New guide helps you add more mindfulness to whale watching in midlife, even if you don’t know anything about mindfulness now!
I’m a whale watching enthusiast!
In fact, whale watching has been a rewarding and meaningful passion of mine for almost 40 years, which is why I’ve created a mindfulness guide specifically for whale watching! It’s funny…when I started going on the water to watch whales, I didn’t know anything about mindfulness.
I just knew I loved the ocean, being outside and taking pictures. I also love wildlife and everything thing having to do with marine life. I even thought about become a marine biologist for a second or two, back in the day.
But as soon as I started having more and more of these whale watching experiences, I realized that watching whales was an incredibly peaceful and relaxing way to spend time in nature.
First time whale watching
My first experience going on a whale watch was in Kennebunkport, Maine during the summer of 1985. I was 25 years old.
I noticed a small flyer on a telephone pole that said “whale watching” and the address of where you could buy tickets.
“What was this?” I thought to myself.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
That’s when I first discovered that whale watching was a “thing.”
I had never heard of anything like it or even realized that I loved whales.
But when I saw that little flyer, I felt an unbelievable urge to get on that boat. I was drawn to it. Like it needed to happen.
My attraction to the idea of going on a boat, watching nature and taking pictures for a few hours wasn’t really that surprising. I’ve always been the happiest version of myself by the ocean or on the ocean.
So I went! And that whale watch blew my mind. We saw mostly finback whales that day. And they were pretty impressive because they’re the 2nd longest cetacean reaching about 85 ft and over 70 tons.
I was hooked and couldn’t wait to go again.
Whale watching experiences
As it turned out, that whale watch off the coast of Kennebunkport was only the beginning. I’ve been of dozens of whale watches since then all over the place including New England (Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Connecticut), Vancouver Island (British Columbia), Tadoussac (Quebec), California (San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Newport, Long Beach, Dana Point) and Baja California, Mexico.
I’ve seen all kinds of species too. Toothed whales have included orcas, beluga, pilot and of course several varieties of dolphins. Baleen whales have included blue, finback, minke, humpback, northern right and gray whales.
When you watch whales long enough, you are likely to see a lot of whale behaviors. Not only can exposure to different whale behaviors be really exciting, it can also be particularly useful when it comes to taking great pictures. When you’re familiar with whale behavior, It’s easier for you to also anticipate the whales’ movement and that knowledge helps you anticipate your shot.
Most memorable moments with the whales
I’ve been so fortunate to see the whale behaviors I’ve seen over the years, which have included:
- breaching – when they launch their bodies out of the water, twist and come back down making a huge splash
- spy hopping – when the pop their heads out of the water straight up
- tail slapping
- pectoral fin slapping
- playing with seaweed
- rubbing under the boat
- seeking out human interaction
- baby whales playing with mama
- mama whales protecting babies
There have been thousands of memories and photos for sure, but five particularly memorable experiences stand out.
Number 1: The first one happened in 1992 in San Ignacio Lagoon (Baja California, Mexico) with a gray whale. I was in a small, 20 ft. panga boat on a trip with Baja Expeditions.
The gray whales are there to have their babies or to mate. They are known to seek out human interaction and if you’re lucky, this will happen while you’re out there hanging out with them. One whale came up under the boat and I leaned over to look at her. AT that moment, she rolled over and looked straight at me, eye to eye. Her eye was less than two feet from mine. And then…she blinked.
That blink just created so much connection with this highly intelligent mammal and humanized the whole encounter. Classic interspecies communication. Needless to say, I lost my mind and burst into joyous tears! This is the photo I somehow managed to take during this experience.
Number 2: The second experience also happened on that same trip in Baja. I had what is referred to as a “friendly encounter” with a gray whale. Here I am actually petting her after she came over on purpose. Again, it’s no surprise, but I totally burst into tears!
Number 3: Yet again, this Baja trip didn’t disappoint! One more amazing experience happened during the four day trip in Baja and it had to do with spy-hopping. All of a sudden, the whales started popping up all over the place. Spy hop after spy hop!
Everyone on our little boat started counting out loud every time one of the whales popped up. Remember, when they spy hop, their head might be 15 feet out of the water! It happened over 100 times and some were really close to the boat! As you can see from this picture above, the boats really weren’t that large! Here’s a shot from that experience.
Number 4: The fourth crazy experience happened off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 2017. When you see a whale breach, it’s always exciting. Well, on this day, we didn’t see just ONE breach. Like the spy hopping behavior I mentioned earlier, there was a breach party going on!
