Sightings Every Day

San Diego Whale Watching Season Off to a Great Start

Purchase Tickets

San Diego Whale Watching 2014 Season

HCE_Logo_Vert_LG[1] whaletail_theader

April 11- April 17

Date Morning Cruise Afternoon Cruise Notes
4/17/14 2 gray whales, 200 common dolphins No afternoon cruise Mom and Calf provided guests with a great view plus 200 common dolphins
4/16/14 2 gray whales, 300 common dolphins No afternoon cruise Guests were treated to Amazing morning cruise found a pod of 300 common dolphins and found a mother and calve fin whale that put on the best show.
4/14/14 2 fin whales, 500 common dolphins 2 gray whales Guest saw two fin whales and a pod of 500 common dolphins plus two grey whales (cow/calf) they put on a great show for the guests. A Humpback whale was seen a the entrance to the harbor.
4/13/14 *whalechecks 1 humpback, 200 common dolphins In calm seas during the day guests saw one humpback whale and 200 common dolphins.
4/12/14 2 fin whales,500 common dolphins 2 gray whales Guests saw 2 fin whales and a pod of 500 common dolphins, plus a mom and calf.
4/11/14 1 humpback whale, 50 bottlenose dolphins. 50 bottlenose dolphins Guests saw 100 common dolphins and a humpback whale feeding on an abundant supply of fish. On the way out 2 mola-mola fish were spotted as well as 25 bottlenose dolphin.

Visit our Whale Report and Blog:

*If whale are not sighted during cruise you will receive a “whale check” good for another Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure or Harbor Cruise


Humpback Whales being seen on San Diego Whale Watching Cruises on Hornblower





Photos by Ken Shelby, captured these great images of a breaching Humpback Whale just off Mission Bay from the rails of Hornblower on their recent whale watching cruise. Mr Shelby is a frequent cruiser aboard Hornblower Cruises Whale Watching Cruise because he is one of the trained Naturalist from San Diego Natural History Museum. Ken said that this whale breached about

This time of year, Hornblower Cruises sees a variety of whales on their whale watching cruises. In addition to Gray whales, humpback whales, Minke whales, fin back whales and Blue Whales are seen. The Gray Whale watching season ends on April 27th as the last of the migrating mammals travel by the San Diego coast.

Blue Whale watching season will begin on July 5th on Hornblower Cruises. Click to buy a season pass or just a one day admission for this exciting new  cruise being offered by Hornblower Cruises!



San Diego Whale Watching Report for 4/3 – present


Whale Watching Report for April 3- April 10

Date Morning Cruise Afternoon Cruise Notes
4/10/2014 2 fin whales, 200 common dolphins *whalechecks During a cool and overcast morning the Captain cruised our about 9 miles viewing 2 fin whales and common dolphins.
4/09/2014 4 fin whales, 1 mom & calf gray whale, 200 common dolphins 2 gray whales, and 1 juvenile gray whale Great views all day with a mom and calf gray whale and about 200 common dolphins. Guests said they have lots of fun. The whale sightings were up close and personal with 2 juvenile and 2 adult gray whales.
04/08/2014 1 minke whales, 60 bottlenose dolphins, mother and calf gray whale 2 gray whales, 40-60 bottlenose dolphins The Captain took out our guest to the 9 mile bank for a peek at the elusive minke whale, and then a mother gray whale and her calf were seen at the kelp beds. Two juvenile gray whales then northwest 2 more gray whales were spotted plus bottlenose dolphins.
4/07/2014 1 minke, 30 bottlenose dolphins 2 gray whales, 200 dolphins The trip was extra special due to guests were able to see “Patches” the spotted dolphin that has been seen along the coast. Guests were thrilled and had wonderful views. Two gray whales came out to play, plus 2000 common dolphins.
4/06/2014 500 common dolphins 200 common dolphins The dolphins were the star of the show for the day with a total of 500 common dolphins. Guests gave many compliments on the narration.*whalechecks
04/05/2014 3 gray whales,800-100 common dolphins 40 bottlenose dolphins, 2500 common dolphins. Guests witnessed mating, rolling and breaching of 3 gray whales, plus many dolphins during clear weather. 2500 common dolphins came out and gave a great show with about 40 bottlenose dolphins in the mix.
04/04/2014 500 common dolphins 1 fin whale The total on the trips for the day included a Gray whale mom and her calf plus one fin whale and about 500 common dolphins


Reoccuring Sightings of Semi-famous Mottled Dolphin Named “Patches” from Adventure Hornblower (see Patches captured by video on!

SD Natural History Museum Whalers and whale watching regulars like Mike Roerder (author of 1000 Whales in a Year) are out on cruises enough to spot reoccurring animals.  The “regulars” have spotted and photographed a mottled bottle nose dolphin and named him patches for obvious reasons! Diane Cullins wrote: “Went out on the Hornblower Adventure this morning…was so happy to see ‘Patches,’ the piebald bottlenose dolphin again…definitely one of a kind! Offshore bottlenose dolphins  are always a treat to see, as was the Minke whale, the smallest of the baleen whales we see off San Diego.”  

