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)




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,  

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    Summer: 24/7 -- Winter: 6 am - 7 pm
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 Recent Buzzes!!
2/28/15 - 12 Gray Whales & Some Breaching
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With a supposed storm on the way, we were, in fact, treated to moderate seas and sunny skies. A moderate breeze kicked up later in the morning, but nothing to write home about. We actively watched 12 gray whales on our two trips. Most were northbound or ended up northbound after fooling us with a southbound trend, only to reverse course on us. Some disappeared and were never seen again by us. There were two nice breaching whales from different pods.
On the morning adventure we had 8 closely watched gray whales, and many many more spouts in the area that we did not have time to dwell on so I didn’t count them. The morning also featured a small group of long-beaked common dolphins (perhaps 10) and a few messed around with the whales. The afternoon trip had 4 more gray whales including the breaching whales, plus a very close up and personal visit by a California sea lion pup that swam over to the Condor and introduced itself.
Let it rain! We had a great day today on both trips.
2/26/15 - Breaching Gray Whale Steals Show
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It was a drizzly overcast day, the modern southern California version of a “rain” storm, as the Condor searched for cetaceans today. Two southbound gray whales were spotted on the afternoon trip down east near the Carpenteria Oil Pier. The good news was that one of the #whales breached twice and it’s fan club on the Condor went wild. One of the pair ran alongside the boat for a while giving great looks. Perhaps 100 long-beaked common dolphins were also in the vicinity and put on a good show. The light breeze kept sea conditions very tolerable despite the sprinkles.
2/11/15 - Condor Express ... Spring Schedule Change.
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Please note that our annual schedule change for the Spring season takes effect this Saturday, February 14 (Valentine’s Day). That means that we’ll run 3 trips a day, 2 1/2 hours per trip. Trips depart SEA Landing at 9am, 12noon and 3pm. The purpose of this change every year is to enable a choice of times for our passengers to watch the regular annual northbound gray whale migration along with other species of whales and dolphins that are in the area.
2/11/15 - Nine Gray Whales and Dolphins A-Plenty
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Second Captain and deckhand Mike spotted the first pair of gray whales about 2 miles south of Santa Barbara Harbor. We had great looks as they headed for Mexico. Before long, First Captain Mike had spouts in his binoculars and soon we were watching our second pair of grays. It was a very sunny and warm day on the Santa Barbara Channel and a heat wave is forecast for the next two or three days.
After a nice time with the second pair of grays we encountered the first of two separate pods of long-beaked common dolphins. We estimated around 2,000 animals total were seen today. Many mother dolphins had calves with them which was great to see in the clear blue water and bright sunshine. As we turned back to the west, First Captain Mike saw two more whales heading east, but these two were rather stealthy and only permitted a brief glimpse.
Just outside the Harbor on our way in we had a single spout a few hundred yards west of us, and this was our 9th of the trip. Needless to say we were all ecstatic about the day and the wonderful gray whales.
2/5/15 - 5 Gray Whales and 500 Dolphins on a Summer Day in February
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Summer-like conditions prevailed in the Santa Barbara Channel today with super clear water, sunny skies, no wind and a glassy surface. Not long after leaving the Harbor a trio of gray whales was spotted heading down the coast for Baja California. It was a close-knit group with 2 large and 1 small whale that synchronized their down and up time. These were very focused migrating whales and their down times consisted of travelling just below the surface so everybody on the Condor could see them most of the time through the clear blue water. Wow, what a view! Along the route we intersected two pods of long-beaked common dolphins, one large and one small group. All together we estimated about 500 dolphins seen today. We circled out to the south for a while to see what was happening in the hot zone we had yesterday, but did not find any other species of marine mammals there. On our way back to the Harbor we found a pair of medium sized gray whales heading for Baja, and they were much more shy than the trio we had earlier in the trip. All in all it was a fantastic day weather-wise and mamman-wise.
We continue to run two trips a day, one at 9am and one at 1pm. This Saturday will be a special, longer trip running from 10am - 230pm. Hope to see you on board.
2/4/15 - Humpback, Minkes, Commons and Bottlenose on a Fine Day
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Captains Mike and Scott took the Condor south to an area which has been very productive over the past few days. On the way out of Santa Barbara Harbor we passed the bait barge on its moorings with one Pacific harbor seal and one California sea lion hauled out on it. A perfect opportunity to show the vast differences between the two species of pinnipeds. Just outside the buoys we were greeted by a small group of 5 or 6 inshore bottlenose dolphins.
