, sometimes, between our every day lives and how our every day lives may be impacting these majestic animals half a world away. The wonder and beauty and love for them is there, we know it, but I also need to pick up a gallon of milk before heading over to preschool pick up and then we have to run to a doctor’s appointment before getting back for dinner prep. The gritty logistics of living gets in the way of truly looking at our lifestyles and determining how we could be doing better.

Which is why it is so wonderful that groups like WCS exist, to take on that burden for us in a way. I used to work for a different wildlife conservation non-profit, and I’ve always been struck by how knowledgeable, committed and passionate the men and woman are who work in these fields. Thank you, truly, for all that you do.




You can find more about the Wildlife Conservation Society on their website, and also learn more  about their conservation efforts to save African elephants, tigers, snow leopards, and dozens of other animals worldwide.

If you’d like to join their Stand for Wildlife campaign, you can add yourself to their email list here. You’ll receive newsletters from WCS about recent conservation efforts as well as invitations to special events.

If you’d like to donate to WCS’s humpback whale and dolphin fund, please click on over to their donation page.

Alternately, you can make smaller donations to WCS here. Every bit helps.


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