Every spring, about 15,000 humpback whales make a stop in Bermuda waters as they migrate north from the mating grounds in the Caribbean to their feeding grounds in Greenland, Canada, and Iceland. These giant marine creatures that weigh about 40 tons often breach the waters showing off acrobatic displays—a spectacular sight for locals and visitors to observe from a distance. Pilot whales, sperm whales, and endangered blue whales are also seen in the ocean, although they are less common. Humpbacks, on the contrary, are quite predictable and have particular behavior and migration patterns.
Best places for whale watching
On a clear day from March to April, it is possible to see humpback whales in the waters near South Shore. A pair of binoculars can help to see these gentle giants more distinctly. West Whale Bay Park is an excellent location to spot whales from the shore. Overlooking the Atlantic ocean from the southwest coast, the park is famous for sunset photographs and seasonal whale spotting. It features picnic tables, lawns, and the 18th-century Whale Bay Fort and Battery. Whales can also be spotted in other places around the island. Besides West Whale Bay Park and Dockyard, sightings often occur around Somerset Bridge in Hog Bay, off Hamilton and St. George's. Sally Tuckers and Challenger Bank are the best areas to see whales from boats. Located up to 15 mi (24 km) offshore, these locations offer solid chances to encounter whales in their natural environment.
Whale-watching tours that depart regularly out of Dockyard and Flatts. There are a few operators and boat types: some of them have a glass bottom. Tours last for five to six hours along the south shore. Tickets cost about $85-$100 for an adult. Some of the most popular operators include Island Tour Centre running 45-ft (13-m) motor boats and 60-ft (18-m) catamarans. Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute operate tours from mid-April through early May on Saturdays and Sundays. The tour lasts from 9:45 am to 4 pm. Food and beverages are provided. Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo promise an unforgettable experience on the open ocean with whale encounters from 11 am to 5 pm on Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Boats depart from Flatts Dock from early March into April.
Whales can appear in Bermuda waters as early as December or January, however, organized whale watching doesn't start before spring. March and April are the best months to see humpback and sperm whale migration at its peak. Sometimes it's also possible to spot mother whales with their calves. In the spring, water clarity is amazing in Bermuda which makes spotting whales a lot easier.
Humpbacks are spotted during Bermuda whale-watching tours the most often. They seem to like attention and often swim along with a boat demonstrating breaching, tail and flipper slapping. Humpbacks communicate with each other through melodious calls that can be called "songs." These "songs" last up to 20 minutes. Calves often "whisper" to their mothers. Being up to 55 ft (16 m) in length, humpbacks have flukes unique to each individual.
Sperm whales are occasionally spotted in Bermuda. They are not as common as humpbacks. They prefer deeper cooler waters and usually keep far from shore. The largest of the toothed whales, sperm whales can reach 60 feet (15 18 m) and weigh over 45 tons. They can be identified due to a massive square head which takes about a third of their body length.
Pilot whales are also occasionally spotted in Bermuda. One of the largest oceanic dolphins, a pilot whale is very social. They are often seen in large pods and are known for their intelligence. Pilot whales whistle to communicate with each other. They usually feed on squid, octopus, herring, and small fish. These smaller whales have a body length of about 21 ft (6.5 m).
Binoculars are essential for a great whale-watching experience. If you plan to take pictures, also think about using a telephoto lens for your camera or choose a camera with a good zoom. Due to great water clarity and visibility of over 100 ft (30m) below the surface in Bermuda, the chances to spot whales through a glass bottom is also high. Generally, most whale-watching tours are successful in Bermuda.
What to bring
Some tours include food and beverages, while others only offer basic things so it's best to inquire what's included in advance. Alcohol is usually not served or sold on the boats. If you have motion sickness, make sure to take medicine before departure. It's also advised to bring sunscreen and sunglasses.
What to wear
Even on a hot day, make sure to bring some extra clothes on a boat. A jacket or a sweater might come in handy. Shoes have to have rubber soles and closed toes. Do not wear flip-flops as they are not very stable on a moving vessel. A sunhat is a good idea since the sun gets pretty intense around midday,
Where to stay
Bermuda island offers a mix of luxurious beachfront resorts, small and cozy boutique hotels, and down-to-earth guesthouses. No matter where you stay, you'll be just steps away from famous pink sand beaches and turquoise waters. Check out some accommodations below.
When can you see whales in Bermuda?
March and April are the best months to see humpback and sperm whale migration at its peak
Where is the best place to whale watch in Bermuda?
Waters near South Shore is the best place to spot whales
What whales can you see in Bermuda?
Humpback whales are the most common. You can also occasionally spot sperm and pilot whales