A SIGHTSEEING EXCURSION: WHALE WATCHING WITH NEWPORT LANDING
Forty-two miles of stunning coastline await visitors to Anaheim and the greater Orange County area. Beyond the coast, however, lies an entire underwater world to explore. On your upcoming trip to Anaheim, climb aboard a Newport Landing passenger vessel bound for the open sea. Departing from a harborside port in Newport Beach, Newport Landing’s whale-watching cruises promise exciting on-the-water experiences for all ages.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Two cruise options through Newport Landing cater to both families and thrill-seekers. Large, spacious boats can carry up to 100 people at a time with on-board restroom facilities, snack bars and upper and lower viewing decks.
For adrenaline junkies over the age of 5, Newport Landing partners with sister company Newport Coastal Adventure to offer rides on smaller fast rafts that hit speeds of around 20 to 30 miles per hour. In addition to the thrilling roller coaster of a ride, the speed allows the captain to travel farther from shore if there’s an interesting animal sighting
“Our newest boat does have a cool TV screen behind the passengers, so when they fly the drone over the whales they can see what the drone pilot is looking at,” says Jessica Roame, Newport Landing’s head of marine education. “We try to incorporate a lot of visuals into the trip.”
“Our boats will head out of Newport Harbor and it takes about 15 mins or so to exit the harbor,” Roame says. “You get million-dollar views of the yachts in the harbor and Pirate’s Cove, which is where they actually filmed parts of ‘Gilligan’s Island.’”
From start to finish, the entire tour aboard a larger vessel lasts approximately two to two-and-a-half hours. During the trip, the captain and onboard crew point out local landmarks and explain each animal sighting as the boat approaches.
“Most of our captains have been with us for more than a decade,” Roame says. “They’ll come over the PA to give you an idea of what’s going on, what they’re up to and the sightings along the way. … An onboard marine science naturalist with a degree in marine science or marine biology will bring artifacts and pictures and can talk to passengers one-on-one to help make your ex perience onboard more enriching”
Following international whale watching guidelines, Newport Landing’s boats can get within 300 feet of any animal. In the event an animal wants to come closer, the captain puts the boat in neutral and follows from a respectful distance. “There are many instances every day where these animals are coming closer to us because they’re curious, especially dolphins,” Roame says. “They will never hit our boat because of echolocation abilities, this allows dolphins to ride along in the wake that we make and play alongside our boat with ease.”
Marine Life Sightings
Newport Landing doesn’t use GPS or tracking devices to find marine life, so captains follow visual cues—such as birds hovering over the surface and diving for food—to identify the best spots for animal sightings.
“Recently, our sightings have been phenomenal,” Roame says. “Not only has the weather been perfect, but we’ve been encountering blue whales, the largest animal that lives on planet Earth.”
Blue whales in the northern hemisphere reach sizes of approximately 80 to 85 feet in length, larger than Newport Landing’s 100-passenger boats, according to Roame. A rare sighting in Orange County is the arrival of blue whales with calves, occurring in June usually through the end of August and September depending on the blue whales’ food source.
“There’s not much known about blue whale breeding, so to not only see a blue whale but one with a baby is incredibly special,” Roame explains. “Their babies alone are 26 feet long. They can literally drink 200 gallons of milk a day. They gain 10 pounds an hour.”
She says Orange County is a nonstop cycle of different whales popping up all year, with California gray whales migrating through the area in fall and spring and orcas through the end of December. Year-round, visitors can see fin whales and minke whales, as well as dolphins and sea lions.
“The cool thing about what we do is [that] every trip is different because we’re dealing with wild animals. … You won’t know what’s going to happen every day,” Roame says. “Our goal is to help [visitors] gain a better appreciation for animals in the area and continue to be ocean-minded about the daily things that they do. I think it will help protect these coastal waters for future generations.”
To book a cruise with Newport Landing, visit newportlanding.com. Advance reservations are highly recommended, though walk-ups can be accommodated on an as-available basis.