I asked Mike Roeder about Patches because he has been on board Hornblower hundreds of times in doing research for his book One Thousand Whales in a Year.  He said Patches’ “piebald” looks makes her a bit of a dolphin celebrity! He pulled this from wikipedia:
piebald animal is one that has a spotting pattern of large unpigmented, usually white, areas of hair, feathers, or scales and normally pigmented patches, generally black. The colour of the animal’s skin underneath its coat is also pigmented under the dark patches and unpigmented under the white patches. This alternating colour pattern is irregular and asymmetrical. Animals reported with this pattern may include horsesdogsbirdscatspigs, and cattle, as well as snakes such as the ball python. Some animals also exhibit colouration of the irises of the eye that match the surrounding skin (blue eyes for pink skin, brown for dark). The underlying genetic cause is related to a condition known as leucism.
Leucism is a general term for defects in pigment cell differentiation and/or migration from the neural crest to skin, hair, or feathers during development. This results in patches of body surface (if only a subset are defective) lacking cells capable of making pigmentLeucism can cause a reduction in all types of pigment, in contrast to albinism, for which leucism is often mistaken. Albinism results in the reduction of melanin production only.  More common than a complete absence of pigment cells is localized or incomplete hypopigmentation, resulting in irregular patches of white on an animal that otherwise has normal colouring and patterning. This partial leucism is known as a “pied” or “piebald” effect; and the ratio of white to normal-coloured skin can vary considerably not only between generations, but between different offspring from the same parents, and even between members of the same litter. A further difference between albinism and leucism is in eye colour. Due to the lack of melanin production in both the retina and iris, albinos typically have red eyes. In contrast, most leucistic animals have normally coloured eyes. The cells in the eyes have an independent genetic origin, and they are typically unaffected by the genetic cause of leucism.
But I digress…As a consequence of her insecurity, Patches roams up and down the West Coast. Since “coming of age about 4-5 years ago, she has been seen in the company of both bottlenose AND (heaven forbid) common dolphin pods from San Diego to Santa Barbara. So she is thought to be a good communicator with all kinds of animals … and (like J.Lo) she loves to show off her backside.
According to the authoritative One Thousand Whales in a Year, Patches was first seen in 2013 off La Jolla on Aug 17th, 2013, then again on the 19th (page 60). She was with common dolphins.
At that time it was speculated that there were several like her and they had been seen around the West Coast. Or that her mother was “common” and her father “bottlenose”. Those are unfounded rumors. Since then, Diane Cullins (whaler) has forwarded photos of patches to an expert marine biologist friend who said that she is a unique specimen and all sighting are of her. 
Until the trip when the previously-shared photos were taken, Captain Bill from Hornblower Cruises & Events, San Diego, had only heard of her, but never seen her. Now he knows what we were always going on about.We next saw Patches on Oct 16th and 17th in a group of 100 bottlenose dolphins. She reappeared Oct 27th, Nov 3rd and Nov 9th with a similar sized group of bottlenose. Perhaps also in January 2014, but my records are incomplete…
Since she has apparently become a star, she’s become a bit elusive, but this week the paparazzi spotted her out cruising with her pals:
Mike Roeder, One Thousand Whales in a Year Author.

Patches by Diane Cullins DSC02555

San Diego Whale Watching Report through 4/2/14-Last month of Gray Whale Watching!

March 27– April 02

Date Morning Cruise Afternoon Cruise Notes
4/02/2014 *whalechecks *whalechecks In morning some rain then in afternoon cool and clear
4/01/2014 200+ common dolphins *whalechecks Two elusive minke whales were spotted plus 1 northbound gray whale in morning tripAfternoon trip was a very good show with 20-40 bottlenose dolphins in a feeding frenzy
3/31/2014 4 gray whales and 1500 common dolphins 3 gray whales Great show for both trips during rough seas
3/30/2014 1000 common dolphins. *whalechecks Cancelled due to rough seas Under warm clear light breeze the common dolphins gave a good show for our guests. Our guests gave lots of compliments on narration of migrating whales
3/29/2014 7 gray whales, 1 minke 3000 common dolphins Whales in the distance were spotted plus guest were treated to ever popular common dolphins show
3/28/2014 *whalechecks Fin whale, 50 bottlenose dolphins Sighting of a rare Fin Whale swimming around the boat for about 45-60 minutes. The Fin Whale was possibly a blue-fin hybrid juvenile. Fins and blue whales have been known to interbreed. We also saw 50 bottlenose dolphins swimming near the bow.
3/27/2014 *whalechecks *whalechecks Weather conditions in San Diego included rain and wind that causes rough sea conditions for whale watching. Our Captain made good effort to seek out the whales for our guests. Highlight was seeing about 30 false killer whales.The weather conditions remaining the same, guests did see 1 whale in distance and a good look at elephant seal plus 20 white sided dolphins on the trip out.


Visit our Whale Report and Blog:

Thank you to Janet Morris, Director of Volunteers from the Natural History Museum who leads the valiant effort to recruit and train the fantastic volunteer “whalers” who interact with our guest everyday on the Whale and Dolphin Watching Cruises. Visit theNat at

Brian Slaughters kids on WWWhalers from the Nat <

whalers group from 2014 whalers whalers-group-from-2014

*If whale are not sighted during cruise you will receive a “whale check” good for another Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventure or Harbor Cruise