The humpbacks were hopping! This happened at least 25 times, and one right after the other. It was super exciting and I had never seen anything like it before. I don’t know how many different whales were actually breaching, but W O W, it was fun to watch!
Number 5: The fifth experience happened most recently in 2023 when I returned to Baja California in Mexico. It was the best way I could think of to honor my 60th birthday so it became the kick off of a year long celebration! Three amazing women joined me on the San Ignacio Lagoon trip with Baja Expeditions. Camping out got a lot fancier and way more comfortable in the last 30 years, lol.
This time we camped in luxury tents on the beach in Latin America’s largest wildlife sanctuary and went whale watching six or seven times over our four day trip. What really stood out on this trip was how relaxed and mindful I was this time. I was much more present and calm and it made a huge difference. To get a “behind the scenes” look at this trip, check out the Women in the Middle Podcast, Episode 295 and hear all about the trip!
Mindfulness and whale watching is a match made in heaven!
Now that I have decades of whale watching experiences under my belt, I can see how more mindfulness can add tremendous value in all parts of life, especially with special nature outings like these. There can be a bit of stress involved with whale watching. As you’re preparing for your trip, you might be spinning on a bunch of questions, like:
- Am I going to get a good seat or spot around the boat?
- Will the weather be nice?
- Will there be whales to watch?
- Will I be too hot or too cold?
- Will I get sick?
- Will it be too crowded?
- Will my camera cooperate?
- Will my family be bored or whiny?
These are just a few! And then you get on the boat and start to head out and what do you know? More distracting thoughts and pop into your mind and take away from your experience. That’s why I love bringing more intentional mindfulness to the situation.
Mindfulness is about being more thoughtful about your experience, like being more focused on living in the present moment. You’re trying to be more aware of what’s actually happening; you’re being intentional about being engaged in your surroundings or experience. A key part of mindfulness is to be more accepting and less judgmental. It’s about chilling out and being exceptionally present.
Now, when you’re mind is wandering a mile a minute and you’re really good at putting everyone else’s needs before your own, you may find yourself doing everything BUT being present! When this happens, you’re likely to be annoyed, out of the present moment and be perhaps even disappointed. You may actually have regrets.
That’s no good! Making cool experiences like this happen at all doesn’t happen everyday. Vacations take a lot of planning. It’s not so easy to get out of Dodge! So when you finally do, you don’t want to be bummed out or have regrets.
Being more present and mindful is a gift you can give yourself…especially when you’ve prioritized whale watching.
As a Master Life Coach, I help women learn to think on purpose and get better and better at mindfulness. It’s important to learn how to become what’s commonly referred to as “a watcher of your thoughts.” This is how you increase awareness of what you’re thinking and be more connected to what you’re feeling.
It’s quite empowering to know that you don’t have to simply respond to what’s going on around you, but rather, can also create important, intentional and internal experiences for yourself.
The other thing to understand is that when you’re not in the present moment, it’s hard to appreciate awe and wonder.
I have been a Life Coach and practicing mindfulness and thought work now since 2014. I was very focused on being calm, relaxed and present on the trip I just took in February 2023 and wow, it made a difference.
That’s why I’ve created something to make it easier for YOU to be more in the present moment too!
NEW GUIDE! Mindfulness Journal Prompts for Whale Watching
The Whale Watching Mindfulness Prompts Guide is midlife mindfulness support to help you maximize your long-awaited and highly anticipated whale watching experience.
Here’s what’s included in the new guide:
- Brief introduction to the topics of awe, wonder, being present & amplifying your experience
- Tips to prepare for your whale-watch so that you’re less distracted
- 10 prompts to consider during your whale-watch
- 14 prompts to consider after your whale-watch
- 19 beautiful photos of whales, including two that Suzy took personally
If you love whales, you’ll love going whale watching with this helpful guide! And if you haven’t yet discovered whale watching, this guide will help you make sure that you know how to have more mindfulness during the whole amazing experience of hanging with the whales. You’ll never forget it!
Have a whale of a good time!
PS: Don’t forget to listen to this totally fun podcast episode about my whale watching trip!
Suzy Rosenstein, MA is a master certified life coach and host of the popular podcast for midlife women, Women in the Middle, with over 1.4 million downloads. Having wasted five years being stuck herself, she knows how frustrating and painful it can be. She uses her upbeat approach with the serious topic of aging to help you get clear about what you want, get unstuck and live your best life. Girlfriend, there’s more fun to be had! Start now with her free guide about how to reimagine midlife: https://suzyrosenstein.com/10questions/