Getting back to the pinnipeds, we saw California sea lions on the buoys and practically everywhere we went today. Several drifting giant kelp paddies in deep water had a harbor seal resting and hiding in them. The first whales we saw were two Minke whales, one larger than the other. They were moving in random directions but were great to see on the mirror glass surface. Many long-beaked common dolphins were scattered across the zone. Many paid us a visit, some just went about their apparent foraging.
Towards the end of the trip there was one large adult humpback whale, and it fluked up on every dive. A great way to round out a wonderful trip with a wide variety of marine mammals.
1/28/15 - The "Original" Condor Flies Back Home
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While the Condor Express continues its maintenance in the boat yard, with some delays over getting parts and the usual stuff, the "original" Condor will return to Santa Barbara this week and run whale watch trips. Regular readers should recall that this happened a few years ago, as the Condor Express team does not want anyone to miss out on this epic gray whale migration. Gray whale numbers are way up, even surpassing last year which was itself a record year.
The Condor will run 2 trips a day during its short stay this time in Santa Barbara, one trip departs at 9am and the other 1pm. Each trip will last approximately 3 1/2 hours, and the first trip is scheduled for this coming Saturday, January 31.
1/23/15 - Update from the Boatyard
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Our regular annual boat maintenance continues according to plan. Sanding, grinding, painting, replacing worn out parts (all the normal stuff we do while we are in the yard) is moving along. Things in the boatyard (and perhaps elsewhere in life) seem to take a bit longer sometimes than planned.
This time we had a hard time finding that special hull cleaner that takes off layers of dolphin breath, but we have it and are "on the job." The entire crew of the Condor Express is busy working long days and some weekend days too to get all the little things finished.
I know the marine mammals all miss seeing the twin hulls of the Condor out there in the Santa Barbara Channel every day. And we miss them too! Thank you for being a loyal fan of the Condor Express as we continue with our chores. We'll keep you posted periodically . . . stay tuned!
1/5/15 - Humpback Whales, Gray Whales, Dolphins and So Much More!
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We left the Santa Barbara Harbor entrance buoy and its compliment of 4 California sea lions behind at 1015am heading south. At 1035 we came upon a dinghy/rowboat derelict and drifting in the Santa Barbara Channel. It looked like the painter was completely frayed and the boat had come loose from its mother ship. Captain Dave reported it's CF numbers to Coast Guard sector LA and later we heard that another boat from the harbor had retrieved it. It is always spooky to see a ghost boat at sea, even if it is a very small one. Not far from the dinghy a friendly Pacific harbor seal was on the surface and watched the Condor Express go by. At 1040am a large mob of California sea lions were actively feeding and had air support from a variety of seabirds. Ten minutes later second captain, Eric Eagle Eyes, had spotted a tall spout which turned out to be Scarlet, our local homeguard humpback #whale. Scarlet was all business today and had long down times, so we continued south. Not long after leaving Scarlet, the first batch of an all day parade of long-beaked common dolphins passed by the boat. By the end of the day we estimated at least 750 of these #dolphins were closely watched.
Our luck took an upturn around 1115am as we encountered a mother humpback and her medium-small calf. We followed alongside and had great looks, but like Scarlet, they had long bottom times and were rather business-like. At least 3 more humpback spouts were seen in the same mid-Channel region. As our luck continued to improve, at 12noon we came upon a large female gray whale with a newborn calf. The calf was very tiny, as you can see in the photograph above, and still had the folds across its body from being cooped up in mom's womb for approximately a year. The body was brownish and very smooth without barnacle or amphipod infestations. We had the good fortune to be able to keep a respectful distance but still get fantastic looks at this tiny newborn gray whale. We wondered if we might have been the first people to see this little whale. We only stayed a short while to give the two whales their space, and soon we were off to the seacliffs of Santa Cruz Island and a visit to that wonder of geology: the Painted Cave. The California sea lions were still hauled out on the rocky cliffs inside the mouth of the cave.
As we left Santa Cruz and the cave we spotted 4 adult gray whales traveling together to the east. They looked like they were practicing their synchronized swimming for the cetacean olympics with less than one minute beneath the surface followed by several mighty spouts and then fluking up practically every time. I took a photograph of the ocean surface with all the footprints which looked like some kind of abstract art. On the way home, short on time, we could not stop but did see several other spouts all across the Channel. It was another sunny day with zero swells, it started out glassy and ended with a very light breeze....fantastic! The Condor Express is hauling out this week for its bi-annual Coast Guard maintenance and inspections. Our next whale watch trips start January 23.
