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:
    1973
Description:
   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
Location Type:
    Boat
Payment Accepted:
    Cash,   MasterCard,   Visa,  Debit Card,  
Languages Spoken:
    English,  
General Business Classification:
    Leisure & Recreation
    Categories:
    Bird Watching
    Boat Charters
    Boat Charters
    Deep-Sea Fishing
    Kayaking & Canoeing
    Tours
    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
    Whale Watching
    Wildlife Tours

Admittance:
    During normal business hours.
Indoor/Outdoor:
    Outdoor Location
Handicapped Accessible?
    Yes
Smoking?
    Some restrictions
Cell Phones & Pagers?
    Permitted
Cameras/Recording Equip.?
    Permitted
Pets Allowed?
    No
Gift Certificates?
    Available for Sale
Classes Offered?
    Yes.
 Recent Buzzes!!
7/29/14 - North and South Channel Explorations
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Although it was sunny in Santa Barbara Harbor, there was a thin fog bank midway to the Channel Islands. Luckily the islands were magnificent in the bright sun and fresh breeze. As for nature sightings today, we closely watched the same medium sized humpback whale that we've had the good fortune of seeing for the past week. It has a lot of barnacles behind its blow holes and a split dorsal fin. It made several passes up to the Condor Express and then dove below it in the clear blue water. The crew is starting to call this familiar whale "Top Notch" emphasizing its natural uniqueness. Common dolphin herds were seen along the north Channel, especially in the same region where we found Top Notch. This hot zone also had many bands of marauding young sea lions that were eager to come close to the boat and take a close look at their fan club. The total number of #dolphins was in the 500 - 1,000 range for the day. We also worked the south Channel where we paid our traditional visit to the famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. The pigeon guillemots are still around carrying fish into the Cave. A few Minke whales were observed but were not particularly easy to track with the breeze blowing. Nick and some of his birders were on board today and reported black storm petrels, 3 kinds of shearwaters led by black vented, Cassin's auklets, elegant terns, and a jaeger or two.
The breeze is supposed to diminish tomorrow and the rest of the week should be pretty calm.
7/28/14 - An East Channel Day
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A medium sized humpback that we have been seeing this week on and off, characterized by its size and a huge patch of barnacles behind its blow holes on the dorsal surface, came over and played around the Condor Express today. The water was crystal clear and the entire outline of this humpback could be seen way down there. It was mind blowing, according to Captain Eric. The whale was surrounded by common dolphins and all this took place on the north side of the east Channel, off the coast of Carpenteria, approximately. From there, Eric steered a course to the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island (rumors of large black and white cetaceans had been circulating) where there was even more dolphin congregations acting strangely....fast moving, milling, more moving...kind of jittery. But alas, nothing in the black and white color spectrum today. The estimated common #dolphin total was just over 1,000. The morning started off foggy but quickly gave way to clear skies. Seas were very calm again today. A complete tour of the east end of Santa Cruz Island included a stop inside Potato Harbor.
7/28/14 - A Complete Tour of the Channel on a Gorgeous Day
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Captain Dave ran the Condor Express way to the west to look for wildlife off the Gaviota coast. There were many common dolphins all day, including up at Gaviota, and Dave estimates at least 4,000 for the day. From Gaviota we made a loop back to the east and found the same humpback whale we've been seeing all week and, again, had wonderful looks. The area was full of activity and this commotion attracted 2 Minke whales which also gave us great looks. It was an afternoon trip and the seas remained dead flat calm with gorgeous weather all day long. We are back on our normal schedule tomorrow.
