You just can’t beat some time at sea, even if it’s just for two hours on the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Especially if those two hours are out of Dana Wharf in Dana Point, California to whale watch!
With my family in tow (three sweet girlies, aged 7, 8, and 11, and The Daddy too), we headed about 40 minutes south of our Orange County home in Yorba Linda, to beautiful Dana Point Harbor, in hopes of catching a glimpse of some whales or other sea mammals… Hey, we’re not picky.
This was our girls’ first trip to sea and they were so excited! With our seasick meds, warm jackets and scarves, we felt a bit over-packed on this gorgeously perfect Southern California day. We couldn’t have asked for a better day than this! Only in Southern California can you head out to whale watch on the Pacific Ocean on a December day when the temperature is in the low 70s, clear blue skies and sun a-shining.
We started off exploring a semi familiar Dana Point Harbor, where we frequent now and again. Their shops and bistro areas pull you in and lull you into a vacation type of mood as the music plays in the background. The girls were more interested in the outdoor life as usual, checking out the crabs at play on the rocks below, and the small fish darting in and out of the rocks and kelp. The seagulls, cranes and osprey flying above, the smell of the salty air, and the light ocean breeze gave us warm fuzzies. Again, a picture perfect day.
As we ventured into Dana Wharf to gather our tickets for our long awaited tour, we were warmly greeted and the sights of the store made us all the more excited, with a huge whale perched on the ceiling above as well as a swordfish and other underwater creatures hanging about. Very fun! Dana Wharf also offers sport fishing as well, which interested my hubby and I since we both love to deep-sea fish. We plan to visit them again soon for that tour without our young ones in tow.
We were so pleased at the friendliness of the crew as we boarded the Dana Pride. Captain Larry and Captain Tom (who, by the way, is the only one to ever captain the Dana Pride), as well as the rest of the crew, were wonderful! I loved how informative Captain Larry was the entire tour, giving us countless tidbits of information on whales and dolphins and all of the other creatures of the air and sea that we might encounter along the way. I was genuinely impressed at how educational it all was.
The Dana Pride was quite the vessel to tour on. It has great seating up top with benches and tables, a bench on the back of the boat to check out the sights, as well as a very nice galley below to grab a bite to eat. They offer hamburgers, hot dogs, candy, water, soda, and even a few drinks for the grownups to help settle the wayward tummy (beer, wine and Bloody Mary’s). We spent most of our time at the bow of the boat hoping to catch a first glimpse of something exciting
Five minutes into our trip, we were greeted by a sweet little sea lion. We were off to a great start! As we traveled north along the coastline searching for a sighting of the coveted Grey Whale, we enjoyed breathtaking views of some of Southern Orange County’s most desirable real estate. Coupled with the amazing Pacific Ocean breeze and the just-right weather, the sun glistened upon the water as the waves rolled us up and down, lulling us into a place of happiness. Just that quick, there was a sighting of either a Blue Shark or a Mako Shark. Sadly, it was brief enough that I didn’t happen to see it, but a lot of the other passengers did. So be sure to keep your eyes peeled when you’re out there so you don’t miss a thing!
It wasn’t long before Captain Larry spotted a huge pod of offshore Bottlenose Dolphins up ahead. I would have to guess that there were about 30 or so. They were majestic! It didn’t take long before we were upon them and they were ready to play. They swam up to the boat and seemed just as curious about us as we were with them. They crept along the side of the boat and jumped and splashed all around us. They were mesmerizing! My girls were beside themselves with glee and squealed with delight repeatedly (and so did my hubby!) It was truly a memory in the making. It was worth every dollar of the tour just in itself. To be surrounded by 30 or so beautiful dolphins was amazing. The largest weighed approximately 1200 pounds (all muscle). They were lean, fast, curious, intelligent, and protective. I loved every minute of it and could have literally stayed in that very spot for hours watching them in all of their glory.
Our time was limited, so as a group we decided to venture a bit further along in search of the Grey Whale. As we left though, Captain Tom made sure to make some really great wakes off the back of our boat tempting our dolphin friends to take play. They didn’t let us down. They jumped and flipped and frolicked about on those waves. They were jumping approximately 15 – 2’ feet out of the water with ease, making tremendous splashes which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. It was truly delightful!
Captain Larry soon spotted another large dolphin pod ahead, which he informed us was quite rare (to see two large dolphin pods in one day), especially during a two-hour tour period. They weren’t quite as interested with us as the first pod and since time was an issue, we continued on our search and, unfortunately, back towards the harbor.
Sadly, we weren’t able to spot the elusive Grey Whale on this particular trip. But let me say again that the pods of dolphins we encountered made the trip very worthwhile. We can’t wait to come back for more, in the hopes of spotting a whale or two next time.
If you're going to be in the area any time soon, you'll definitely want to help Dana Wharf celebrate their 40th Anniversary this January! Hopefully you will spot some of these amazing Grey Whales . . .