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Whales & Dolphins seen on our Cruises

For Southern California whale watching, Newport Landing provides year round whale watching cruises departing from Newport Beach. With multiple cruises offered every day year round there is always an opportunity to view whales and dolphin. Winter and Spring offer the annual grey whale migration which brings thousands of grey whales along the Southern California coastline as they travel to breeding grounds in Mexico and then back again to their summer feeding groups in the Pacific northwest. Giant Blue whales are common during the Summer and Fall months with sightings of the amazing creatures on almost every trip. These giant mammals attain lengths of 100 feet and eat 4-6 tons of krill in one day. Other whale species that can be encountered include finback whales, minke whales, humpback, and even killer whales on occasion. Along with whales, dolphins are also encountered. Several species of dolphin can be viewed and giant super pods of common and bottle noise dolphin numbering a thousand or more are often viewed making for an amazing sight. Sea lions and their pups are seen on every cruise as well.

Whale Species in Southern California and surrounding waters

Blue Whale - The blue whale is truly an incredible sight. Whale Watching Southern California visitors will have the opportunity to witness the largest animal that has ever existed on Earth. Large Blue Whales are the size of a Boeing Jet, weighing up to 150 tons. Larger whales can go up to 100 feet long. Fifty humans can stand on a Blue Whale's tongue and its heart is the size of a car. It's throat can take in up to 50 tons of water in one gulp and it's spout shoots water up over 30 feet when surfacing for air. Blue Whales can consume up to six tons of krill in a single day using their large throats to take in water and use a huge, comb-like plate system called baleen within their bodies to parse through water for the krill. These plates in the baleen system are made from the same material as human fingernails.

Grey Whale - Whale Watching Southern California visitors will have a chance to bear witness to the California Grey Whale, also a type of baleen whale that uses the baleen system within their bodies to strain through krill. The California Grey Whale stands among the largest species of whales, but are still roughly half the size of their Blue Whale cousins. They generally weigh somewhere between 22 to 35 tons, and are 35 to 45 feet in length, with the females being larger than the males. These California Grey Whales travel over 8,000 miles a year from their feeding grounds in the North, where they feed on amphipods in cold arctic waters. During the fall and winter they travel all the way south to the Baja California to breed.

Finback Whale - Another amazing spectacle for Whale Watching Southern California visitors is the Finback Whale. They are the second largest animal in the world after the Blue Whale. Growing up to nearly 90 feet long, Finback Whales are also the fastest type of whale, able to hit top speeds of 35 mph. Also a type of baleen whale, their bodies contain 800-900 plates to feed on fish and krill, eating up to 2-3 tons a day. Their spouts stand prominent, capable of rising over 20 feet in the air when surfacing. When these graceful Finback Whales surface, you'll be able to spot their heads, their dark features and also their long dorsal fin. Their tails are rarely seen as they surface horizontally and need only arch their backs to dive back into the sea.

Killer Whale (Orca) - Whale Watching Southern California visitors may spot the Orca Whale, commonly known as the Killer Whale because of their reputation as top notch predators of the sea. Often called wolves of the sea, Orca Whales hunt in packs and have tremendous size and strength. They are also one of the fastest types of whales, capable of traveling at over 35 mph. Each Killer Whale eats over 500 pounds of food a day and have been known to even swim into freshwaters. However, their migration patterns are not yet fully understood by scientists. Their pods have been sighted from Alaska all the way down to California.

Sperm Whale - Whale Watching Southern California visitors may also spot the Sperm Whale. The Sperm Whale has the largest brain of any animal in existence, with their brains weighing up to twenty pounds! Sperm Whales are toothed whales and live together in pods. Sperm Whales have unique S-shaped blowholes on the front left side of their large heads. Adult can weigh up to 50 tons and grow to be 50-60 feet in length. Naturally, with their large brains, Sperm Whales also have the largest heads of any animal, comprising a third of the Sperm Whale's body mass and featuring a distinct, boxy shape. Their heads often feature prominent scars from the giant squids that they call prey.