1/2/15 - 4 Gray Whales (2+2) and 3 Humpback Whales and Both Species of Common Dolphins
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Captain Dave cleared the Santa Barbara Harbor breakwater at 10:08am and you could see from Boney Ridge near Malibu all the way to San Miguel Island. In a word, it was pristine! What gorgeous conditions to find spouts, both large and small. At 10:58am, on the northern edge of what we call "mid-Channel" we located our first 2 southbound migrating gray whales and had great looks. They meandered here and there but trended east. Anyone who thinks their migration is a straight line hasn't seen these whales.
Dave moved us south on a course for Santa Cruz Island, but at 11:20am we stopped for three very showy humpback #whales. The largest was the female we call Scarlet (due her prominent scar which I've described and photographed in previous chapters), and she, along with two more, milled around the southern edge of the "mid-Channel" zone. There were no deep dives or long bottom times today, in fact one of the whales with white pectoral fins tended to take a breath then hang a foot or two beneath the surface until it was time to take another breath. And so on.
Given the clarity of the blue water, this made taking great photographs of this animal a cinch. We were running into small pods of long-beaked common dolphins all morning and some of the pods may have possibly annoyed Scarlet. Out of no where she gave us all a mighty monster tail throw that send seawater flying high and far.
Onward to Santa Cruz Island. About a mile north of the sea cliffs we found 2 more southbound migrating gray whales and their tall spouts were magnified by the backlight of our bright sun. These spouts were framed by the dark sea cliffs and the whole scene was both fabulous and dynamic.
At Santa Cruz we toured the sea cliffs of the western end of the island. Sea conditions were very flat and calm with only a very slight breeze, so very very close and personal looks inside the world famous Painted Cave were possible. About 5 California sea lion pups had scaled up the cliffs inside the cave and were sleeping (until we arrived). Not long after leaving the island our final species of cetacean was observed: a large herd of highly animated short-beaked common #dolphins. We watched for quite a while then headed back to Santa Barbara. What a day! We are running open public whale watch trips like this on Saturday and Sunday, then we are in the boatyard for our annual maintenance and Coast Guard inspections, hoping to be back in full service again on January 23. Hope to see you on board.
1/1/15 - 3 Humpback Whales and at Least 1,000 Dolphins
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Great sea conditions today and it's supposed to get even better the next couple of days. Captain Eric encountered 3 humpback #whales (one was Scarlet) around the same mid-Channel area where they have been feeding the past week or so. Although many of the bottom times were long today, the star of the humpback show was a whale that came directly over to the Condor Express, rolled on its side and hung around in that posture while all of its fans on the boat went crazy. The water was so clear you could see the eye of the beast looking directly up at you. Throughout the day a steady stream of long-beaked common dolphins that played around us and kept all eyes on the water. All in all a great trip for whales and #dolphins too.
Book your trip now while all this cetacean variety is with us in the Channel and great sea conditions persist.
As a reminder, Sunday will be our last open whale watch until approximately January 23, as the boat will be undergoing its annual maintenance and Coast Guard inspection. Hope to see you on board!
12/21/14 - Humpbacks feeding, a Minke whale and lots of dolphins
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Well, it's now 12/21 and the humpback whales are still out here feeding on anchovy schools alongside all the seabirds and common dolphins. Captain Eric headed out of Santa Barbara Harbor and before too long deckhand Augie spotted humpback spouts.
The Condor Express stayed with these animals for more than an hour as the #whales continued to make shallow sub-surface feeding runs. Black-vented shearwaters were also seen diving down in the clear blue water to attach the bait fish. Among the 3 closely watched humpback whales was our pal "Scarlet," a whale with propeller scars. The total number of long-beaked common dolphins was estimated at 250, and we had a Minke whale join the feeding and made some passes close to the boat.
Great looks were had in less than optimal ocean conditions. The winds were blowing from the west against a prevailing current from the east, which caused the surface chop to stand up a bit. An exhilarating day.
Our next public whale watch trip is Friday, December 26.
On behalf of everyone over here at the Condor Express, I wish each and every one of you a happy holiday season.
12/20/14 - Spectacular vistas, dolphins and a nice gray whale
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Offshore winds and a light rain greeted us this morning in Santa Barbara, but the rain passed by quickly and we remained dry for the rest of the adventure. There were, however, larger squalls offshore that formed a basis of the spectacular vistas we enjoyed on this silvery day. The sun broke out around noon.
As we left Santa Barbara Harbor we watched 2 inshore bottle-nose dolphins that were fairly shy but we got a few good looks in before we continued out towards Santa Cruz Island. Around mid-Channel we watched a small pod of long beaked common dolphins, and a few more pods here and thereafter. Perhaps as many as 500 common #dolphins were seen in total.
