Whale Watching, Cape May
Our Dolphin Cruise was exceptional! Not only did we see several dolphin, but a mother with her baby, as well. It was thrilling to watch them cavort in the waves!
Cape May Whale and Dolphin Research Center is the only research facility permitted in the state of New Jersey to allow public participation on vessels at sea. The Center was founded in 1987 to monitor types of species that frequent the area in order to learn their feeding, migratory and breeding practices.
There are several different tours. We took the two hour DOLPHIN WATCH tour departing at 9:30 a.m. Complimentary coffee, juice and donuts were offered. The cost was $23 for adults and $12 for kids 7-12. Under 6 is free.
If the boat is full it sails early. CALL TO MAKE SURE WEATHER PERMITS A SAILING!
For more information:www.capemaywhalewatch.com
A whale-watching trip was at the top of my “must do” list for our week in Cape May, and consequently we went to check out the several companies that offer them and make a reservation on our first day in town. When we arrived at one of the recommend places, the Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center, to ask about reservations for the next day we were told that would be no problem. However we were also advised that if we had no other plans for that very day we might like to go on the trip departing in about 30 minutes as a whale had been sighted off shore and the chance of us seeing him would be very high. As the good weather was also forecast to take a turn for the worse we decided to take this advice, so bought our tickets and climbed on board the Twilight.
This trip proved to be one of the highlights of our time in Cape May and we were very glad we had taken their advice as we had a wonderful encounter with this humpback whale. Our captain and crew were as enthusiastic about the experience as were all of us on board, and one newcomer to the crew had in fact not seen a whale before! This particular whale seemed to be quite young, and was certainly playful! At first we had to be content to watch his antics from a distance, and were a little jealous of passengers in the only other boat in the vicinity (see photo 2 and below) who had a much closer view – especially when he decided that it would be fun to dive repeatedly under their boat in order to scratch himself on the hull. But after about an hour that boat left and for a while we had him all to ourselves. He circled around and lazily flapped his enormous flippers at us from time to time. Then we all gasped in amazement as suddenly he launched himself clear of the water! It was a wonderful sight, but of course none of us was prepared for it and we failed to capture it on camera. A few minutes later he performed the same feat, and this time I was ready – to capture the splash as he landed back in the sea ;-) (see photo 4). A picture on the left hand side of the company’s website shows a humpback breaching very much like this one, so will give you a good idea of what we saw.
Sadly, although we waited some time longer, he never repeated this spectacle, but he did hang around for quite a while longer so that we could continue to enjoy his company (and, I suspect, he ours). Later a small boat with two fishermen arrived and seemed to us to take considerable risks in approaching him. We were all a little nervous when he swam under this boat as he could very easily have tipped them into the water but perhaps he knew that he shouldn’t surface immediately underneath it. Eventually he started to head further out to sea. We followed him for a short while, but we had already been out on the water for much longer than planned, so somewhat reluctantly, it seemed, our captain turned the boat and we headed back to shore. The ride back to the dock at Cape May took about an hour and we were all tired (and some of us a little chilly) but it had been a great experience and had given all of us such wonderful memories.
We took the longest of the trips on offer, the 1.00 PM departure three hour round trip (more like four hours in our case). This is the best one if you want to see whales, as it allows time to go further out to sea. The two hour 10.00 AM breakfast trip and 6.00 PM sunset one focus more on dolphins and on seeing the sights of Cape May’s shoreline. There’s also a weekend 2.5 hour breakfast trip departing at 9.30 AM. Prices range from $28 (adults) and $18 (children 7-12) on the two hour trips to $38 and $23 respectively on our three hour one. Children under 7 go free (one per paying adult). The website has discount coupons which you can print off and take with you – we saved $3 per person with these.
The company guarantees marine mammal sightings, which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. If you don’t see at least one of these you can have a repeat trip. This doesn’t of course guarantee you a whale ;-)
An alternative company we considered was the Cape May Whale Watcher, whose boat can be seen in photo 2. This boat has the advantage over the one we took of being faster and therefore getting to any whales sooner. It was certainly rather frustrating when it overtook us, and they definitely had the best of the early action with “our” whale. I imagine that boat is also more stable – something to consider if you suffer from seasickness (one guy on our boat felt very rough on the way back to port when the winds had got up). The downside though is that the boat is much larger and takes far more passengers, so you could find yourself with a less good view when you do arrive, whereas on our boat we all got a very good look at the action. Our captain also seemed to be much more flexible, staying out a good hour longer than the advertised time for the trip, during which period we got our best experiences with the whale, all of them missed by the passengers on the other boat. Prices for the two are the same, so it’s up to you to weigh the advantages of each depending on your own preferences.
There are several companies offering whale watching cruises, BUT if you go to sunset beach during the summer, there's a great chance you'll get to see the dolphins swiming right in fron of you, while you sip your drink on the beach.
The little white splash in this pic, is a dolphin completing his jump...sorry I didn't have a more pwoerfull zoon.
Don't forget your binaciulars!
Take a Whale Watching Cruise from the nearby marina. Search for whales, dolphins and sea birds from fully equipped vessels staffed by qualified biologists. During the righr season, different species may be seen. Cape May is one of the best places in the North Eastern US to view these great Marine Mammals.