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Oceanic Society Farallon Islands Whale Watching

Features Animals
San Francisco, CA, USA
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About Oceanic Society Farallon Islands Whale Watching
Oceanic Society is a non-profit marine conservation organization founded in San Francisco in 1969. Our San Francisco whale watch programs began in 1972, and have given thousands of people the opportunity to see and learn about the Bay Area's spectacular marine wildlife, including several species of whales, dolphins, seabirds, and much more. We are the only non-profit whale watch operator in the Bay Area, and our trips are used to collect marine research and support local conservation efforts.
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AndyLosAltos wrote a review Sep 2020
Los Altos, CA21 contributions21 helpful votes
I've lived in the Bay Area for 30 years, seen and done most things, and this was the best tour I've been on. Amazing to see the Farallones. They are like the Galapagos Islands, covered with birds and seals. The Naturalists from the Oceanic Society were nice and knowledgeable, and took (and posted) fantastic photos so we could enjoy the scenery without worrying about taking pictures. The highlight was getting out past the Continental Shelf and seeing the whales, Humpback, Grey and my first every sighting of a beautiful Blue Whale. They spaced everyone out nicely and enforced mask wearing for Covid, so it felt very safe. The Pacific Ocean is a bit rough, nobody on my boat had trouble but this would not be good for people who get sea sick. If you like the open water, however, this trip should absolutely be on your bucket list!
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Date of experience: September 2020
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Mona T wrote a review Aug 2020
San Francisco, California12 contributions5 helpful votes
The trip, naturalists, beauty of nature and experience as a whole were spectacular! We went very well prepared (thanks to advice from the Oceanic Society and previous notes in reviews). We had warm, layered clothing and took some dramamine-non drowsy formula as a precaution. The passenger capacity was limited given covid times and it made the experience more private as a result. It was totally well worth the cost! We saw whales, puffins (my favorite!), sea lions, seals at play, and SO MANY birds - it was breathtaking. I highly recommend this trip - you will never forget it!
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Date of experience: August 2020
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Nano V wrote a review Nov 2019
3 contributions2 helpful votes
This is the best day I have ever spent ~ really!! It takes a long time to sail back and forth to the Farallons, but it was worth it -- we saw humpbacks, seals, sea lions, jellyfish, albatrosses . . . and all of it made me grateful to be sharing the planet with such special creatures. The captain of the Salty Lady knew where to go, our Oceanic Society guide was a fountain of knowledge, and I am hoping to go again next year...
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Date of experience: October 2019
2 Helpful votes
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JillClardy wrote a review Oct 2019
Redwood City, California683 contributions158 helpful votes
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We boarded the Salty Lady near the San Francisco Yacht House in the Marina on a brilliant, warm and calm autumn morning, and my first impression was how small the 56' boat is. There were ~30 passengers and 4 crew, including the 2 naturalists that accompanied us. The cabin has 4 booths that seat a total of ~8 people, and everyone else has to remain outdoors for the entire day. Two toilets are available as well as a small galley area with coffee and tea service. When the boat is in the Bay and just outside the Golden Gate moving fairly slowly, you can move about using handrails. But once the captain revs up the engine to cross the open ocean to the Farallon Islands 27 miles away, the ride is very rough, and you're glued to your spot for well over an hour. It's not possible to walk around without risking a fall. There are 2 rows of benches in the back deck, but still not enough seating for everyone. The passengers on one side were getting soaked by sea spray, so everyone crowded over onto the other side. On the west bound trip, I stood aft facing the wake with sea spray lashing at my back and had to grip the rail tightly with both hands to keep my balance. My back side, which had faced into the wind, was quite wet and cold by the time we arrived at the islands, but I didn't dare to try and move from my spot on the rail. I had not worn waterproof pants and shoes, so I was rather soggy. Fortunately, the wind was mild, and our time circumnavigating the islands for about 1.5 hours was pleasant. The on board naturalists were both very knowledgeable about the history of the islands and all of the mammals and birds that inhabit the islands and had each accompanied many tours to the islands. The captain maneuvered the boat constantly so that people on both sides can get a good view. While at the islands, we also had time to eat the sandwiches and snacks that we had brought along and use the loo - none of which you'll be able to do once the boat is chugging across across the open ocean. I brought 2 cameras, one with a long telephoto lens, and one with a wide angle lens, and was able to get many great pictures of the sea lions, birds, seals and rocky islands. The ride back to the Bay was a little less rough, and I did manage to get a seat on one of the benches, but still had to endure being lashed by sea spray for well over an hour. One entire side of my body was soaked with salty water, so I guess I was the "Salty Lady"! The only whale sightings that day were several humpbacks just outside the Golden Gate; we saw none during the ocean passage or at the Farallones. The captain did manage to maneuver the boat so we all got a good look each time whales were spotted. I didn't get a lot of good photos, though because the ship and the whales are constantly moving, so there is a tendency to get a blurry photo of frothy water where the whale just dove ! Crossing back under the GG Bridge on a beautiful autumn day is always a great experience, and also gave me a chance to partially dry off before the tour ended. The tour should really be advertised as a Farallon Islands round trip, rather than a whale watching tour, since there are limited prospects of sighting any substantial number of whales. Additionally, they should accept only enough guests as there are seats on the boat. It was really hard to move around at any time without bumping into someone, and equally challenging to get a good spot at the rail for decent photographs. They do use this boat for sport fishing trip as well, and the cooler takes up a good chunk of deck space. I can now say that I'm among the tiny percentage of local residents who have actually been outside the Golden Gate !
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Date of experience: October 2019
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NicolaAllen27 wrote a review Oct 2019
London, United Kingdom108 contributions16 helpful votes
Once in a lifetime trip today under the Golden Gate Bridge and to Farallon Island. We were lucky enough to see the rare sight of multiple bait balls with up to 8 humpback whales per ball, heaps of leaping sea lions and tonnes of seabirds! It’s advisable to take a boat sickness tablet before this trip as it gets very choppy and not enough seating for all on the trip. Multiple people were vomiting on our trip for a few hours including myself so please be warned! Totally worth the effort though this trip was incredible!
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Date of experience: October 2019
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