Located just a few kilometres outside of Los Angeles, Redondo Beach may seem like another picturesque, laid-back Californian beach town. Though only those taking a superficial glance would think that because just off the coast the sea is bursting with all kinds of vibrant marine life. While hundreds of deep sea fishing charters can take visitors out for a day of fun, one of the biggest draws of Redondo Beach is its year-round whale watching tours operated by Voyager Excursions. However, these Voyager Excursions aren't conducted on some little dinghy; instead visitors can enjoy the space, view and smooth ride provided by their 38-metre, double-decker cruiser. The spacious boat offers an inclusive experience for both the young and the young at heart that bumpy high-powered Zodiac boat excursions just can not.
Grey Whale Migration Through Redondo Beach
When: December through April
Time: 10 a.m. & 1 p.m.
Duration: 2.5 -3 hours
Cost: adults: $25 , seniors: $20, children: $15
Reservation required: yes
If you're in Redondo Beach during the grey whale migration, a Voyager excursion is a must. While we're well past the 2015 migration, it is still worth keeping this annual event on your radar for next year. From December 27th through the end of April, excursions depart from the Redondo Beach Marina, cruising the smooth Pacific waters off the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Catalina Channel. Almost as soon as the boat leaves the harbour, guests will be able to spy the large grey backs of whales breaching the surface. The whales pass through the area while traveling from their southern breeding ground in Baja, Mexico to their northern feeding grounds off the coast of Alaska. To help visitors distinguish the grey whales from the other species living in the local waters, each tour has a trained naturalist from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium/American Cetacean Society (the oldest whale conservation group in the world) on board to narrate the expedition.
Year Round Whale Watching Cruises
When: May through October
Time: departs on the hour starting at 1 p.m. through sunset
Duration: 30-45 minutes
Cost: adults: $10, children: $5, toddlers & infants ride free
Reservation required: no
For those who will miss the grey whale migratory season, don't worry there is plenty of marine life to spot year round. From May through October Voyager runs weekend nature cruises that offer visitors a chance to see some of the other whales, mammals and waterfowl living around Redondo Beach. As visitors get a solid lungful of fresh sea air, they are likely to spot curious dolphins swimming alongside the boat, sea lions lounging on the Palos Verde Peninsula, marine birds swooping over head and schools of fish that help make Redondo Beach one of the hottest sport fishing and scuba diving spots in the country.
Commonly seen whales & sea life
Whale watching truly is a game of hide-and-seek. These majestic creatures rise to the surface, sometimes for just mere moments, before gliding gracefully out of sight. Of course one hopes to ultimately see whales breaching, lobtailing or spyhopping. While you'll be able to rely on Voyager's on board naturalist to identify marine species, if one appears out of her periphery you'll want to be able to describe what you saw. Here are nine aquatic creatures you'll be able to confidently identify yourself.
"Ballena gris adulta con su ballenato" by José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez - Wikimedia Commons
Physical characteristics: grey whales are primarily recognized by their dark slate-grey colour and distinctive grey-white patterns. These whales lack a dorsal fin, but instead have "knuckles" or humps that run along their back.
Fun fact: newborn grey whales measure up to 15 metres when they are born, but still have a lot of growing ahead of them.
"Killerwhales jumping" by Robert Pittman
Physical characteristics: killer whales, or orcas, are one of the most easily distinguishable whales in the sea. They are easily recognizable for their shark-like dorsal fin and all-black body punctuated by white spots around the eyes, bottom jaw and belly.
Fun fact: orcas have culture just like humans. Their hunting techniques and vocalization are passed down from generation to generation.
Physical characteristics: minke whales grow to a maximum of 10 metres in length and are black or dark grey in colour. They have a light coloured belly and an underside with a grey strip or 'chevron' pattern by the flipper. They are identified by their distinctly curved dorsal fin.
Fun fact: when the minke whale dives it does not raise its tail - so don't count on identifying one by the shape of its tail fluke!
Physical characteristics: considered endangered, fin whales can grow to 22-26 metres in length. (That's second only to the mammoth blue whale!) They have sleek, streamline bodies with asymmetrical pigmentation on the lower jaw. Their bodies and sides are black or dark brownish-grey while the underside of the tail fluke is white with a grey border. The fin whale's head is described as V-shaped.
Fun fact: like humans, fin whales can live 80-90 years. How can you tell how old one is? Marine biologists can estimate their age by counting their layers of ear wax!
Physical characteristics: full grown male sperm whales can measure up to 16 metres. A block shaped head easily identifies the species which are typically dark grey in colour. The sperm whale has no dorsal fin but rather a series of small humps and one larger hump.
Fun fact: sperm whales are world class divers. They can dive as deep as 3,280 feet (1 kilometre) and hold their breath for 90 minutes at a time!
Physical characteristics: the common Pacific bottlenose dolphin can be identified by its light grey, sleek body that uses flippers, flukes and a dorsal fin to navigate the water at top speeds. However, its defining characteristic is its rounded, bottle-shape mouth.
Fun fact: although they swim in the sea, dolphins are mammals. They nurse their calves from milk produced from their mammary gland, the defining characteristic of mammals.
California Sea Lion
Physical characteristics: the California sea lion has a long, sleek fusiform body similar to a dolphin, but without dorsal fins. Their long fore and back flippers help them glide through the water, while still maintaining mobility on land. When wet, the fur of sea lions can look dark brown or even black, but dries quickly on land.
Fun fact: the sea lion uses its extensive network of whiskers to help see underwater, determining water flow as well as the size and shape of nearby animals. The whiskers are also the key to the famous ball-balancing circus trick that sea lions in captivity perform.
Physical characteristics: the brown pelican is the smallest member of the pelican family, but with the characteristic expandable pelican beak and large wingspan, they are just as glorious. They are most often recognized by their unique profile and brown body feathers.
Fun facts: although other pelicans simply scoop fish from the water, brown pelicans are known from actually diving underwater to scoop up their prey.
Physical characteristics: often considered the biggest pests on the coast, the common seagull can be easily spotted by its white head and chest accented by grey streamlined wings.
Fun fact: seagulls are hardly birdbrains; they demonstrate their high intelligence in a number of behaviours such as dropping hard mollusks on rocks to break them open, following ploughs on coastal fields to pick up grubs, and congregating near populated areas to find easy food.
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