1. South Africa: Right whales
Heading out to sea isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – and you don’t have to if you go to the small fishing village of Hermanus, overlooking the Atlantic two hours east of Cape Town. Southern right whales come to calf and mate off this coast between June and November, performing their acrobatics incredibly close to the shore.
2. California: Blue whales
The deep waters around northern California are among the favourite haunts of elusive and unpredictable blue whales, most likely to appear in the late summer. From a family-run hotel in the Carmel Valley, close to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, wildlife specialist Naturetrek arranges at least four half-day whale-watching trips for a chance to spot the world’s largest creatures, which can measure up to 80ft in length and weigh 100 tons.
3. The Canaries: Whale cruise
Wildlife experts from Orca, a European whale and dolphin conservation charity, will be accompanying a cruise to the Canary Islands offered by over-50s specialist Saga. They will help passengers identify the marine and bird life from the deck of the newly launched Spirit of Discovery cruise ship. Ports of call include Lisbon and Funchal, plus the islands of Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and Fuerteventura.
4. Canada: Killer Wales
Kayaking with killer whales may sound risky, but the pods of orcas that visit the Johnstone Strait, between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland, from July to October are friendlier than their name suggests. Frontier Canada combines an adventurous itinerary based in a tented wilderness camp for sea kayaking close to the pods in the company of an experienced guide, with a couple of days to explore Victoria, the region’s capital.
5. Mexico: Humpbacks
Places on expert-led whale-watching trips are in high demand and you may need to book a year in advance. Escorted tour specialist Wildlife Worldwide already reports limited space on its spring 2020 departure to the Pacific coast of Baja California from San Diego. Sailing on The Searcher, a 90ft vessel with 14 cabins, you are likely to spot humpbacks, blue whales and sperm whales. A trip highlight is the San Ignacio Lagoon, where female grey whales congregate with their young.
6. Iceland: Orcas
Shoals of herring, which make their winter home in the waters around Grundarfjorour in western Iceland from December to March, attract hungry orcas. Tailor-made specialist Regent Holidays offers a week-long, self-drive itinerary departing from capital Reykjavik, which includes a boat tour of the fjord to witness the feeding frenzy. The itinerary also includes three nights near Thingvellir National Park for a chance to view the northern lights.
7. Australia: Minke whales
June and July may be winter months Down Under, but temperatures around Cairns in Queensland reach about 77F (25C) and the seawater is still warm. At this time of year, dwarf minke whales migrate to the northern Great Barrier Reef in search of krill. Diving specialist Dive Worldwide includes a seven-night "minke whale liveaboard adventure" within a longer three-week itinerary for a chance to spot these mammals and help to monitor their numbers.
8. The Azores: Cetaceans
The Azores archipelago, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is one of the best places to glimpse sperm whales and short-finned pilot whales among many other types. Long-established operator Sunvil includes four three-hour boat excursions from Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel, organised through the Monicet research project, which monitors and records whale sightings. Stay in self-catering cottages in nearby Vila Franca do Campo.
9. New Zealand: Sperm whales
The coastal waters of New Zealand are home to a rich variety of seals, dolphins and whales. Wildlife specialist Discover the World offers a self-drive itinerary from Auckland in the north to Christchurch on the South Island’s east coast, taking in many of the country’s highlights, including a whale-watching cruise from Kaikoura – an area frequented by sperm whales with their distinctively large, square-shaped heads.
10. Madeira: Pilot whales
The warm Gulf Stream currents that encircle the subtropical Portuguese island of Madeira create a year-round refuge for pilot, humpback and short-finned pilot whales. Small group specialist Artisan Travel offers a week-long discovery tour of the island’s wildlife, based at a four-star hotel in Funchal. The whale-watching excursion, escorted by a marine biologist, is an itinerary highlight, with a chance to snorkel alongside the boat if conditions allow.
The Daily Telegraph