Whale Watching in Monterey Bay

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Driving down the wide-open roads lined with antique stores, Moss Landing would have you believe that this is a quiet, old-fashioned little fishing town. But take a quick boat ride into nearby waters to witness the regular occurrence of orca whales ambushing local marine life, and when a dolphin carcass floats past your boat, you will quickly realize Moss Landing is truly one of California’s raw natural gems – and the perfect weekend getaway for wildlife enthusiasts.


monterey bay whale watching film crewWildlife & Adventure.

Sanctuary Cruises :
This experience is unreal! I’ve gone whale watching many times over the years, but never have I seen over 12 whale sightings on one outing. These waters have been dubbed the Moss Landing Whale Park for good reason. As Captain Mike Sack explains, “Monterey bay is notorious for orca ambushes. As grey whales make their way north from the Baha Lagoon where they just gave birth, Orcas will often lay deep in the Monterey Submarine Canyon (the canyon is over 11,000 feet deep), and they surprise attack the grey whales from below. It’s an epic battle between grey whale mothers trying to defend their calf, and the Orcas that need to eat. And there are (orca) calves involved in that too.”

“Orcas surprise attack the grey whales from below. It’s an epic battle!”

whales montereyGrey whale calves aren’t the only species you might see orcas attack while aboard the Sanctuary Cruises boat adventure. They also regularly ambush the common dolphins, harbor seals, and sea lions that all call these waters home. And even if you don’t see an orca attack (although chances are very high from April to June) you will no doubt see many humpback whales feeding on krill.

whales monterey

Dolphin carcass after orca attack. Photo by Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com

I’ll be honest, I love nature and wildlife documentaries on Netflix as much as the next couch potato. But seeing the cycle of predator and prey IRL is actually pretty hard to stomach – so if you decide to go on this trip keep in mind that you are witnessing nature – in the raw. The way it was meant to be. And in my opinion, that beats seeing humans feed whales in an aquarium any day. Captain Mike agrees, “I personally don’t care for any animal in captivity! I just think it’s a terrible idea. Some people argue that they have a better life because they don’t have to worry about predation. I would rather see them live naturally, and I’m sure they would rather live naturally and be able to go where they want.”

mike sack sanctuary cruises whale mossTo make this experience even cooler for us nature geeks, Sanctuary Cruises is a eco-friendly boat that runs on bio-diesel (yes, it smells like french fries!) and marine biologists will accompany you on the 3-4 hour journey to answer questions and explain the behaviour of all the local marine life you will be witnessing. My recommendations: Wear layers, bring gravol (or another over-the-counter aid for sea sickness), and check out Captain Mike’s log on the Sanctuary Cruises website for some of his incredible footage of whales so you know what you’re in for. (The videos have hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube!)

monterey whales otters wildlife whisper chartersWhisper Charters:
After an exciting day of whale watching, wild winds, and big waves in the open sea…Whisper Charters is a peaceful wind down boat ride to relax, enjoy a bottle of local wine (Monterey County is known for incredible wineries), and get up close to local wildlife!

Captain Brian poured us a yummy glass of 2009 Otters Cove Pinot Noir from Monterey County. His boat is all electric, and since it runs on batteries in makes very little noise – allowing us to get extremely close to critters like sea lions, sea otters, and over 340 species of bird. Bonus: Whisper Charters doesn’t burn any hydro-carbons so it leaves a very small imprint on the nature you’re taking in. It was truly an enchanting experience!

whisper charters wildlife photography“You can have a romantic date on this boat, or if you’re an avid bird watcher we got very close to the birds. It’s the perfect boat for photography.” Says Captain Brian who is a wealth of knowledge about this environmental landscape (and answered my 2 million wide-eyed animal questions.) He is a first-hand witness of how the otters moved into town in the 1980’s and completely changed the local eco-system. (Check back in next week for a link to my wildlife post about the otters!)

monterey bay whale watching hotel captains innSleep.

Moss Landing was a wharf in the 1800’s, and around that time a church was built. Fast forward, and today that church is a quaint and colorful Bed & Breakfast. While there are a few options for chi-chi hotels in nearby Monterey Bay, the Captain’s Inn is the place to book if you want a real feel of the local coastal atmosphere. Each room is decorated with unique nautical themes, and the spacious boathouse rooms have warm fireplaces and look out onto local wetlands (perfect for birdwatching!). Breakfasts are cooked in the main house kitchen, and they will easily accommodate gluten or dairy free allergies. You simply cannot turn a corner on this property without finding an instagram-worthy photo opp. But the best part about this cute B&B? It’s also home to two tiny pot-bellied pigs! Ask the owner to meet them, they are incredibly friendly, playful, and a tad naughty – just like puppies.

captains inn monterey bay moss landing hotelCool Perk.

The hotel will give you free passes to the Monterey Aquarium. And while I am not a fan of aquariums (and couldn’t bring myself to check out this one) locals tell me this one is extremely unique and is the base for world-renowned conservation efforts of local species, including the otters. (check back in next week for a link to my wildlife post about the otters!)

whisper charters brian montereyEat & Drink.

Whole Enchillada is a local Mexican restaurant with absolutely delicious Oyster Shooters (must-try!) and huge margaritas. I recommend the Prawns Brochette, it was delicious! Monterey Bay is known for their artichokes, so one of the artichoke-based dishes is worth a taste too. The owner is a funny older man named Ray, who walked through the restaurant giving tourists lottery tickets on the condition that if we won the $155 million dollar jackpot, we’d be his “partner” – we shook on it.

Haute Enchillada is a VEGAN option right down the street from Whole Enchillada, and owned by Ray’s daughter. It also has an art gallery and social club in the back.

Phils Fish for a bowl of hot seafood chowder once you get off the Whale Watching adventure! It will warm up your bones while your sea legs wear off.

Schooners Highly recommend leaving Moss Landing for one evening and driving into Monterey Bay for an upscale dining experience with a beautiful coastal view. It’s a great area to walk around, and a much more “happening” scene. The outdoor fire pit is a great place to finish the bottle of local Monterey wine you ordered at dinner.

moss landing whalesEnvironment.

The Monterey Submarine Canyon is a geologically unique feature in Monterey Bay which invites an abundance of marine life to this part of the California coastline: from incredible whale feeding, to bird watching, to the otters who have transformed the eco-system.

Tweet me if you want any more info! @AliyaJasmine  — have fun!

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