Whale Watching Off Santa Barbara

The area between the coast and the Channel Islands offer some of the best whale watching in the world.

Whales can migrate 3,000–5,000 miles in one season. They almost went extinct during commercial whaling, but the global population has recovered well since a worldwide moratorium on hunting was enacted in 1966. One of the best places for groups to watch this thriving migration is just off the coast of Santa Barbara. Incentive planners should consider Condor Express, one of the area’s most modern whale watching, dinner cruise, party cruise, and private charter boats. Built and launched by All American Marine in March, 2002, this high speed catamaran was designed to replace the original 88-foot all-steel vessel, the Condor. With a specially built wave-piercing hull, the Condor Express provides an exceptionally smooth, stable ride. The Condor Express is environmentally friendly and safe around marine animals. With an average cruising speed of 28+ knots, the Condor Express is capable of reaching the Channel Islands off the Santa Barbara coast in just a third of the time (45 minutes) of other charter boats. This makes it ideal for corporate whale watching charters.

The Condor’s schedule is split into two seasons:

From the second week of February to the second week of May, the Condor runs 2.5 hour “coastal” trips in search of gray whales as they migrate through the channel from their feeding grounds in the Alaskan seas, to their breeding grounds in the lagoons of Baja California. During these cruises it is also common to see dolphins and California sea lions. In recent years humpback whales have also made an early return to the channel and are often seen.

From the second week of May to the second week of February, the ship runs 4.5 hour “open channel” trips in search of humpback, blue, and fin whales. These whales migrate to this area to feed. Humpbacks begin to show up in early spring and stay in the channel until late fall/ early winter where they too go down to Mexico for their breeding season. Blue and fin whales typically show up later in the summer in late July, August, and September. They are krill specialists, so wherever the large krill swarms show up, these giants won’t be far behind. These longer trips also allow the Condor to explore the four northern Channel Islands, if weather and whale sightings permit.

With a passenger capacity of 127 persons, a protected inside cabin, and three decks for events, corporate parties and team building exercises are possible on board. The Condor Express staff often organizes opera and Broadway cruises which allow groups to enjoy live performances of classics such as La Boheme, Faust, O Sole Mio, and La Traviata or show stoppers from Phantom of the Opera, My Fair Lady, Cabaret and Funny Girl.

Any thoughts, opinions, or news? Please share them with me at vince@meetingsevents.com.

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