Sightings Report: July 21, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat.


On our first trip of the day we had fog relatively high off the water and pretty good sea conditions. We had reports of whales northwest of the shipping lane, so we headed that way.

We found two humpbacks there in 80 feet of water.

We saw some fluke dives from these animals, who stayed close to each other the whole time they were feeding. At one point one of them did a full body roll. They appeared to be pushing the fish in between them.

Over the course of the trip the whales moved over a mile west.

There were fishing boats around us, as well as lots of birds and porpoises. We also saw some more spouts in the distance.



On our next trip we found whales in the same spot. There were still lots of fishing boats in the area. Sea conditions had improved from the morning trip.

We found six humpback whales in this area, all feeding in 84 feet of water. We saw some fluke dives from these animals as well.

Some large ships passed by us while we observed the whales. We stayed with them for about 40 minutes. We also spotted some common murre fathers with their chicks.



By our afternoon trip the conditions were beautiful. It was sunny and glassy calm out in the shipping lane, where we first found one humpback whale close to our boat. Additional spouts were off in the distance.

The first whale spouted 150 yards from us. We stopped the boat, floated in neutral and were surprised to see the whale pop up 10 yards from the boat and fluke dive.

The whale surfaced again farther from the boat, just as a ship was passing.

After that whale was 300 yards away from us, we continued out towards a group of 3-4 humpbacks that were near the pilot boat.

These whales were surfacing in synchrony.

There were lots of birds hovering around them, indicating that they were feeding.

We saw several lunge feeds from these animals. The highlight was a quadruple lunge feed where all four whales came up at once.

We got lots of fluke dives from these animals, but none of them are currently in our catalog.

The whales were slowly moving west. We were able to spend about 45 minutes with them before we had to head back to the dock.

Sightings Report: November 18, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

We started off our trip towards the Farallon Islands with beautiful weather. As we passed north of the shipping lane, we found three humpback whales feeding, and two more spouts in the distance. The group of three was split up into one pair and one solo humpback. The pair surfaced in synchrony the entire time we were there. 

Humpbacks with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Humpbacks with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

We continued on towards the islands, slowing at one point to look at hundreds of bright orange Pacific sea nettles drifting in the waters beneath us. 

As we approached the islands, I noticed something bright red near Sugarloaf. I started taking pictures and captured a few splashes. Birds started to swarm to the area. 

As we approached, I was able to confirm that we were approaching a large slick of blood, likely caused by a Great White shark attacking a sea lion. The frenzied birds dove into the water, some surfacing with pieces of meat. Sea lions were barking loudly and swimming in groups close to the rocks in Fisherman's Bay. We likely had missed the attack by just a few minutes. 

If you look closely where the splash is, you'll notice a fin!

If you look closely where the splash is, you'll notice a fin!

We continued around the islands towards Saddle rock, noting a large number of common murres perched on the cliffs. Water visibility was excellent, and we could see the bottom in many spots. 

In Mirounga Bay near the Jordan we spotted a couple of Elephant seals and some Northern Fur seals on the rocks. There was a large group of sea lions in the water. 

Since we had such excellent weather, we decided to head out towards the continental shelf. We had been heading west for just a few minutes when we spotted 2 humpbacks breaching over and over again. 

We approached slowly and were treated to one breach about 300 yards from our boat. 

When they were done breaching, the whales started slapping their pectoral fins, sometimes rolling over as they did so. We watched three humpbacks diving and slapping for several minutes. 

We noticed some huge spouts in the distance and thought that we might have some blue whales. We headed towards them and sure enough, we spotted 3 blues. Two of them were a pair surfacing together. There was one more large spout in the distance. 

We were far from home, so we had to turn around and start our journey back towards the pier. On our way back in we noticed a few king salmon leap out of the water, as well as some moon jellies and harbor porpoises. 

Sightings Report: September 27, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days


We found whales on this trip northwest of shipping lane buoys 1 & 2. A pilot vessel floated nearby, waiting to guide incoming container ships. 

A pair of two adults surfaced together several times, doing fluke dives in synchrony. Occasionally they were lunge feeding in synchrony as well. 

Several other whales were feeding on their own in the area for a total of 5-7 humpbacks. Huge clouds of birds hovered over each whale. One whale did a single pectoral fin slap. 

The water was glassy with beautiful sunny weather. We also saw moon jellies, harbor porpoises, a harbor seal, and some California sea lions resting on the shipping lane buoy. 

California sea lions on a buoy.

California sea lions on a buoy.


We returned to the same spot for our next trip. There was a lot of traffic, with six or seven container ships passing by us over the course of the trip.

The first humpbacks we saw were past the container ships, so we waited to approach. Before we began approaching a humpback surfaced closer to us. 

Humpback fluke.

Humpback fluke.

We were in 90 feet of water and saw many shallow dives from the whale, with very few fluke dives. At one point the whale did a side lunge feed, showing its pectoral fin. Big clouds of birds hovered over the whales. 


On our way back in, we picked up a plastic bag from the water. 

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic. 

If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!