From now until April, you have the chance to witness gray whales in the waters off Dana Point.
The migration season for these ocean mammals officially arrived Friday. Dana Wharf Whale Watching offers several daily excursions to view and learn about the massive creatures as they migrate south toward the warm waters of Mexico, says General Manager Donna Kalez.
"Dana Point is known as a landmark for whale sightings ... Grays have been known to as they make their way toward warmer waters for the winter," Kalez said.
The gray whale migration is one of the longest mammalian odysseys on the planet. These 45-foot gentle giants swim up to 14,000 miles round-trip, leaving their feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas and heading south for their mating and calving lagoons in Baja and Mexico, she adds.
During migration, gray whales can be seen swimming offshore (3 to 6 mph on average) with the naked eye or binoculars.
Here are Dana Wharf's record-breaking sighting totals last year, according to Kalez:
November 2011 to April 2011: 492 gray whales, 24 orcas or killer whales, 134 fin whales, three minke whales, and eight humpback whales.
Blue whales are seen May to October.
Kalez said it had the best season on record last year from May 2011 to October 2011: 752 blue whales, 223 fin whales, 23 gray whales, 22 humpback whales, 20 minke whales, and seven orcas.