The Queen of Hearts offers whale watching trips during January, February, and March depending on availability, when the whale watching season is at its peak along the San Mateo coastline. Our three hour trips are typically scheduled on the weekends departing at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. depending on weather and demand. Private charters also available any day of the week by arrangement. Special charters are also available for extended nature trips offshore and towards the Farallon Islands.
The majestic and intelligent California Gray Whale is probably the best known of the great whales of the northeastern Pacific and the species most frequently seen from the Queen of Hearts. They begin their annual southbound trek in September, going from their feeding grounds off Alaska to the lagoons of Baja, where they mate and give birth. This 6,000 mile journey is one of the animal kingdom's most impressive migrations and you can witness it right here off of Half Moon Bay!
The majority of southbound migrating Gray whales leave the Bering Sea in groups somewhat segregated by age, sex and class. They swim along the North American Pacific coast during the months of November through January or early February. Some whales do not complete the southbound migrations, instead remaining off the coasts of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, or California. Aren't we lucky!
Most of the migrating whales remain close to the coast, in water less than 100 fathoms (about 600 feet) deep. It has long been believed that most gray whale offspring (calves) are born in Mexican waters in and near the lagoons. But more recent studies have revealed that a higher than expected number of calves are actually born during the southern migration, as far north as southern Oregon.
The northward migration of Gray whales, beginning as early as mid-January, is shorter than the southward migration, and it occurs in two distinct waves or 'pulses'. The earlier pulse includes a larger cross section of the whale population. The later, smaller pulse consists primarily of females and their calves.
The Queen of Hearts is also fortunate to see Humpback Whales, too, one of the most energetic whales alive, known for its spectacular breaching, lobtailing, flipperslapping and singing. Breaching has been found to be more common at breeding grounds in warmer waters. They vary from a full leap out of the water to a leisurely surge with only a small portion of the body emerging. The whale usually lands on its back and the breach is followed by a violent exhalation from the blowhole.
The most distinctive feature of a Humpback whale is that the flippers are very long (nearly one-third of the body length). The black and white pigmentation on the undersides of their flukes is as unique as the human fingerprint. At birth, the Humpback Whale is 15-16 feet long and weighs in at 2.2 tons! When mature, they can top the scales at over 35 tons! The estimated population on the United States west coast is only around 800 individuals.