Gotta Sea This

By Catlin Dorset

What's fun for kids often isn't for twentysomethings and other ancient folk. But as the annual Big Bay Whale Festival migrates back to Downtown's Broadway Pier, there will be tons of flipping fun for all ages.

While live bands, flamenco dancers and "splash mobs" (last year's involved zombies dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller") entertain on-shore crowds during the January 25 event, the possibility of catching sight of a whale will turn festival-goers' attention to the ocean.

"Gray whales like shallow waters and thus tend to stay very close to shore during their migrations," says Ana Sirovic, assistant research oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "I've seen them often from Scripps Park in La Jolla, but other good locations to spot the whales are Sunset Cliffs and Cabrillo National Monument. Really, any beach might work, as long as you have some time, patience and a bit of luck."

San Diego "Whale Watching" seasons exist thanks to the semiannual migration of Grays, 30-to-40-ton giants journeying between Alaska and Baja California, Mexico. Travelling in small groups called "pods," roughly 20,000 whales will pass through America's Finest waters on their 6,000-mile trip south to make sweet love and give birth in the warm, protected waters of Baja's lagoons.

To see and touch live sea creatures, run through an inflatable obstacle course and walk through a model whale, check out the family-friendly Festival. To spot a gray whale for reals, hop on a boat (see sidebar) or head to the coast with binoculars and look west.

1/25: Big Bay Whale Festival
Location: Port Pavilion on the Broadway Pier, Downtown
Admission: Free
Info: whaledays.com

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Sea Sure

In case you don't have a boat or a friend that does, snag a whale of a ride-along with one of these San Diego companies. While sightings can't be guaranteed, San Diego Whale Watch promises a second chance, giving those who don't get to shout "Spout!" a free return trip to sea... to see.

San Diego Whale Watch
1717 Quivira Rd., Mission Bay
619.839.0128, sdwhalewatch.com

Pacific Nature Tours
1717 Quivira Rd., Mission Bay
619.534.9249, pacificnaturetours.com

Hornblower Cruises
970 N. Harbor Dr. and 1800 N. Harbor Dr., Downtown
619.686.8700, hornblower.com

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