After a futile search of the humpback and blue whale grounds from last weekend we turned west and ran parallel to Santa Cruz Island until we ventured into the Santa Cruz Channel (between Santa Rosa Island and Santa Cruz Island) looking for spouts.
Just after lunch was served deckhand Augie (or was it Captain Eric?) found a small sized, southbound gray whale moving eastward out of the Sta Cruz Channel and heading for the sea cliffs along the north face of Sta Cruz Island. This small gray had short down times of just a few minutes and good surface/spouting times. Viewing this migrating mammal with the cliffs of the Island in the background was spectacular, and a harbinger of things to come as the number of grays increases every day.
More spectacular vistas were enjoyed as we saw the now green western end of Sta Cruz Island with the east wind-driven clouds spilling over the crests of the mountain peaks.
12/13/14 - 12-13-14 Lovin' the blue whales, humpbacks and dolphins
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The moderate seas and fresh breeze created some spectacular vistas from Pt. Conception to Boney Ridge, and Anacapa Island to San Miguel Island. It was great to get clean sea air into your nostrils. After a bit of rock and roll we found a super cooperative giant blue whale. The #whale had 13 minute down times, but spouted at least 10 times or so on each surfacing. Seeing this beast crashing through the oncoming swells and sending its mighty spout asunder in the wind...all this in bright sunlight conditions....sent chills down my spine and caused my camera shutter to go into rapid fire mode.
After a wonderful long session with the big blue whale, we moved onward to a pair of humpback whales nearby. The two dove together, traveled a considerable distance to the east, spouted once and repeated this cycle. Crafty 'ol Captain Dave anticipated their surface positions with the kind of whale intuition that comes with decades of experience working with these knobby-headed animals. On our way back towards Santa Barbara Harbor we came upon a mega pod of at least 1,000 long beaked common dolphins. Again the high seas and moderate winds made viewing these #dolphins a very special thing. The end of the day featured some overhead squawking that turned out to be crows mobbing a large Osprey. Wow, what a day.
12/11/14 - Fantastic! Mid-December and the blue whales are still in the Santa Barbara Channel. Wow!
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That's right. It's December 10th and we still have blue whales feeding on the "ledge." And the humpback whale show continues to amaze everyone. Who would have predicted this? Our first cetacean encounter of the trip was a megapod of at least 1,000 short beaked common dolphins. Their behaviors included very little bow or wake riding, but instead the bounded over the oncoming seas and many many of them got airborne and even did a bit of tail-walking. It was an amazing sight and Captain Dave kept us with the #dolphins for quite a while. Next up on the program we watched 3 very animated and friendly humpback whales. When we first approached the area one #whale was on its side and seemed to be snuggling up to a second whale. The 3 whales repeated a behavior cycle several times that included the following: the 3 whales turned from their apparent course and headed straight for the Condor Express; the passed along the port side or swam directly under the boat (one with all white pectoral fins made this especially nice to view); then the whales would head off again; repeat cycle.
Next we took a splendid tour of the West End of Santa Cruz Island with the long period rolling swells washing up the sea cliffs, then forming rivers, large and small, as the seawater rushed back out. Very dramatic ! A great tour. On the way home, not far off the Island, 2nd Captain Eric found us a blue whale and we had some exceptional looks at this beast through a couple of breathing cycles. There were more humpbacks in this area too. We watched one, but several more spouts were seen in the vicinity. I thought I saw a second tall blue whale spout in the distance too, but we had no time to confirm this.
The day was partly sunny and partly cloudy as the leading edge of a major incoming Pacific storm begins to show signs of coming our way. Seas were calm with a very very light chop in some spots. There was a large, building, long-period west swell all day and this was particularly nice when the whales and dolphins were busting through the oncoming seas.
12/9/14 - Another rain event likely later this week
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The most recent forecast is calling for a winter storm that will bring rain and wind to our area Thursday afternoon through Friday. The good news is that the marine weather and sea conditions are supposed to be fantastic tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday (before the afternoon rain hits). Our most recent whale watching trips have been fantastic with sightings of blue whales, gray whales, very active humpback whales, Risso's dolpins, bottle-nose dolphins and long-beaked common dolphins. Last year at this time we had 3 great days with killer whales.
Sign up now for a Wednesday or Thursday (or weekend) trip, beat the weather and enjoy the multitude of marine mammal species in our area.
12/8/14 - Gorgeous silver day with cetaceans
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The sun played peek-a-boo with the thin high cloud layer and the cloud layer seemed to win. Right out of the gate we encountered a nice group of around 15 inshore bottlenose dolphins and had great looks. Not long after we had a call and ran 1/2 mile to photograph a "dead Minke whale," which turned out to be a very decomposed Risso's dolphin with a live western gull having some snacks. Then it was off to view living cetaceans and it was a bunch of small scattered groups of long beaked common dolphins. Later in the trip we found a tad larger larger pods of these little torpedoes and the total for the day was over 100.
