“ Country: USA / Destinations International / World Region: USA / Brand: Sanctuary Cruises / Type: Whale watching „
One of the reasons that we went on holiday to California in July and August was because we wanted to go whale watching. We stayed five days in Monterey and had the thrill of two whale watching trips out in Monterey Bay which boasts many blue and humpback whales at that time of year. Our first trip was on a large boat with the Princess Monterey Whale watching company (see review) and the second was a much more intimate experience with a company called Sanctuary Cruises on a much smaller boat. Both were very enjoyable trips but overall I did prefer the Sanctuary experience.
Sanctuary Cruises are based in Moss Landing, a very small port that is about fifteen minutes drive out of Monterey. Looking on their website they claim to be a bit different to all of the other whale watching companies for the following reasons. They run longer trips that mean that you can get a bit further out in the bay and also they take far fewer passengers than you find on other trips. It is definitely true in both cases and going out on a trip with only thirty other people was a much better experience than going out on a trip with over a hundred others on board.
The whale watching trips start at 10 am each day and there is only one a day which means that the boat is not on too tight a schedule to get back in order to take another trip out. We certainly found that was the case and when we said that we had come all the way from the UK in order to try and see some blue whales they seemed quite determined we should find however long it might take.
We also found that as there were only about thirty people on the trip, everyone was able to have a lot more personal attention and it was possible to spend quite a bit of time talking with the very knowledgeable marine biologist and asking lots of questions. He was al;so very good with our two daughters and happily encouraged them in their pursuit of counting all of the jellyfish that they could see which I believe was well over two hundred. At the end of the trip he let my youngest announce over the loud speaker the total that they had seen!
The boat was quite a bit smaller than the boat we went on during the other trip and as a consequence the trip was definitely more choppy. Sanctuary Cruises had lots of advice in order to avoid sea sickness and were happy to hand out ginger biscuits at no charge. They also hire out relief bands for £7 each per trip which apparently have been worn by airsick NASA astronauts and have the same miraculous effect at sea. Luckily, my family is made of sterner stuff and none of us needed these although we happily ate the ginger biscuits anyway!
There are also tea and coffee facilities on board on a help yourself basis and honestly putting your payment in the pot. Very importantly for someone like me, there is a toilet on board. I did use it and it was a bit cramped and rocky but definitely better than having to cross your legs for four or more hours! There is a small indoor area but as with most of these trips it is best to be on the deck looking out for the whales which is a joint effort from everyone on board. We saw so many humpback whales, in pods of up to five, that I lost count. Unfortunately, the blue whales were obviously hiding so we had to make do with just the one lone sighting! (We will just have to go back again!)
The trip was brilliant and we were out on the bay for well over four hours. It is cold out there even in August so you do need to have lots of layers and definitely some waterproofs. The captain and the marine biologist were really friendly and definitely knew what they were talking about. Also, my girls got much better views of the whales because the decks were not half as crowded as the other trip that we went on.
There are no age limits with this trip but all children under the age of sixteen have to wear life jackets.
The trip was slightly more expensive than the other we went on as we paid $48 (about£30) for me and my husband and £38 (about £24) for our daughters. It was money well spent though (especially as a proportion of that amount goes towards conservation projects) as it was such a fabulous experience for all the family.