Condor Express - SEA Landing
301 W. Cabrillo Blvd.
Santa Barbara, CA  93101

(805) 882-0088 (Phone)   |   (888) 779-4253 (Toll Free)   |   (805) 965-0942 (Fax)
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Year Founded:
   This all-new, 75 foot, high-speed catamaran is the most comfortable & advanced vessel on the west coast, in the premier Whale Watching & Party/Dinner Cruise venue in California. Crew members are experienced naturalists. Come ride with the experts.
    The Santa Barbara Channel is home to over 30 different species of whales, dolphins, and seals and sealions that visit throughout the year, making these waters some of the most consistent locations found anywhere to view a variety of marine mammals. The Discovery Channel's "Wonders of our National Parks" highlighted the outstanding abundance of marine life in the Santa Barbara Channel and named it "One of the 10 Best Places in the WORLD to View Wildlife."
    From May through November (summer season) our cruising grounds include the nutrient rich waters around Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands. It's this area that is generally considered to contain one of the world's highest concentration of feeding blue whales and humpback whales in the world! In the winter and spring months we visit with the California gray whale herd as it passes by on both their Southern and Northern migration.
    The CONDOR EXPRESS is available for private charters for those who wish to book the entire vessel for any type of function or event, including birthdays, weddings, fundraisers, anniversaries, or a sunset cruise. Groups can be as small as 10 people or up to 149 persons. The CONDOR EXPRESS is just what your group needs for that perfect experience on the water. Its large, luxuriously teak paneled, walk through cabin offers comfortable booth seating for up to 68 people! A complete galley, cocktail bar, buffet hot table and salad bar. And catering is always available from light snacks and hors d'oeuvres to full dinners. We also offer regularly-scheduled Open Party Cocktail/Sunset Cruises along the coast, as well as Adventure Cruises such as Pelagic Bird Trips, Island Kayaking, and much more throughout the year. The CONDOR EXPRESS is also the perfect platform for educational and research trips, as well as marine-oriented film work. It has the speed and stability to work comfortably anywhere your research needs take you, and is well equipped with state of the art navigational equipment, a large working deck, and the ability to work underwater equipment.
Activities Available:
    Birding,  Cruises,  Kayaking,  Tours,  Whale Watching,  Wildlife Tours,  

Business Hours:
    Summer: 24/7 -- Winter: 6 am - 7 pm
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Payment Accepted:
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General Business Classification:
    Leisure & Recreation
    Bird Watching
    Boat Charters
    Boat Charters
    Deep-Sea Fishing
    Kayaking & Canoeing
    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
    Wildlife Tours

    During normal business hours.
    Outdoor Location
Handicapped Accessible?
    Some restrictions
Cell Phones & Pagers?
Cameras/Recording Equip.?
Pets Allowed?
Gift Certificates?
    Available for Sale
Classes Offered?
 Recent Buzzes!!
8/20/14 - Another Top Notch Trip + Dolphins
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The little west swell from yesterday pretty much died down and the light morning breeze and stratus layer soon gave way to partly sunny skies and near flat glass conditions. Most of the early portions of the trip was spent playing with the long beaked common dolphins which were in small pods and groups of less than a dozen all over the northeastern Santa Barbara Channel. Again we saw an inordinate number of very very small calves with their mothers. There was a lot of "upside down" socialization going on too.
Late into the morning the eagle eyes of Captain Dave spotted a spout in the distance and guess who? that's right, it was Top Notch the humpback whale. Today it maintained a pattern of 4 - 5 minute down times during which it would swim more than a quarter mile away in a random direction. Twice the whale came directly towards the Condor Express and at the last possible moment kicked up its tail flukes and dove under the boat. I happened to be on the lower deck railing shooting Velella velella during one of these close approach dives and it was a heart thumping experience. There seemed to be more Velella velella today than over the past week, and hopefully one or two of the photos will be memorable. I'll post them all online sometime tomorrow. We did also stop for a couple of Mola mola that were medium large. In all it was a very beautiful late summer day for wildlife watching.
8/18/14 - A NOTCHural humpback experience
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Gentle breezes and bright sunshine greeted the cetacean fans on board the Condor Express today. We spent the day in the northeastern Santa Barbara Channel again and the whole region was swarming with long beaked common dolphins, black vented shearwaters, California sea lions and quite a few Velella velella (purple sailor jellies). Before long "Top Notch" was located and we spent most of the trip watching this amazing animal. It made a few passes near the boat and then two direct routes directly at us, kicking up its flukes at the last possible minute and diving under us. We finished off the trip with a very nice cruise up the coast from Ventura back to Santa Barbara Harbor and enjoyed all the various points of interest, beaches and so forth.
