Where to see Whales in the wild

People often ask about the best places to see whales in the wild without always realising that there are separate subpopulations of the same species in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It is possible to see iconic species like Blue Whales and Humpback whales in different oceans and either see them in their feeding or breeding grounds if you take your whale watching holidays at the right time of year. For example, Iceland and Sri Lanka are both excellent locations to see Blue Whales in the wild, but they are separate subpopulations of the same species. In fact, Blue Whales distribution around the world is divided into distinct populations in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, as well as a population in the Antarctic. The only ocean Blue Whales are not found in is the Arctic Ocean.

Where to see Whales in Europe

An incredible 36 species of cetaceans can be seen in the waters of Europe, from Greenland to the Russian Arctic and as far south as the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean Sea.

One of the sad facts about the best places to see whales in Europe is that they are nearly all countries that nearly sent whales to extinction and indeed some of these countries still do hunt whales. Iceland is a classic example and is now famous as a superb location for whale watching in Europe with multiple Icelandic ports offering whale watching tours to visitors. There are an amazing 23 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises that can be seen in the waters of Iceland with iconic species such as Orcas, Humpback Whales, and Blue Whales a big attraction for visitors.

Another stunning country for whale watching in Europe is the Azores which are home to 28 species of whales and dolphins with spring being the best time to see the giant Baleen whale species, which are the Blue Whales, Sei Whales, and Fin Whales. In northern Greenland, the mythical tusked Narwhal whales can be seen and if you take one of our Arctic Cruises to Svalbard you have a great chance to see Beluga whales as well as Fin, Humpback, and Sperm Whales.

Where to see Whales in North America

Some of the best whale watching in the world takes place in North America, as both Canada and the United States have a long history of scientific research around whales and commercial whale watching operators. In addition, the Pacific Ocean is a ‘whale highway’ for species like Gray Whales and Humpback Whales, as they move from their birthing ground such as Mexico and Hawaii and move north to Canada and Alaska to feed.

One of the best places to see Humpbacks whales bubble netting is in the nutrient-rich cold waters of Alaska and Wildlife Trails can put together a bespoke Alaska whale watching tour to both Juneau and Petersburg during the northern hemisphere summer which will give you a chance to observe and ‘listen to’ this enthralling behaviour, where a group of generally solitary whales come together to hunt for fish like herring.

 Where to see whales in South America

Both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans have good populations of Whales and it is possible to see iconic species such as Orcas, Blue Whales, and Humpbacks in the Antarctic Ocean during the summer months of that region. Whale watching is possible from many of the countries in Central America, such as Costa Rica and Belize and some of the best whale watching in South America is found in Patagonia, Argentina, where you can see Blue Whales, Southern right whales, Orcas and Humpback Whales. The best Orca viewing location for photography has to be Peninsula Valdes in Patagonia, where it is possible to see Orca hunting baby seals by deliberately breaching themselves.

Where to see whales in Africa

When looking at the best places to see whales in Africa it is important to choose a respected local operator with a focus on ethical viewing as whale watching tourism in Africa is still in its infancy and it can take time for the industry to achieve best practices according to the association like the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

One of our best whale watching locations is in northern Madagascar, where there is a slight overlap with the best time to see Humpback whales and migrating whale sharks also still being in the same waters. The whale watching company uses small boats and there is a marine biologist on board who explains about the species and in the case of the whale sharks tells you how to swim ethically with them in the water ensuring no contact at all times.

Hermanus in South Africa is also one of the best locations to see whales in Africa and its world-famous shore-based viewing due to how close the Southern Right whales come to the shores. Our personal favourite which we have visited is the De Hoop National Park, which has stunning wild dunes to sit on and observe the whales on their migration.

Where to see whales in Asia

Although there are some good places to see dolphins in Asia like India and Bali, it is Sri Lanka which is the best place to see whales in Asia and it has several whale watching locations which are now famous worldwide. It is heartwarming to also see that several fishermen who lost everything during the terrible 2004 Tsunami received support from local NGOs to set themselves us as whale watching companies in places like Mirissa.

The three best places to see whales and dolphins in Sri Lanka are Dondra point from Mirissa for the chance to see Blue Whales, Kalpitiya for Sperm Whales and hundreds of Spinner Dolphins, and Trincomalee for the chance to see Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, and ‘super pods’ of Sperm Whales numbering up to 50 individuals.

Wildlife Trails has specialised in bespoke Sri Lanka wildlife holidays since 2002.


Our Clients Say About Us


We went to Alaska, which Wildlife Trails sorted out for us. I chose Wildlife Trails because Allan was more knowledgeable than others I emailed, and more helpful. We went to Anchorage, Seward, er, Nikiski, Kodiak and Katmai. At Nikiski we stayed at Daniels Lake Lodge B&B in a log cabin by the lake. It was an amazing place and was the wildest and most remote of our journey. We saw a black bear and 3 coyote on the road. Had a great day out with Alaska West Air near there. We had bears right beside our boat at Big River Lakes near Wolverine Creek, saw bald eagles and plenty of salmon in the river. They gave us a scenic flight on the way back flying right over double glacier and its ice field - so close we almost landed on it. Really breath-taking. We booked up Juneau Mendenhall Glacier Ice Adventure Tour ourselves through Alaska Shore Excursions - local tour operator was Liquid Alaska Tours. This was excellent. We did canoeing, went in an ice cave under the glacier and used crampons to climb on top of it. A fantastic day out. Would recommend these. Also had a great day out at Brooks Falls watching the bears catching the salmon that were jumping up the waterfall. Well worth the trip. Wouldn't recommend Jayleen's Alaska whale watching trip. We didn't see anything but a lighthouse for most of the morning. Cost us a fortune for 6 hours when we saw more on the 2 hour cruise with Alaska Tales for a fraction of the cost. These are a new company. We didn't have many on the boat so didn't have to fight the crowds to see the whales and they took us straight to them so didn't waste any of our time. To see black bears close up we went to AnAn Bear observatory. A mother and cub came very close to where we were standing on a platform. At the other places we saw brown bears. A great trip all in all. As I stated above Wildlife Trails are very knowledgeable and helpful. They always replied quickly to any emails I sent asking them a lot of questions (some I should have been able to work out myself). When we had problems they were always contactable to help us sort them out. The ferry they booked for us went on strike but Wildlife Trails had sorted us out a flight in its place before we even knew there was a problem, so the holiday ran very smoothly. I would recommend Wildlife Trails to anyone and I have already booked another trip with them next year.

ByDawn and Steve
Fantastic Canadian adventure

We had a two week holiday on Vancouver Island.. we went on a whale watching tour and saw Orcas, Humpbacks, Dahl porpoises, white striped Dolphins, seals and Sea lions. We then did a Grizzly bear r and saw lots of Grizzlies as well as loads of Black Bears. The highlight of the holiday was a three day kayaking trip which was fantastic. Kayaking with Orcas and Humpback whales was incredible Our holiday was completely organised by Wildlife Trails, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.. everything was planned to perfection and they made the entire holiday exactly what we asked for

ByChris and John
Outstanding from planning, throughout the whole trip and home again

We had a 13 day tour to India, mostly wildlife as this was what we wanted and a little element of city & culture. Day in Delhi staying at the Imperial, apart from noisy traffic getting to the el it was an iconic place to be, so much hitory and staff who had been there 30yrs and proud of what they did. then onto 5 days at Ranthambor - 2 incredible Tiger sightings with so many other species, onto Agra and the Taj Mahal and then the Saptura National Park. Great time was taken in the planning, we were given lots of options as to how to make the trip up including time of year and how to maximize wildlife sighting.