California Monterey Peninsula photography whales wildlife

Humpback whales in our faces at Moss Landing beach

This week locals have been talking about how the humpback whales are close to shore and more visible around Monterey Bay than anyone remembers. Yesterday, for the second time this past week, we set up our chairs on the beach and watched the whale show. The humpback whales in our faces at Moss Landing beach was the closest I have ever been to whales while rooted on dry land.

Humpback whale surfaces next to beach.

This woman had a front row view as a humpback whale surfaced about 100 yards from the beach at Moss Landing, California. The woman walking out of the picture heard the fifty or so people sitting on the beach cheer when the humpback unexpectedly surfaced in front of the crowd.

While planted in a beach chair for over two hours, several humpback whales fed in the waters near the beach on the south entrance to Moss Landing harbor on Monterey Bay.

Humpback whale pectoral fins are proportionally largest of any whale species.

Humpback fins out of the water. My wife teaches about whales in her first grade class. The humpback whale’s pectoral fins are proportionally the longest of any cetacean.

Tourists on beach miss humpback whale breaching behind them.

Another couple on the beach who walked in my frame as the humpback whale breached. At least my camera was focused on the whale.

And another humpback whale breached again within the same minute.

Humpback breach (2)
Humpback whale breaching, Moss Landing, California.

The humpback whale is one of the larger whales at about 45 feet long for males and 50 feet for females when fully grown.  These whales are the size of a full-size school bus.

sea otter
Sea otter swimming, Moss Landing, California.

A lonely sea otter swimming back and forth garnered little attention as this Moss Landing splash show was all about the humpback whales.

Sanctuary whales
Several humpback whales surface near Sanctuary Cruises whale watching boat, Moss Landing, California.

Sanctuary Cruises whale watching 3:00pm boat is how I thought we were planning to watch whales in Moss Landing. Turned out whale watching this day was almost as good from the beach. My wife has motion sickness so the beach was her preferred whale viewing platform.

Humpback whale head surfaces close to beach at Moss Landing, California.

Humpback whale’s head surfacing with water filtering out its mouth.

Humpback Whale mouth close up photo.

This is a special time for Monterey Bay. The water is the warmest ever recorded for the sea around here at 68F and whales are closer to shore than most anyone recalls in recent memory. Anchovies are attracting the whales and the whales are attracting locals and tourists to the beaches and whale watching cruises.

Humpback 6
Humpback whale dorsal fin appears close to shore in front of family at beach, Moss Landing, California.

A news story this past week stated there are something like 50 humpback whales in Monterey Bay. Last week I saw more than ten whales around Carmel Beach and yesterday more than a dozen humpback whales at Moss Landing, about 30 miles farther north. There are plenty of whales to see all around Monterey Bay this summer.

Monterey Bay
Moss Landing, California pin with Monterey Bay and offshore canyons visible in Google Maps satellite image.

Moss Landing, California is located at the central point of Monterey Bay. Moss Landing and Carmel Bay are the two coastal points nearest the deep water offshore canyons that normally keep the water temperature fairly chilly in these parts. All the photographs in this post were taken from Moss Landing Beach directly behind Phil’s Fish Market, Moss Landing on July 28, 2014.

Monterey Bay’s nutritious waters attract whales year-round. This summer Monterey Bay is filled with whales coming close to shore making the beach scene more attractive than usual.

Google Map California coast
Moss Landing location on California coast, Google Maps Satellite image.


Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary

Monterey Bay Aquarium Animal Guide  – Humpback whale

National Geographic Humpback Whale


Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

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