Humpback Whale - Whale Watching Southern California visitors may also see the Humpback Whale, one of the larger species of Whales in existence. The Humpback Whale weighs on average about 79,000 pounds and vary in length from 40 to 50 feet. Humpback Whales feed in polar waters during the summertime and migrate to subtropical and tropical waters during winter to breed. Humpbacks whales do not eat in the winter, and rely upon the fat reserves that they've built up during the summer feeding months. Humpback Whales also hunt in groups of up to twelve, using unique methods to ensnare their prey. The group of Humpback Whales will blow bubbles while swimming in circles around a school of fish, creating a ring around the fish. The fish are confined to a smaller and smaller area as the whales continue the process, until the whales swim through the bubbles and swallow thousands of fish in a single gulp. It is truly a group effort as some whales are tasked with blowing bubbles, others herd fish with noises, others, dive deep to drive fish to the surface. zen Humpbacks.

Minke Whale - Whale Watching Southern California visitors will likely encounter Minke whales, the most common baleen whale in existence, numbering nearly 800,000 across the globe. As with all Baleen Whales, Female Minke Whales are larger. The species grows up to 30 feet long and weigh up to 7.5 tons.Minke Whales normally swim at a rate of 3-16 miles per hour, but can sprint up to 18-21 miles per hour when feeling danger.

Dolphin species commonly viewed while Whale Watching

Common Dolphin - Whale Watching Southern California visitors will also likely see the Common Dolphin. The Common Dolphin generally weighs about 160 pounds and is 5 to 8 feet long. They are the fastest species of small dolphin, and hit top speeds of over 27 miles per hour. Common dolphins live and travel in enormous pods sometimes numbering thousands. They are highly social and are extremely energetic, making lots of whistling, pulse, and click noises. They often leap out of the water individually or in groups, and often like to ride the bow waves of our boats. Common Dolphins are known to be one of the most intelligent animals on Earth.

Bottlenose Dolphin - Whale Watching Southern California customers may also encounter Bottlenose Dolphins. Bottlenose Dolphins generally weigh 440 to 600 pounds and some are known to be as long as 14 feet, but most fall just under 10 feet. Bottlenose Dolphins have tremendous lifespans, often living thirty to fifty years. They eat anywhere from thirteen to thirty-three pounds of fish, squid, octopus, and other sea creatures a day. Bottlenose Dolphins utilize echolocation, the bouncing of sounds off objects to determine the position of objects, in order to hunt their prey.

Risso Dolphin - Whale Watching Long Beach visitors may also see the Risso's Dolphins, also known as "gray dolphins." Risso's Dolphins have thick bodies and narrow tails. They weigh anywhere from 660 to 1,100 pounds and are 8.5 to 13 feet in length. They are also found in pods, with pod sizes varying from 5 to 50, but usually falling within the 10 to 30 range. Rissos are able to dive for 30 minutes down to over 1,000 feet below, but generally make short dives lasting between one to two minutes. Rissos tend to hunt at night when their prey of anchovies, krill, and squid are closer to the surface.

Pacific White Sided Dolphin - Whale Watching Long Beach patrons may also have an opportunity to view the Pacific White-sided Dolphin. Male Pacific White-side Dolphins weigh up to 440 lbs and females weigh up to 330 lbs. The males get up to 8 feet in length while the females are smaller, at about 6.5 feet in length. Among their distinct features are dark grey rings around their eyes and unique coloration on various parts of their bodies. They generally have three different colors on their bodies. Their chins, throats, and bellies are a creamy white shade. Their beaks, flippers, backs, and dorsal fins are dark grey. The Pacific White Sided Dolphin will also have light grey patches on its sides, and a light gray stripe running from its eyes to its dorsal fin, where the stripe becomes thicker all the way to its tail.

Sea Birds Encountered on a Southern California Whale Watching Trip

California Brown Pelican - California Brown Pelican is the smallest of the eight species of pelican, although it is a large bird in nearly every other regard. Once on the endangered list it has since been removed with healthy populations along California. There is a myth that Brown Pelicans go blind from diving into the water to catch fish, causing them to starve to death because they can no longer see to hunt. However, pelicans can live and fish for up to thirty years without going blind. It is very common to see a flock of pelicans soar just above the surf line while traveling in search of whales. Feeding frenzies with dolphins, huge schools of fish, pelicans, sea gulls, and even whales can be seen and is amazing sight.

