Gray Whale Watching Excursion


Are you looking to get closer than the rest?  SD Expeditions offers a gray whale excursion unlike any other. Come witness the gray whale migration on our private vessel with a total of only 6 guests.  If you’re looking for a truly intimate encounter, look no further.

Beginning in early December and continuing through March, come experience the longest annual migration of any mammal in the world. In early October as the sea ice begins to freeze, Gray whales leave their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea and begin their journey south to their calving grounds in Baja Mexico.  As they travel southward, the whales pass by San Diego and La Jolla Shores, where many can be seen only a half mile off the coast (or closer!). The cold, nutrient rich water rising up from the deep La Jolla Canyon attracts many of the whales to come in shallower and feed (gray whales feed by scooping up sediment off the bottom of the sea floor and filtering it through their baleen).

We’ll head out past the shore and keep our eyes glued to the Horizon for gray whale blows!  We collaborate with scientists and observers in the area who have been following the gray whale migration from Northern California so we can get you the best encounter possible. Members of the SDE team volunteer at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography which allows us to remain well informed and aware of any activity occurring off our coast.

As you know, the ocean is full of a diversity of marine life - and we won’t limit any experience.  If you’re interested, we’ll gladly stop for Common and Bottlenose dolphins, sea lions and Harbor seals, or the Mola Mola (ocean sunfish).   We want you to experience the ocean in all it’s glory, and we’ll hold nothing back.  We recommend you wear a wetsuit on this trip, as you may get wet :).

So join SD Expeditions for a something different experience, and witness the Gray Whale migration the way you want to see it - up close and personal.

Interesting Facts:

  • Gray Whales can grow to 50 feet and live up to 50-70 years
  • Gray Whales make the longest migration of any mammal - 10,000 miles annually!
  • Whalers gave gray whales the name “devil fish.” Unlike most whales, gray whales would fight viciously after being harpooned, sinking many whaling boats.
  • The migrating whale population is estimated at around 20-22,000 individuals.
  • Gray whales eat along the bottom, turning on one side and scooping up sediments.  Usually the whales will turn on their right side, and many older whales are blind in their right eye because of this!
  • The average gray whale travels at 5mph during its migration.


The boat we will be using is a 29 foot six-pac local dive boat meant for the open ocean. It is fully Coast Guard registered and certified vessel equipped with all standard safety equipment. We carry a maximum of 6 guests, a researcher and our underwater photographer.

We will provide bottled water, fruit, and snacks to keep you energized over the duration of the trip - if you have any special requests feel free to let us know.

Wilderness Disclaimer:

At SD Expeditions we use all means necessary to provide you with the safest interaction possible. We are diligent about checking the latest weather reports and updates to remain well informed. However, we are out in the open ocean, and if weather conditions do not cooperate, we may need to head back early.

We only offer this excursion during the California Gray Whale migration when the whales are present off San Diego. Although highly unlikely, there is a chance you may not see a gray whale - we’re not in a theme park with domesticated animals, nor would we want to be. The excitement of not knowing exactly what you will see or encounter in the open ocean is what makes this excursion so amazing.

With that being said, we stand by our Gray Whale excursion and will reimburse half the ticket price if you do not see a Gray Whale.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need any equipment?

As we may encounters Mola Molas or kelp paddies full of life, it would be wise to bring your mask,snorkel and fins (and wetsuit!) as well as an underwater camera to capture this truly unique experience (although we also have a professional photographer onboard).

You’ll also want to pack a warm jacket, sunglasses or a hat, and some sunscreen. We will be in the open ocean and weather can change quickly.
If you are in need of any gear, let us know.

How close will I get to a Gray Whale?

As gray whales are wild animals and we are operating in their environment, there is the possibility that a whale may surface next to our inflatable.

What do I do with my belongings?

We will have drybags available for you on the boat to hold any gear you don’t want to get wet, although we recommend anything that you won’t not need on the ocean to be locked in your car.

How long is the excursion?

Expect to be out at sea for around 3.5 hours - although if we are having a truly magical day don’t be surprised if this is longer!


Trip Information


Leave from Mission Bay

Number of Guests:



8am - 11:30am
3.5 hours


$200 per person

Gray Whale season is from mid-December till April

Interested in a private trip? Contact us!