North America

Whale Watching in Maine

Kennebunkport, Maine

Traveling from Boston to Maine went much better than Providence to Boston.  When researching travel ideas in Maine, I happened upon whale watching tours.  I’ve never seen a whale in real life and for $48 (First Chance Whale Watch), I couldn’t pass the opportunity.

Blue skies dusted with clouds encouraged us on our quick drive 20 minutes south along the coast from Portland.  Fearful that we would have bad weather and miss seeing whales, this was a good sign.

Our tour would begin at Kennebunkport, a fishing town as well as the place of George Bush Sr.’s summer home.

Monument for George Bush Sr. as well as his summer home in the background:

View right next to Bush’s summer home.  Incredible.

An easily accessible parking lot was a 10 minute walk from our tour’s meeting spot.  While 10 minutes doesn’t appear a long time, the sun’s rays marked their territory.  In early July, shadows are a safe-haven.

Humidity aside, the walk over provided a glimpse into the town’s essence.  Townspeople walked home from their local farmers’ market, went fishing in the water, and tanned at the beach.  Vintage buildings with widow’s walks saturated the area.  Kennebunkport appeared to be a town centered around community.

The clocktower above had me thinking of Back to the Future.

First Chance Whale Watch

Reserving your whale watching tour is in your favor: stand in line, tell the ticket-person your name, and voilà! “Here are your tickets.”  While we waited in line, it appeared some people didn’t have such luck. You can’t tell if your plans will be accommodated without advanced planning.

With that said, I’m a planner.

Others waited in line, dripping with sweat as we stood in the shade, not concerned with our boarding position.  In a cruel twist of fate for those in line, the tour guide shouted from behind them “this way!”  We ended up being one of the first few on the boat.  I bet the guys in front of the original line were pretty mad after that!

The boat was rather large, with ample seats for all.  The center of the boat had benches and tables for those avoiding the sun.

Eagerly, we departed from the harbor but wouldn’t see the whales until we were twenty miles out. I had my eyes peeled for the totality of the trip in hopes I might spot a whale, shark, or dolphin.  We had no such luck until we got to “the spot.”  I wish I had clearly heard what they called it.  If memory serves correctly, the name was Jeffrey’s Ridge.

Jeffrey’s Ridge is an area where the surface drops down significantly; the changing flow of water makes a great spot for krill and other whale delicacies.  That’s where we saw them; in the span of fifteen minutes, twenty or so whales revealed themselves.

Humpback Whales

First, spurting water from their blow holes.  The sight is almost something you’d miss without proper attention.

Then back breaches.

Fins!  Don’t you love how the water cascades down around it?  Whales sure know how to be captivating.

The best?  Tails.

I had hoped for a full breach, but to no avail. Pictures don’t do these moments justice – some things are simply richer to the naked eye… Maybe I just need a better camera lens.

Our whale sightings concluded when one particularly eccentric whale flipped it’s tail and slapped it down into the ocean.  That was the encore moment.

If I were doing a whale watching tour again, I think I would want to depart from a port further east along the coast.  Five hours on a boat only to see whales for 20 minutes seems like overkill.  I have a feeling if we had departed from the more famous Bar Harbor, we would’ve spent more time viewing whales vs. driving out to see them.  While on this tour, I spoke with a woman who said “if you ever want to get really close to some humpbacks, you gotta go to Maui between January and April.  You’re on a rubber boat and they jump right out of the water.”  She showed me pictures.  They did!

I’m hoping to travel to Hawaii before the end of 2018.  Maybe next spring would be a good time to go!

Things to keep in mind

There is a possibility you might get seasick. I saw quite a few people looking ill, laying down with their head between their knees. If you’re worried, stay in the center of the boat – less movement.

You’re going to be in the sun for about five hours. It took two hours to get to Jeffrey’s Ridge and two hours back. It takes time to dock as well. Whale watching will take up a lot of your day! In my opinion, it’s worth it.

Eat something! With the amount of time you’re going to be on the boat, it’s a good idea to have something in your belly.

You might not see whales. Don’t get your hopes up. Enjoy the boating experience, being out on the Atlantic and feel the ocean breeze. It’s beautiful!

Coming from Chicago

While Lake Michigan is beautiful, it lacks excitement.  Saturated with sailboats, there aren’t nearly as many creatures in the freshwater compared to the Atlantic.  On a boat in Maine, you might see dolphins, sharks, varieties of whales – who knows?  In Lake Michigan, it simply isn’t an option.  If you find yourself in Maine, I highly suggest checking out some whale watching tours – they’re magical!