Shearwaters - Of shearwaters, surely the Black-Vented Shearwater can be said to be a true So Cal specialty. Some 30-50 thousand winter along the nearest-shore escarpments off Southern California (large concentrations just north of the harbor). Thousands can be seen at times. They fly close to the waves, their flight more fluttery than that of other shearwaters and marine birds in general. They feed by snatching food from the water's surface and sometimes by diving. They also swim beneath the surface, aided by their wings. We commonly see them feeding on a school of fish and at times they can be confused with fish as they dive very deep. They make for a very active viewing experience. A pretty common sighting especially in the fall and winter months. A group of shearwaters are collectively known as an "improbability" of shearwaters.

Cormorant - A seabird that pursues and catches fish under water. When the Cormorant catches sight of its prey, it dives swiftly into the water. They dive from the surface, though many species make a characteristic half-jump as they dive, presumably to give themselves a more streamlined entry into the water. Under water they propel themselves with their feet. Some cormorant species have been found, to dive to depths of as much as 145 feet. Wow! Cormorants can be seen year round although the summer and fall months have the most sightings.

Pelagic Gulls - There are several species of gulls that are commonly viewed on almost every whale watching excursion including the California Gull and Herring Gull. Gulls or more commonly known as Sea Gulls are not shy and will follow the ship for some distance. They can put on a dizzying viewing opportunity when a feeding opportunity presents itself.

Terns - Terns are small super-fast birds that are commonly viewed inside the harbor or along the coastline of Southern California. The Royal and The California Lesser tern are two of several types that frequent our waters. They can hover above the water until the moment comes for them to dive in and snatch up a fish. The agility makes them a favorite especially for the kids.

Other Marine Creatures Viewed While Whale Watching

Giant Sunfish - Ocean Sunfish, or Mola, are one of the most unusually looking creatures on Earth. Huge and flat, these silvery-gray fish have tiny mouths and big eyes that vanish into an even bigger body with a stubby tail. Topping out around 6,000 pounds, Mola are the world's heaviest bony fish. They grow to a maximum of about 10 feet long and are often taller than they are long, up to 14 feet. Sunfish are commonly seen especially in the summer and fall months while whale watching. They seem to prefer the warm blue waters during these months.


There are several species of sharks that can be seen while whale watching including Mako Sharks, Blue Sharks, Thresher Sharks, and rarely even Great White Sharks.

Mako Shark - Mako sharks are seen with some frequency on whale watching cruises. They are very fast and usually their fin is spotted as they zip through the water. They can grow to over 1000 pounds, but many are juveniles from 60 to 100 pounds. They rarely attack man unless provoked although larger specimens are considered quite dangerous.

Blue Shark - Blue sharks are open ocean sharks that can appear in large numbers especially when there is a food source nearby. Occasionally seen while whale watching they are harder to spot due to their coloration and smaller size in compared with other sharks of our region.

Thresher Shark - Thresher sharks are seen while whale watching especially during the spring months during the grey whale migration. They are typically seen around huge schools of anchovy and sardine. It is a quick and yet impressive sighting, as they can come completely out of the water while pursuing their dinner. They can be quite large especially when their tail is included. They are very unusual as they use their tail to catch their prey.

Great White Shark - One of the rarest of sharks sighted during a whale watching cruise. Only a couple sightings a year occur and full grown adults are even rarer. One of the apex predators they can grow to 20 feet in length. Spring and early summer seem to have the highest number of sightings in our area.

Flying Fish - While they do not actually fly, they will swim up to 30 mph and launch into the air, using their specially adapted fins to glide for up to 1/4 mile. Its tail fins will vibrate to taxi along the surface. During the summer and fall months large schools of flying fish frequent our waters and especially later in the afternoon, dozens can be spotted launching themselves and gliding as the whale watching ship cuts through the water off Southern California.