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Saturday September 6 Board the Condor Express for their annual Hawaiian Aloha Cruise Joanie Collins returns from the Islands with special guests including Eric Rozet Tickets are $30 advanced $35 day of cruise Tickets available at Sea Landing 805 963-3564 or visit Cruises
8/17/14 - Top Notch Breach
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There was a moderate 10 - 12 knot breeze as we left Santa Barbara Harbor today en route to the northeastern corridor. During the day the breeze freshened a bit and we had 18 -20 knots in the afternoon. These breezes do wonderful things to humpback whale spouts, sending spray flying. Not long after getting back into the hot zones we had last week, "Top Notch" showed up and soon got fully airborne and amazed its fan club on the Condor Express with a fabulous full body breach. TN also made a few close and friendly approaches, and it was seen twice...once at the start of the trip and again later in the expedition. There were many other spouts in the area and at least 1,000 common dolphins were observed as well. One big ocean sunfish or Mola mola, was also watched. It was a good summer day in the Santa Barbara Channel with nice cetaceans.
8/15/14 - 2 of the many whales log on surface again today
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Ideal glassy conditions all day fostered wonderful cetacean viewing opportunities. Down east we again found common #dolphin masses, at least 2,100 were estimated, along with their big cousins the whales. Whales included 4 humpbacks (one was Top Notch and another was Rope), and 5 Minke whales. Of the Minke #whales two were very cooperative and regular in their habits and afforded some rare close looks. 3 of the humpbacks were found in the same general hot zone as was reported yesterday, but the other 2 humpback whales were found in deeper water. These deep water whales were Rope and the same side kick she had yesterday when they logged on the surface for a long time, in fact we never saw them do anything else. Today the story of Rope and her pal continued with more logging. The two logged for a long time then seemed to "wake up," after which they went on a deeper dive. Us humans often talk about the "lazy days of summer," and perhaps it applies to other species too.
The adventure was wrapped up by a great visit to the east end of Santa Cruz Island. Don't forget to sign up for that all day Cetacean Society trip scheduled to depart at 8 am on Saturday. []
8/14/14 - Cetaceans are abundant on a gorgeous day.
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The ocean was flat and calm and varied between mill pond glass and a gentle breeze in spots. The sun played hide and seek with the low stratus and the ocean water offshore continues to be crystal clear and blue. We scouted the eastern #SantaBarbara Channel and it was not long before we came across a massive hot zone that had at least 1,500 common #dolphins, 5 humpback whales, dozens of California sea lions, and a bunch of seabirds such as black vented shearwater, elegant terns, and Brandts cormorants. At least 2 Minke whales also worked the zone. The number of Velella velella jellies was way down from its peak last Sunday.
As for the humpback whale show today, we had our three "stars" back in action: Top Notch, Rope and Lucky. They were pretty much all business but popped up near the Condor Express a few times for some very close looks. Perhaps the most intriguing humpback behavior today was at least an hour of surface logging by two other large animals. We watched from an appropriate distance for quite a while as they hung motionless, but took a mighty breath every so often just to prove they were still alive. [The crew was thinking about how if they do this for prolonged periods at night in the shipping lanes it would be a disaster.] We finally pulled away and they were still logging.
After having maxed out on cetaceans in the hot zone, we took a spin over to the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island and slowly did some excellent sight seeing along the majestic sea cliffs. We also tucked inside of Potato Harbor for a look at this jewel of a cove. On the way home there were a few more pods of common dolphins as gentle and balmy breezes wafted across the boat.
8/12/14 - A Grand Tour of Santa Barbara Channel
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Captain Eric took us on a grand tour of the Santa Barbara Channel starting with the spot that's been hot for the past 2 weeks. That former hot spot produced only a handful of long beaked common dolphin mini-pods, most of which were zooming all around looking for anchovies. From there we ran south toward the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island the new hot spot in the rumors of whales have been circulating. More common dolphin pods were observed, and the pods tended to be larger. Continuing along the southerly course heading we passed through innumerable floating aggregations of Velella velella, a 3-inch, round siphonophore colony with a blue tint over a transparent sail and disk. It goes by the common name of "purple sailor." All the boats and many beachgoers too from San Francisco to Monterey Bay have been seeing a windfall of these floating plankters. They have finally ended up here as they ride south on the California Current. Velella is a harmless colony unless you are a zooplankton, and it, in turn, is consumed by Mola mola or ocean sunfish. We only see Velella population explosions every 8 or 10 years (pers obs). I could blather on about them, but this is supposed to be about whales and dolphins !
Getting back on the subject of marine mammals. we came up near the Island and took a right turn moving up west along the historically famous underwater ledge that has yielded fertile feeding this time of year in the past. Not long after making the turn we encountered a large herd of at least 100 offshore bottlenose dolphins. These large #dolphins were spread out over a wide area and there were many not particularly small calves in the pod. There were many large oceanic fronts or "slicks" today, probably due to the very large Spring Tides. The drifting giant kelp debris on these fronts produced many with California sea lions "hiding" in the sea weeds to escape large predatory sharks and killer whales.