7/16/14 - Cetacean Bonanza (and Bob had a dental appointment)
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Sometimes you have to just take one for the team. So like a good boy I kept my long standing dental hygiene appointment and missed the trip today. Sure enough, Captain Dave calls me up in the afternoon and was a bit reluctant to give me the details needed to fill in our loyal readers. It turns out Dave and the crew had one of the all time epic days of #whales watching in a long time. Here is what Dave told me about the adventure. Sea conditions were excellent, flat and calm. There was little to no wind and the coastal stratus hung around a while to cut the glare on the water. The ocean water itself remains very clear and blue in most areas. So Dave pointed the Condor Express offshore towards San Miguel Island where we had a great blue whale adventure yesterday. Not too far along the southwesterly heading the crew noticed a large splash in the distance that could have only come from one thing: a breaching humpback whale. Sure enough, when they got on the scene, the beast was still breaching and continued to breach another 30 or 40 times...nobody had time to count. In between breaches, the humpback rolled around upside down and was generally having a great old time for itself. After a long period of breathless whale watching, Dave had the boat surrounded by a large mega-pod of long beaked common dolphins. He followed the "river of dolphins" further west until he noticed a wide area of larger splashing. This area turned out to be, get this, a mixed pod of 75 or more Risso's dolphins AND 50 or more large offshore bottlenose dolphins. The offshore bottlenose love to leap and play and ride the bow of the Condor Express. What was absolutely shocking was the fact that soon after the big offshores rode the bow, the Risso's joined in the surfing contest themselves. None of us had seen bow riding, friendly Risso's before...perhaps we have the leadership of the bottlenose to thank. All the humans on the boat were totally blown away by now, and it was getting time to think about heading back home. But wait. More giant splashed off in the distance. This turns out to be a PAIR of breaching humpbacks that kept breaching for a long long time. In between breaches, the pair come over and mugged the Condor Express so tight that Captain Dave was actually worried that passengers on the lower decks might get slapped by a pectoral fluke. He backed the Condor slowly and carefully away several times, but the knobby headed beasts just kept coming back to play. Just outside the Harbor, Dave called again...inshore bottlenose dolphins in the surf zone - our 5th species of cetacean today. As much as I love having my teeth cleaned....
Special note about tomorrow: the public whale watch will be from 100 pm to 530 pm due to a special morning charter. Remember, sometime the humpbacks get even more frisky in the late afternoon.
Bob
7/15/14 - Augie gets a Blue Whale
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Augie, a deck hand on the Condor Express, has many talents and this week one of them has really come to light. He has what we like to call "whale eyes." And today his whale eyes spotted a giant blue whale. Now keep in mind this whale had down times running between 8 and 10 minutes, so the Condor Express could easily have cruised right past it. Thanks, Augie! Weather and sea conditions were great today, although the day started off with a marine layer it quickly disappeared by the time we got to the famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. On the way across the Santa Barbara Channel we stopped and played with a big herd of common #dolphins with about 1,500 animals in the pack. One large calf, perhaps a "teenager," kept leaping and doing a tail slap upon re-entry. Again the water was clear and blue. After our visit to the Cave, Captain Dave steered the boat on a westward track along a line which we affectionately call "the ridge," and has been a hot spot for big baleen whales feeding over the past decade or so. After a trek along the ridge Augie found us the blue whale. The bright blue streak shining up from below the surface in the sunlight, from whence this beast got its common name, was awesome to see. I'll post the photos sometime tomorrow to the Condor Express Photos website. A final note: Dave found us a medium large ocean sunfish (Mola mola) that posed for pictures along the starboard railing...what a ham !
There was a fleeting glimpse of a Minke whale on the way out, and a far away breaching humpback on the way back in. Another pod of common dolphins came to play not too far off the mainland coast. Things appear to be looking up !
7/12/14 - A great humpback whale show.
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Gorgeous. Sunny skies and warm sun all day. Medium breeze. Clear, blue water. A trip to the western Channel. Over 4,000 estimated common dolphins were spread throughout the west Channel and rode along with the Condor Express. Dolphins, birds and sea lions have frequently led to hungry #humpbacks, as they did on this trip. This was a great humpback sighting. The whale made multiple close approaches, did some rolling around, and even slapped its long pectoral flukes for the humans on board. To cap off a marvelous day of great weather and good sightings, we saw at least 6 ocean sunfish (Mola mola) and they also saw us.
7/11/14 - A Zillion Dolphins and Lots More
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I've been actively engaged is studying California marine life since 1969 and I've never seen so many dolphins as today. There was literally a river of long beaked common dolphins several hundred meters wide and stretching on for many many miles, and then there were other herds inside and outside of our track. Although there were a few feeding hot spots with sea lions, #dolphins and sea birds, mostly this mega-mega-monster pod was traveling and searching. First the were heading east, then after an hour or so they turned north, and about 34 minutes later the went west. Finally, after having a very long and great session looking at a humpback whale for a long time, the dolphins headed east again. There were not too many dolphin calves observed today, but there was an inordinate amount of "hanky panky," which I think they do out of nervousness when the Condor Express is going along slower than they'd like. Go figure. The marine layer once again dissolved and we had very warm, bright sun and a moderate breeze most of the day, making the expansive views of the various island and mainland points as spectacular as looking into the clear blue water at the marine life. The single humpback was a good one with very short down times and not particularly shy. It's mighty spout was strewn hither and yon by the breeze and the whole scene was very fresh. Small bands of marauding sea lions were mixed in with the dolphins and, per usual, their antics were very entertaining. Oh, before I forget, a large ocean sunfish (Mola mola) approached the boat and I was so busy taking photos of it that at first I did not see the four other, smaller sunfish that were swimming along as a squadron formation. It was a spectacular day.
