Want an incredible whale watching experience? Make sure you're in the right place at the right time with this guide...
1. Vancouver Island, Canada Which whales?
Orca, grey, humpback, minke Why it's a hotspot:
Some 20,000 grey whales pass the island’s Pacific coast in spring; it also has resident orca – the most researched pods in the world Orca whale breaching in Canada (Shutterstock) Other wildlife?
Salmon, sea otter, seal, sea lion, bald eagle Best for...
Close-ups with orca in Johnstone Strait; spotting migrating greys, then attending the Pacific Rim Whale Festival (March) When to go?
March-April (grey); May-September (orca) Whale watching in Canada | Where to go – and when
2. Québec, Canada Which whales?
Blue, humpback, fin, minke, beluga Why it's a hotspot:
Three currents collide near Tadoussac in the Gulf of St Lawrence’s mouth, stimulating plankton development and providing a veritable feast for whales Fin whales, St Lawrence River (Shutterstock) Other wildlife?
Seal, porpoise, dolphin, snow goose (Mar-May & Oct) Best for...
Spotting bright-white beluga – Saguenay Fjord is home to a resident population of these ‘sea canaries’ When to go?
3. Iceland Which whales?
Minke, humpback, blue, sperm, sei Why it's a hotspot:
The North Atlantic is a good feeding ground; whale-watching trips run from the west or north of the country – Húsavik is the main hub, but tours also leave from Reykjavík Whale near Husavik, Iceland (Shutterstock) Other wildlife?
Puffin, porpoise, dolphin Best for...
Whalewatching under the midnight sun (June-July); visiting Húsavik Whale Museum When to go?
Best May-September; June-July (blue); May-August (puffin)
4. Dominica Which whales?
Sperm, humpback, short-finned pilot, false killer, melon head, pygmy sperm Why it's a hotspot:
Steep underwater drop-offs along the Nature Isle’s west coast create sheltered bays – ideal places for sperm whales to breed and calve A young Humpback whale swims at the surface of the Caribbean Sea (Shutterstock) Other wildlife?
Dolphin, pelican, turtle Best for...
Shore-based and boat-based sightings of resident sperm whales When to go?
Year-round but best November-March (sperm); January-April (humpback)
5. Baja California, Mexico Which whales?
Grey, blue, fin, Bryde’s, humpback, sperm, minke Why it's a hotspot:
Greys come to breed in San Ignacio Lagoon, on the Pacific coast; multiple species congregate in the food-rich Sea of Cortez Free diver with humpback whales off Mexico's Baja peninsula (Shutterstock) Other wildlife?
Dolphin, California sea lion, Guadalupe fur seal, northern elephant seal, blue-footed booby, frigatebird Best for...
Eyeballing friendly greys, which bump right up against small boats and love to be hugged When to go?
Whale watching in Baja California | Practically kissing the humpbacks!
6. Colombia Which whales?
Humpback Why it's a hotspot:
Colombia’s Pacific coast is on a humpback migration route; sighting hotspots include Nuqui, Bahía Solano and Bahía Málaga. Combine the whales with a spot of jungle trekking Whale in Utría National Park (Flickr: Creative Commons/Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero) Other wildlife?
Turtle, dolphin, sea lion Best for...
Taking boat trips to spot breaching humpbacks and mothers with calves When to go?
Best July-Nov (whales); Jan-July (turtle nesting)
Whale watching in Colombia | Two wonderful adventures...
7. Scotland Which whales?
Minke, humpback, fin, sperm, orca Why it's a hotspot:
A third of the North Atlantic’s whale population migrates via western Scotland every year, while some species are resident year-round Whales in Chanonry Point, Fortrose, Scotland (Flickr: Creative Commons/Pete White) Other wildlife?
Dolphin, porpoise, white-tailed eagle, puffin Best for...
The possibility of large pods of orca, especially off Shetland; minke sightings off the Hebrides When to go?
8. Azores Which whales?
Sperm, humpback, sei, bearded, blue, short-finned pilot, orca, fin Why it's a hotspot:
The remote archipelago sits in nutrient-rich waters; the seas sustain resident whale populations, while the islands are also visited by migrating species Sperm whales in the Azores (Shutterstock)
Dolphin, turtle, manta ray, petrel, shearwater Best for...
Seeing sperm whales spyhopping; swimming with dolphins; gazing out from vigias (whale observation posts) When to go?
Year-round (sperm); late March-early June (blue, fin, sei)
9. Western Cape, South Africa Which whales?
Southern right, humpback, Bryde’s Why it's a hotspot:
Two oceans converge, resulting in a huge diversity of marine life; sheltered bays and warmer waters provide calving spots for migrating whales Whale breach in Hermanus, South Africa (Shutterstock) Other wildlife?
Great white shark, dolphin, African penguin, Cape fur seal, black oystercatcher Best for...
Shore-based spotting along the Whale Route; Hermanus Whale Festival (2-4 Oct 2015) When to go?
Best July-Nov; May-Dec (humpback)
10. Sri Lanka Which whales?
Blue, sperm, humpback, Bryde’s Why it's a hotspot:
Sri Lanka’s southern tip nudges the depths of the continental shelf, favoured by blues; nowhere else does the world’s biggest creature swim so close to land, so reliably Sperm whale in Sri Lanka (Shutterstock) Other wildlife?
Dolphin, turtle, flying fish Best for...
Cruising out from Dondra Head to spot mighty blues When to go?
11. South Island, New Zealand Which whales?
Sperm, blue, humpback, southern right, orca Why it's a hotspot:
Tectonic plates collide and ocean currents meet off Kaikoura, attracting an abundance of marine wildlife Humpback whale, New Zealand (Shutterstock) Other wildlife?
Seal, dolphin, albatross, penguin, shearwater Best for...
Sperm whales, which are present here year-round; swimming/snorkelling with huge pods of dolphin and playful seals When to go?
Year-round (sperm); June-July (humpback); December- March (orca)
12. Tonga Which whales?
Sperm, humpback Why it's a hotspot:
During the austral winter, humpbacks migrate from the South Pole to warmer Polynesian waters to mate and give birth Humpback whale, Tonga (Shutterstock) Other wildlife?
White-tip reef shark, black-tip reef shark Best for...
Spotting humpback mothers with calves – and possibly jumping in to swim with them: this is one of the few places in the world where snorkelling with whales is permitted When to go?
Best July-October Main image: Humpback whale breaching (Shutterstock)