Whale swimming near tropical island (Shutterstock.com. See main credit below)
Article Words : Wanderlust team | 28 August

The Wanderlust guide to marine wildlife watching

Inspired to seek out the wildlife superstars of the world's Big Blue? Here's our guide to wildlife watching in the ocean

It’s the last great frontier in the world and it’s teeming with wildlife both great and small. Want to experience the world’s oceans up close? This is our guide to meeting its fascinatingly diverse inhabitants...

Killer whales near Vancouver IslandKiller Whales near Vancouver Island (Shutterstock)

Looking for inspiration?

Want to watch wildlife on the Big Blue? Then you’ve got some decisions to make. The world’s oceans cover 71% of the planet and lap against over 356,000 kilometres of coastline. Where do you start?

Jo Price can point you in the right direction with her list of the planet’s top 5 underwater wildlife encounters, from whales sharks in Ningaloo to manta rays in the Maldives. Mark Carwardine lists his favourite underwater encounters too, from killer whales in Norway to more gentle meetings with manatees in Florida.

Paul Bloomfield reveals the 10 best places to snorkel in the world. And for those who want to stay relatively dry, the Wanderlust Team have put together a list of the best locations to see wild whales.

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8 ways for an underwater safari – Mark Carwardine

Top 5 underwater wildlife encounters – Jo Price

10 of the best snorkelling destinations – Paul Bloomfield

12 best locations to see wild whales – Wanderlust Team

Whale surfaces near boat (Shutterstock.com)Whale surfaces near boat (Shutterstock)

Watching whales wallow

Mexico’s Baja peninsula is arguably the world’s premier whale watching spot. Lyn Hughes got so close to blue whales there that she could smell what they’d had for lunch. Big Blue Live presenter Mark Carwardine got up close and personal with blue whales there too.

Canada is another excellent place to spot whales. Lyn went to Churchill in the far north to find the elusive beluga whale, and has put together a guide to the best places to see whales in the country, from Hudson Bay in the north to Vancouver Island on the west coast.

If it’s orca you’re after, then head to the Arctic Circle in Norway. Mark Carwardine found them there. And Sarah Baxter got to swim amongst them. Another great place to spot whales in that neck of the woods is Iceland, says William Gray. Especially in winter.

If you fancy watching whales somewhere nice and warm, then Mark Carwardine recommends the Maldives. Just look out for the tiger sharks!

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Whale watching in Baja California – Lyn Hughes

Blowing with the blues – Mark Carwardine

Whale watching in Canada – Lyn Hughes

White whale wandering in Churchill – Lyn Hughes

Swimming with killer whales – Sarah Baxter

Norway’s Arctic Circle – Mark Carwardine

Wildlife watching in winter Iceland – William Gray

Whale watching in the Maldives – William Gray

Sealions in teh Galapagos (Shutterstock.com)Sealion swimming in the Galapagos (Shutterstock)

Meet the rest of the underwater family

While whales are the undisputed superstars of the Big Blue, there are other creatures of the sea that are equally intriguing and engaging.

Lyn Hughes, for example, rates snorkelling with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands as one of the world’s top wildlife encounters. David McGonigal snorkelled with whale sharks in Western Australia, an encounter that changed his life. Tim Ecott swam with turtles at Sipadan in Borneo and  Lizze Matthews swam amongs jelly fish in a blue lagoon in the Pacific.

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The world’s top wildlife encounters – Lyn Hughes

Underwater safari: snorkel with whale sharks in Western Australia – David McGonigal

Underwater safari: swim with turtles at Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia – Tim Ecott

Swimming with jelly fish Pacific blue lagoon – Lizzie Matthews

Mark Carwardine meets a Manatee (Mark Carwardine)Meeting Manatees (Mark Carwardine)

Capturing it all on film

Whether you’re trying to photograph wildlife on land or sea, there are certain rules and techniques that hold true across all environments. One of the world’s leading wildlife photographers Mark Carwardine lists his 5 essential tips that will hold you in good stead.

Head underwater, however, and there are particular skills and equipment you’ll need to get professional results. Steve Davey is on hand with his extensive guide to underwater photography.

If it’s inspiration you’re after, then look no further than the images taken by our readers on their big blue adventures.

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5 essential photography tips for wildlife images ­– Mark Carwardine

Underwater photography – Steve Davey

Readers’ photos

Extreme whale selfie (Mark Carwardie)Extreme whale close-up (Mark Carwardine)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Whale Watching Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by our Whale Watching Recommendations and Whale Watching Tips pages as well. We’ve rounded up the latest whale watching news too.

If you have a particular question about rail travel, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about whale watching. The answer to yours might already be there.

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Whale watching travel guide – Wanderlust Team

Whale watching recommendations – Wanderlust Team

Whale watching tips – Wanderlust Team

Latest whale watching news

Forum posts about whale watching

Pod of striped dolphins (Shutterstock.com)Pod of Striped Dolphins in the Azores (Shutterstock)

Ready to go?

Here is a selection of fantastic tours from our partners. From self-drive whale watching tours in Canada to Marine Conservation Projects in Mozambique, there is something for every taste and budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find your next Big Blue adventure

Main image: Whale swimming near tropical island (Shutterstock)