Every day, millions of tons of snowmelt from high up in the Sierras rushes hundreds of miles downstream and pours into the San Francisco Bay. There, it slams into a surge of seawater to form an ecosystem at once constant and constantly changing. It?s there that the photographers and naturalists of SF Bay Whale Watching set out to observe and capture stunning images on daily adventures.
Onboard the stalwart Kitty Kat, captain Joe Nazar skippers wildlife-seeking tours that might spy migrating whales, local sea lions, or killer whales. The spacious deck and large-windowed cabin make beautiful views bountiful. While a naturalist lectures, the ship sails past such landmarks as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.
When it comes to size, the blue whale trumps anything that has ever walked, swam, or flown across planet Earth. Stretching roughly 80 feet long, these titanic creatures swim deep below the Pacific Ocean, feeding on thousands of tiny krill at a time?but like all aquatic mammals, they eventually have to come up for air. That's when they meet Blue Ocean Whale Watch.
Aboard a 60-foot sightseeing vessel, naturalist Kate Cummings spouts the aforementioned whale facts and much more. However, it's not until whales breach the surface or jump into the air that passengers truly comprehend their massive size. Even the naturalist herself?who has been on countless voyages?can't help but take a picture each and every trip. Ms. Cummings works alongside Captain Jim Davis, who's navigated the ocean currents and Poseidon's construction zones for more than 30 years.
The two head out in search of blue whales, humpback whales, and other marine life, including dolphins and sea turtles. The stars of the tours change throughout year (during the spring, summer, and fall, humpback whales make their way to Monterey Bay to feed on krill and anchovies), but passengers can always catch views and photos from the upper deck.
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is home to 27 species of marine mammals, more than 100 species of marine birds, and 345 species of fish, as well as the leatherback turtle. Captain Chris Arcoleo, Sr. and his fellow skippers introduce visitors to this wildlife menagerie during three-hour narrated tours of the sanctuary. Collectively, the skippers captain three different vessels equipped with all of the standard safety features, as well as sonar, radar, and eco-friendly twin engines. This technology—plus the captains' vast experience—gives groups unforgettable glimpses of the area's marine life, including the possibility of an up-close encounter with gray or humpback whales. Passengers should also keep their eyes peeled for Pacific white-sided dolphins, California sea lions, otters, harbor seals, and pirate ghosts.