7/10/14 - Spectacular Trip to the Far West Channel
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Our friend Dr. Mark spotted a small pod of big inshore bottlenose dolphins just off the Yacht Club and we followed them for a while and had some really great looks. Thanks Mark! That's always a great start to a trip. Not far offshore we encountered our first of many many many herds of long beaked common dolphins... with us all day and everywhere we went along our 27 mile trek to the far western reaches of the Santa Barbara Channel. A lot of tiny calves were seen and the clear blue water we've been experiencing for the past few weeks persisted today, making dolphin watching even more exciting. We passed Platform Holly and passed Platform Hondo, and ended up finding a wonderful humpback whale north of Platform Harmony (near Gaviota Pass on the mainland). This whale was on a pretty darned straight course to the west, and only meandered a few times. The only times the whale stopped occurred when it encountered a large free floating giant kelp paddy along its route. Here it was seen throwing its tail and rolling around, perhaps taking advantage of the "touch therapy" of the kelp, or maybe even some "exfoliation" of ectoparasites...no matter, it was spectacular. The visuals today were greatly enhanced by the bright blue sky and warm sun that broke out of the marine layer about mid-way through the adventure. The sun made the ocean very blue and gave us all a clear view of the pristine west Santa Barbara coast and mountains. The breeze came up and gave a very fresh smell of sea air to all and sundry, except, of course, when we got down wind of the spouting humpback whale once or twice. I'll post up my photos of the day sometime tomorrow and they will be odor free.
7/9/14 - Another spectacular trip to the far west Santa Barbara Channel
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The marine layer overcast was just breaking into bright sun as we left Santa Barbara Harbor this morning. The water color was crisp, clear blue and we were greeted by numerous feeding hot spots. Sea birds, especially large flocks of sooty shearwaters, common dolphins, brown pelicans and California sea lions were all busy having brunch. Soon a Minke whale showed up and we continued watching this typically elusive smallest of all baleen whales for at least 20 minutes. The Minke worked around the edges of a large bait ball full of northern anchovies. Particularly interesting, as you will see when I post the photos from today's trip online tomorrow, was a behavior the Minke used several times as we all watched and learned. It was below the surface and below the bait ball when it let loose several bubble blasts. The column of air bubbles rose up through the anchovy masses almost as if the Minke might have been imitating the bubble net feeding of humpback whales in Alaskan waters. Very curious stuff.
We were accompanied by long beaked common #dolphins throughout the trip, and counting their numbers is actually pretty impossible but the Captain and I came up with 4,000, for what it's worth. One large and one medium sized ocean sunfish or Mola mola were seen on the surface. The large one appeared to be feeding on a fried egg jelly Phacellophora camtschatica when we first sighted it...and that's no yolk. The keen eyes of deckhand Augie located a lone tall spout in the midst of all the dolphins and seabirds. It was a full grown and very cooperative humpback whale that had super short down times (3 minutes) and kicked up its flukes on every dive. We watched this beast for over 30 minutes, and as we were getting set to leave to explore the western Channel, the #humpback vocalized...a trumpet blow...and then proceeded to slap its mighty tail 4 or 5 times. It was a really good show.
Our search to the far west only resulted in more and more common dolphins, sea lions and birds. It is always a special treat to see the beautiful western Channel coastline and today it was looking good. Later we returned to the original humpback for a few more looks on our way back to the Harbor.
7/6/14 - A trip up to Gaviota !
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We ran west, and I do mean west today...all the way to the edge of Gaviota as you can see in our track in the above picture. Here we found 2 humpback whales which were swimming individually but eventually came together. Great looks and great tail flukes. The whole trip was full of common dolphins and the totals were uncountable, let's call it 5,000++ Again it was sunny with glassy, calm seas. It was great fun seeing the entire coastline all the way to the west.
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