Blue Whales - The World’s Best Places for Whale Watching and Swimming

15th November 2016   |   Mario Passoni

Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are the largest animals that have ever existed on planet Earth!

Despite their size, this animal is not dangerous to humans, as it’s not aggressive and it has no teeth.

Indeed it possesses baleen, which is a kind of a huge filtering comb. These tools filter gigantic amounts of water that contains krill (a small shrimp that is part of the zooplankton group). The krill is retained and ingested while the water is expelled.

Blue whales can be solitary or live in small groups, called pods.

The Best Places for Whale Watching

The following are the world’s best places to watch blue whales in their natural habitat.

Saguenay - St. Lawrence Marine Park, Québec

This wonderful marine park is home to 1600 marine species, among which live 13 different types of whales. These include blue whales, humpback whales and a resident population of beluga. Expert local guides will introduce you to the world of marine biology and cetaceans while accompanying you to see the marine animals that live and feed in this uncontaminated park.

Best Time: June to September

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Reykjavík and Húsavík, Iceland

In Iceland, whale sightings can be made throughout the year, but from a tourist point of view, we suggest you go whale watching in the summer for better weather conditions. During this time, you will see large whales such as the blue whale, minke whale and others. These whales venture to the icy waters of Iceland in search of food.

Best Time: May to August

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Pico Island, Azores

The Azores is an archipelago of 9 islands, all of volcanic origin. Here you can go diving, surfing, kayaking, bird watching, paragliding and, of course, whale watching. Giant whales, like blue whales and sperm whales, as well as pods of dolphins regularly visit the area. Don’t miss your chance to see blue whales during their annual migrations.

Best Time: February to March

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Monterey Bay, California

With more than 2,000 individuals, the blue whale population of California is the largest and healthiest in the world. These whales are found here because there is a large concentration of the krill on which they feed. The researchers, who will accompany you on whale watching excursions, can identify each whale by taking a picture of one of its sides. This must include the dorsal fin, as its shape is different from whale to whale. In November, these individuals begin their migration to Baja California.

Best Time: July to October

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Baja California Sur, Mexico

The Sea of Cortez is one of the most beautiful seas in the world. It’s known as the "Aquarium of Mexico" because of the large biodiversity found within its confines. Between December and April, whales gather here to give birth and breed. Local guides will accompany you on small boats, but you only need to travel a few hundred meters from the coast, and you will be joined by many whales. This creates an unforgettable, half-day whale tour.

Best Time: January to March

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The Best Places for Swimming with Blue Whales

The following are the best places to swim with blue whales.

Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Sri lanka is one of the very few places in the world where, besides being able to go whale watching, swimming with blue whales is allowed. Imagine getting into the water with the largest animal that has ever existed! It is very important to rely on experienced and competent guides to enjoy this meeting. Be sure to maintain a respectful distance from the whales.

It’s also possible to go whale spotting from small airplanes in Mirissa or out of Colombo. This is a fun and unique experience, giving you a fantastic view of the landscape and the blue whales!

Best Time: March to April

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San Diego, California

San Diego is a city in California, near the border with Mexico. From this location, it is possible to look for the biggest animal in the world, the blue whale. These excursions allow you to observe them from the boat and swim with them. The number of people who can get in close contact with these cetaceans is limited in order to avoid disturbing the marine giants.

Best Time: July to August

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Code of Conduct

We always recommend following the code of conduct while enjoying blue whale encounters. It’s the best way to respect these gentle giants. We also suggest verifying the company providing your whale tour is registered and has a permit to do so. Furthermore, it’s best to use eco-friendly companies. This will ensure you have the best possible experience while knowing that the whales and environment are respected.

Common Questions About Blue Whales

Common Questions About Blue Whales

How Big is a Blue Whale?

Blue whales can be up to 100 feet (30 meters) long. That’s the equivalent of three school buses!

How Much Do Blue Whales Weigh?

Blue whales have a maximum weight of about 200 tons (180,000 kilograms). Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant!

How Long is the Gestation Period of Blue Whales?

Females give birth to a calf about every 3 years, and the gestation period lasts about a year.

How Long is the Lactation Period of Blue Whales?

Maternal milk is very nutritious and fatty. The calf can grow up to 240 pounds (110 kilograms) per day for the first year of its life!

How Much Does a Baby Blue Whale Weigh at Birth?

The pup is 23 to 26 feet (7 to 8 meters) long and weighs almost 3 tons (2,700 kilograms).

How Long Do Blue Whales Live?

They can live up to 90 years.

What Do Blue Whales Eat?

Blue whales feed on zooplankton (especially krill). It’s believed that blue whales can eat up to 4 tons (3,600 kilograms) of krill a day!

How Often Do Blue Whales Need to Eat?

As often as possible during the fat accumulation season. This enables these whales to face long migrations through food-scarce waters.

How Many Blue Whales Are Left in the World Today?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know the precise number of individuals alive, but it is thought to be between 10,000 and 25,000. Of these, around 2,800 can be found along the coast of California, which is the largest known population in the world.

Are Blue Whales an Endangered Species?

Yes, they have been classified by the IUCN as “EN” (endangered), but luckily their population is increasing.

How Fast Can Blue Whales Swim?

Their average cruising speed is around 5 mph (8 kph), but if agitated, their speed may exceed 20 mph (32 kph).

What Sounds Do Blue Whales Produce?

This mammal emits one of the loudest animal sounds. Listen to the blue whale song here.

Where Can You Find Blue Whales?

Blue whales are a cosmopolitan species, which means you can them find in all the world’s oceans. Take a look at their Home Range Map.


This article was written by Mario Passoni, a marine biologist involved in several projects concerning ocean conservation and education. Special thanks to Wayne Sentman from the Oceanic Society as well as Thalia Martinez.


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