tail slap

Sightings Report: August 17, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


On our first trip of the day we found humpbacks whales about 14 miles offshore, close to the pilot station. There were nine whales in the area feeding in 100 feet of water.

We saw fluke dives from these animals, as well as lunge feeding. There was one coordinated lunge feed with two whales.

The whales in the area moved around a lot. Different groups were constantly moving apart and coming together.

There were birds hovering over the whales and anchovies on the fish finder. We stayed with the whales for about 30 minutes.



On our next trip we found the whales several miles east of the previous location. The whales were near buoys 1 and 2, directly in the shipping lane.

There were four humpbacks feeding in 60 feet of water.

We saw fluke dives and some coordinated lunge feeding from these whales. Large ships and the pilot boat were nearby.

There were lots of birds in the area, particularly shearwaters. The birds were flushed from the surface of the water by the whales several times.

We stayed with these animals for about 45 minutes. There were another 2-3 spouts in the distance as well.


On our final trip of the day we found one whale in almost the exact same spot, directly in the shipping lane.

After seeing a few spouts and getting a good look at the dorsal fin, we identified the whale as Akula - a frequent visitor to this area.

Akula wasn’t fluke diving, but after a few minutes she began tail slapping, allowing us to get a good look at the orca tooth rakes on her fluke.

There were anchovies on the fish finder and birds hovering over Akula, so it is likely she was feeding. We stayed with Akula for about 40 minutes.

There were ships present over the course of the trip. We also saw a large sunfish come down the side of our boat.

There were California sea lions on the shipping lane buoys as well.

Sightings Report: June 4, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


After a stretch of bad weather, we headed out on Tuesday with sunshine and good visibility. We went west through the shipping lane, spotting a lot of bird activity as well as some California sea lions resting on the buoys.

We made our way out to the pilot boat, who said they’d seen whales the previous day. We slowly made our way east when a passenger saw a spout. (Shoutout to Michael from Philadelphia!)

At first when we approached the whale we were seeing spouts, but no fluke dives.

After a few minutes we saw a couple of lunge feeds. At one point the whale rolled onto its side and showed us one lobe of the fluke. We'll see if that’s enough to identify it!


On our second trip we headed back out to the same area of the shipping lane. It took us a while to find a spout, but eventually we found a humpback whale.

This whale was fluking, so right away we were able to tell that it was a different animal from the previous trip. The dorsal fin was also distinct.

After we had been with the whale for 15 minutes, it began to tail slap. We floated in neutral as the whale slapped for several minutes, at one point coming to about 150 yards away.

Sightings Report: April 2, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


This trip started off with a lot of rain, but as soon as we left the pier the weather started improving. We headed west towards the Golden Gate Strait.

We had just passed the Golden Gate Bridge when our first whale was spotted. It was one of two humpbacks feeding on anchovies in the strait.

One of the whales stayed near Point Bonita, while the other made its way southeast towards Baker Beach.

We saw several fluke dives from this animal.

While we were watching the closer animal, the farther humpback started slapping its tail over and over again.


We moved out of the way to let a large ship pass us.

When it had passed, both whales were near Point Bonita. We reapproached and eventually had a whale on either side of us.

These were the first humpbacks to officially enter the Strait for the season - nearly three weeks ahead of schedule!

Sightings Report: October 13, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We headed west on this afternoon trip. We made our way through the shipping lane all the way out past buoys 1 and 2 to the pilot vessel. The weather was calm with very little wind.

Out past the precautionary area there were at least 6 whales: two pairs and two individuals.

We saw a few breaches from these animals and several fluke dives. One pair approached the boat, swam underneath us, and then slapped its tail when it surfaced on the other side.

There was a lot of bird activity in the area.

We saw at least four large ships pass by.

Sightings Report: September 22, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


We headed to the north bar on this trip and found three humpback whales feeding in 47 feet of water.

Two of them were spouting and not showing flukes.


The farther one was slapping its tail and pectoral fins and continuously breaching.


We attempted to approach, but lost the whale.

Sightings Report: September 6th, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


On this tour we headed 8.5 miles offshore, just west of the shipping lane. We were alerted by the Pilot vessel to the presence of whales in the area.

We were positioned outside the lane with views of at least eight humpbacks in the area.

One whale repeatedly breached close to fishing boats. We also observed the whale slapping its pectoral fins and its tail.

There were anchovies at the surface and lots of feeding birds in the area.

