Off in the distance you see a puff of ocean spray. What an awesome sight—and sound. A whale clearing its blowhole is just one spectacle to enjoy on a summer whale watching expedition.
But there are plenty of others, and you can see them for yourself just off the coast of Mount Desert Island. Migratory animals (no, not fish), whales travel to our cool waters to feed for the summer and then return to warmer climates to mate and give birth. A boat tour takes whale watchers miles offshore to see these creatures, among the largest on earth: humpbacks, finbacks, minkes, and right whales.
Humpbacks, the most playful, delight watchers with their antics. Besides slapping their tails against the water, they show off with tail lobbing (they throw their lower bodies out of the water), spy hopping (they pop their heads up and look around), and breaching (they leap practically out of the water and then crash back with a mighty splash—a sight that takes your breath away). And every humpback whale has unique tail markings that allow you to tell one from another.
Finback, minke, and right whales are also common in the Gulf of Maine. Finbacks, the largest at 50 to 60 feet, are among the fastest of the great whales and called the "greyhounds of the sea." The only animal in the world that is asymmetrically colored, the right side of the finback's lower jaw is a creamy shade while the left is a mottled black. The minkes are small at only 5 to 28 feet, but they're curious and will approach ships. And the right whale—named for being the right size for whale hunters—is, not surprisingly, the most endangered whale in the world.
A great family activity, whale watching blends education with fun, fun, fun. And you're almost sure to spot a shark, a dolphin, a seal, or a puffin too.
NOTE: Listings here are in a rotating alphabetical sequence. That means each time you visit the page, you'll see the entire list beginning (and ending) with a different listing.