Their fan club on the Condor Express enjoyed the bow riding and wake surfing contest. Around mid-Channel we slowly approached an area that had two nice spouts and I almost dropped my memory cards as two adult humpback whales came out of nowhere and breached fairly close to the boat sending a thunderous spray plume high in the air. After a few minutes one of the pair performed a small repertoire of pectoral fin slapping in the sun's sparkle zone on the surface.
Our itinerary next found us enjoying the tiny trickle remnants of the waterfall that often flows at the entrance of the world famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. (The waterfall was running nicely yesterday but was down to a trickle today). Near the Island a third humpback whale was spotted by yours truly but was smoking fast to the west and only taking on breath per surface interval. Nonetheless it was nice to see the all white tail of this beast close to Santa Cruz.
The trip home was very pleasant and Captain Eric, Deck hand Augie, and Cafe Condor head chef Tasha all agreed that it "felt like winter was coming."
12/7/14 - Cetacean abundance and diversity continues
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It's been a long week with well-needed rain that brought winds and seas to the Channel. Today was pristine, flat and very lake-like. Near mid-Channel a single (but friendly) humpback whale was encountered, and it made a great close approach to the Condor Express. Continuing across towards Santa Cruz Island the mother lode of cetaceans that we had a week ago, before the storms, was still there. One blue whale and at least 8 humpback whales were watched closely prior to our traditional visit to the world famous Painted Cave. The Cave waterfall was running and this is always a marvelous experience that has been so rare this past year or so with the drought. Good to see.
Upon exiting the cave and moving a bit northward, we found humpbacks interacting with about 25 Risso's dolphins. The big #whales were flopping around, and rolling over in response to the bulbous headed dolphins. Amazing stuff. The final piece of great news was that long beaked common dolphins were around all day long, with a few very large least 1,000 #dolphins was the total estimate.
11/29/14 - 5 Blue Whales; 12++ Humpback Whales - Epic conditions
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Captain Dave ran southwest for quite a while to a location where 6 killer whales had been reported 2 hours earlier by the sportfishing vessel Stardust. Unfortunately killer whales can move a great distance in any direction they choose within a 2 hour window, so we never got on the pod. Back at the Island hot spot we closely watched 5 blue whales today...some kind of a record for November 29th. In addition, 12 humpback whales gave good close looks with many more spouts in the area. Among the humpback whale behaviors recorded there was more of that "racing or chasing" high speed surface swimming going on. Our best uneducated guess is that this is some precursory mating behavior. We saw this first last Wednesday. A few nice kelping episodes were also observed where the humpbacks get a skin massage by rolling and gyrating in drifting giant kelp paddies, sending vegetation flying every which way...always a great show.
Schedule update: there is no trip scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday, due to the rough weather forecast by NOAA and NWS. Our next open whale watch will be Wednesday.
11/28/14 - Our first gray whales of the 2015 season !
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Another epic adventure on the Condor Express today. Captain Dave took us through some dense coastal fog for a few miles and then things opened up and were sunny, calm and clear all day long. The humpback whales were in the usual place - same as Wednesday's trip. Again we saw many more spouts than we could get set up on and watch, and we did watch 16 humpbacks closely .... a bunch before our Painted Cave visit, and a bunch more after. The whales spotted leaving the Cave began with an unpredicted, unexpected and therefore (whine whine whine) I did not photograph, a giant double breach with two beasts side by side a few hundred yards west of the boat. However, (the good news) one of the breachers kept it up for another 4 or 5 leaps and I DID get shots of those. Sometimes the best images are go directly from eyes to brain. Out in the wild region of humpback whale land we closely watched two giant blue whales, but we did see at least one (possibly two) more blue whales in the bino's. There were spouts everywhere today. Oh, I almost forgot, as we backed out of the Painted Cave a sharp eyed passenger called out "bald eagle" and it flew almost directly overhead in the sun...a magnificent and majestic sight.
Having not seen a single dolphin (strange as it seems), Dave headed towards UCSB to run along the bottom contour lines and try to get looks and some potential long-beaked common dolphins. No luck with the dolphins. But in the same area our sharp-eyed 2nd Captain, Eric, did spot our first two southbound migrating gray whales of the season ! A bit early, but we'll take 'em. I have been shooting off the Condor Express for just about 9 years now and I've never seen blues, grays and humpbacks all on the same trip. What a day!
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