The clock was ticking so we turned back on a northerly course for the mainland, but headed a bit to the west so we'd end up between More Mesa and Hope Ranch. There were no whales in these waters today either, but near the kelp forest at Hope Ranch we ran into a dozen or of the coastal cousins of those OFFshore bottlenose...the INshore variety.
The day started out calm with a marine layer, and ended up calm with partly sunny and warm skies. It was a very interesting and beautiful day on the Channel.
Don't forget that Saturday's whale watch is a special 8-hour trip sponsored by the American Cetacean Society. Go here for ticket info:
8/10/14 - 3 Humpback Whales, Dolphins and "Top Notch" Gets Airborne
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Out by the oil rigs we found our pal "Top Notch," who was swimming random submarine paths and showing its tail quite a bit. After a while it shot out of the water with a massive breach very close to the Condor Express. After everyone's adrenaline settled down, TN also found a nice patch of giant kelp and did a bit of rolling around. We headed south for Sta Cruz Island, but just past mid-Channel we got stopped again by two full grown adult humpback whales. Before long the duo found drifting kelp and proceeded to carry on with rolls, slaps, and spy hops. So all 3 humpbacks were very active and put on a good show today. Sea conditions were flat calm and there was a thin marine layer overhead. Perhaps 2,000 total common dolphins were observed.
8/8/14 - "Lucky" the humpback whale steals the show again
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Very tiny Beaufort One ripples quickly gave way to mirror glass Beaufort Zero conditions for the rest of the day. The morning clouds gave way to sun and made a spectacular marine life watching experience today. We watched three different humpback whales. One was unknown and unnamed, a larger animal with a dark body. Another was "Top Notch," and this whale did pass pretty close to the boat a few times, had short dives and continued its habit of showing off its flukes on deeper dives. But the real show stopper was "Lucky," the whale that was spotted by the Condor Express on June 5 completely entangled and "hog tied" in rope from commercial spot prawn fishing gear. It was rescued by an expert and specially trained cadre of people from WET (Whale Entanglement Team) on June 6 after an 8 hour long ordeal. Lucky was spotted again on July 3 and the cuts and gashes it suffered from the rope was still looking raw and sore. This week, however, we have seen Lucky and its wounds are in much better shape. Yesterday it breached, and today it swam alongside the Condor Express for quite a while just a few yards away and its entire body was visible from head to tail in the extremely clear blue water. You will see this in the photos. It was a majestic and magical sighting and one of those that sent chills up and down my spine.
The north Channel region was still full of Minke Whales, and we saw at least a dozen as we traversed and explored the grounds today. It was also a huge day for large active pods of common dolphins which we encountered everywhere. A total number of 4,000 might be in the ball park. Sea lions were also in the mix, but not so many seabirds. On the way home a nice ocean sunfish (Mola mola) was spotted and that put an exclamation point on the end of this wonder filled day.
Next Saturday (August 16) we are not open to the public as it will be an all day American Cetacean Society whale watch adventure. Tickets are on sale here:
8/7/14 - Our Humpback Whale Friend "Top Notch" Became a double entendre
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We spent the day on the north side of the Channel in very flat and calm sea conditions. Morning low stratus gave way to a warm and sunny day with lots of marine life. We would have loved to explore other areas of the Santa Barbara Channel, but the marine mammals would not let us. First up on the hit parade were the Minke whales. There were at least a dozen in the area and several of them came very close to the Condor Express for some outstanding friendly looks. I personally have never seen so many Minke whales concentrated in one zone in the past. Next up we had at least 2,500 common dolphins, probably more, with pod after pod throughout the whole trip. We did not see the massive nursery megapod that was reported yesterday, but many pods did have a few tiny calves. One calf swam upside down underneath mom, perhaps soliciting nursing. The dolphins were not in a big rush, but moved around, milled a bit here and there and were trending to the west. Sea lions were ever present in the more productive hot spots with many seabirds joining the fun.
As for humpback whales, there were four watched closely today and two of them are friends of the Condor Express and have names. Although we only had a short observation period for "Lucky," the rescued humpback, nonetheless it was in the zone and one of our four humpbacks in the total count. Two other humpbacks included a larger adult and a medium to small adult which were paired up for a while then went their separate ways later. Finally, we encountered our pal "Top Notch" who was all over the zone and we could not escape watching this whale. You may recall that TN has been pretty much "all business" for the past 2 weeks, sometimes coming near the boat, but no other exotic behaviors. Well, today that friendly-but-passive streak ended as TN breached 6 or 7 times, and spent some time in between breaches on its back slapping its long pectorals on the ocean surface. One might say that "Top Notch" gave a top notch performance today, this becoming a double entendre ! C'est magnifique!
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