These are the final few days of our annual northbound gray whale, coastal Santa Barbara excursions. Starting next Monday, May 14, we begin “Island Whale and Dolphin” trips. These trips run well out into the Santa Barbara Channel and, depending on sea conditions and where wildlife is located, most often include a visit to one of our local Channel Islands.
However, with over 100 cetaceans closely watched per hour today on the coast, you might want to get on board now before the change. Sightings today, on a single 2½ hour coastal cruse, included: 8 inshore bottlenose dolphins, 250 long-beaked common dolphins and 2 gray whales.
Captain and the crew encountered bottlenose dolphins in the kelp beds near Hendry’s Beach. They came to visit the boat and everyone had great looks. Soon a couple hundred common dolphins, a smaller species, came into the same kelp beds and also approached the boat. It isn’t often that we see the beach-loving bottlenose species mixing with the more pelagic common dolphins.
After some nice looks at both species of dolphins, a mother gray whale and her young calf were found near More Mesa and we followed them to Campus Point. This sighting started off with slow-moving whales, passing in and out of the kelp, and ended when the whales picked up considerable speed on their northbound journey to Alaskan waters.