SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Clear skies and mellow seas -- conditions that are perfect for whale watching. Good news, starting on Thursday you can catch a local cruise for the best view of our migrating grey whales. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you this is one experience you don't want to miss.
20,000 gray whales, 10,000 miles. It's the longest mammal migration in the world. All this activity is happening now in our backyard.
"It's a wonderful natural history experience apart from anything else," Birch Aquarium Executive Director Nigella Hillgarth said.
Gray whales spend their lives traveling from the Bering Sea to Baja's breeding grounds. Right now you can spot their migration south. The easiest way to get close is to hop on a boat.
"This is an amazing opportunity to see these giants, these enormous mammals in the ocean and it's a very emotional experience to be connected to this wildlife off our shores in San Diego, really an experience not to be missed," Hillgarth said.
It's truly a floating classroom with naturalists from Birch Aquarium guiding you through the whale experience.
"All along these barnacles you'll find whale lice," Donald Ward of Birch Aquarium said.
Yup, whale lice. When you get up close, there's a lot to learn about what makes this species special.
Some years ago, I spent a season volunteering aboard Birch Aquarium's whale watching cruise. Two things I remember best: breaching whales are awesome! Getting sea sick is not. Don't worry, the best sea legs start with the eyes. Keep your focus on the horizon, then move to the center.
"When you're on the boat, stay in the central part of the boat rather than the rear or the front because there will be less motion on the ship," Ward said.
Even with all the motion in the ocean, you are sure to enjoy this mystical experience. Ask anyone who's ever ventured offshore.
"We saw things we never thought we would see. Not just the spray out in the distance but to see the whales up so close and then the breaching, we actually saw the whales breaching," whale watcher Kathy Ross said.
If you don't see a whale on your trip, you'll receive a voucher to come back on a later cruise.