We spotted parasitic, pomarine, and long-tailed jaegers attempting to steal food from other birds.

We were able to catch a whiff of whale breath on this trip as well.

The fishing fleet was close by, and we saw a few whales approach the fishing vessels.

We also had a few ships pass by us.

Sightings Report: July 22, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


We began the trip heading west through the shipping lane. We were 11 miles out when we spotted our first spout. 

After a few minutes, we were able to spot 10 humpback whales within a mile of us. A few of them came close to the boat. 

We saw several lunge feeds from these animals. 

There was also a lot of porpoise activity on this trip. 


We returned to the same spot 11 miles offshore for the next trip, where we found a pair of humpbacks. 

The smaller of the two individuals breached for almost the entire time we were there. It's possible that this was a calf. 


Another individual slapped its tail multiple times on the water, 500 yards from the breaching animal. 


There were a few lunge feeds on this trip, as well as a few fluke dives. There were some California sea lions resting on the shipping lane buoy.


Sightings Report: July 17, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


On our first trip of the day we went north towards a large biological hotspot we'd spotted a few days before the trip. There were lots of fishermen there and we were unable to find any whales in the area. 

We turned west and found one travelling humpback seventeen miles from home. 


There was a lot of bird activity and harbor porpoise activity. We had excellent weather and sea conditions despite a little fog. 


We started off north on a tip from another boat. We were unable to locate the reported whale. After a while we made a big circle west, then turned south to the shipping lane. 


We then spotted two humpback whales at the end of the shipping lane near the pilot boat. 

The farther whale was breaching continuously. The closer whale was not fluking. 


We saw lots of harbor porpoises in the area as well as California and Steller's sea lions resting on the buoys. 

All photos from the 11am trip were taken by Patrick Sysiong. 


We headed straight back out to where we'd left the whales. They were still in the shipping lane near buoys 1 and 2. 

We had 4-5 humpbacks in the area, including a mother and calf. There were a few lunge feeds. 


The calf was the most active of all the whales. We saw a tail slap, breach, and pectoral fin slap from the calf near the end of the trip.

We spotted some harbor porpoise activity on this trip as well. There were also California sea lions and common murres with chicks.

An outbound container ship diverted its course to go around us and the whales. 


The whales were still in the same spot on our final trip of the day.

We saw several lunge feeds from the humpbacks and a few fluke dives. 

More container ships passed by us over the course of the trip.

We also spotted some California sea lions and common murres. 

Sightings Report: July 2, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


We had beautiful sea conditions as we headed out into the Golden Gate Strait. The sky was foggy, but the ocean was calm and there was very little wind. We quickly found a whale just inside Point Bonita. 

We saw a few fluke dives from the humpback. We also spotted another spout across the Golden Gate Strait and two more out past Point Bonita. I decided to move out towards the two whales to the west. 

We slowly approached the whales, who were feeding along a tide line. It was a mother and calf surfacing in synchrony. We gave them plenty of space, since mother-calf pairs tend to be extra sensitive to human interactions. They were not throwing flukes. 

After watching them for a few minutes, we drifted back towards the Golden Gate Strait, where we relocated some of the whales we had seen earlier. The two of them had moved to the west, while the mother-calf pair started to move east. 


Visibility was decreasing as we headed back to port surrounded by fog. I spotted the first common murre chicks I have seen this season.



On our next trip the fog had engulfed the Golden Gate Bridge, but in the strait visibility improved significantly. Some passengers spotted our first whale in the middle of the strait.

We saw one fluke dive from this humpback, who then disappeared. 


I had my eye on more spouts near Point Bonita, so we headed that way. Near the lighthouse we found two humpbacks. One of them was the individual Akula, easily recognizable by the flat dorsal fin. 


The other individual started tail slapping repeatedly while birds hovered around it. The tail slapping continued for several minutes. Occasionally the whale would take a break and then start slapping again. 

At one point a gray whale popped up 50 yards in front of us before swimming away to the other side of the strait. 


We stayed with the active whale for most of the trip. At one point it breached 70 yards from our boat. 

We had at least 6 humpbacks and 1 gray within a half mile of our vessel. A large container ship passed us during the trip.

At the end of the trip as we headed back to port, we saw a whale near Point Bonita breach three times, followed by a whale at Mile Rock tail slapping. 


I saw lots of murres with fish in their beaks on this trip.