I was provided with a complimentary tour or the purpose of review, but all opinions are my own.
Every once in a while in life, you come across an experience so unbelievable that it is not likely to be replicated again in your lifetime. My trip out into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on a Fast Raft Ocean Safari earlier this month was one such experience. In fact, even now, it is hard for me to believe it happened and that I actually came literally face to face with two humpback whales. If you are looking for the best way to get out and explore wildlife including sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals and of course whales, up close and personal, I can promise you, there is no better way to do it than on Fast Raft’s boat, Ranger.
About the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was officially designated in 1992. It includes 276 miles of ocean shoreline, 4,601 square nautical miles of ocean, and reaches 12,713 feet at it’s deepest point. It is a protected haven for 180 species of seabirds, 34 species of marine mammals, as well as 525 species of fish. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was created for the purposes of conservation of resources, education, research and public use. Today, it is one of the best areas for up-close encounters with sea life.
Fast Raft Ocean Safaris
Fast Raft Tours
provides ocean safari tours out into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary daily. I was lucky enough to experience two different tours when we visited earlier this month. Our captain, Captain Kate Spencer was not only a wealth of knowledge, but as a naturalist, biologist and former wildlife illustrator at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, her enthusiasm for the sea life around us and for her job shown through. For me, that is what took the tour from a spectacular experience to one that was out of this world!
Captain Kate Spencer and the Fast Raft Boat, Ranger.
The Fast Raft boat, Ranger, is a 33ft. Rigid-hull Inflatable Boat with two low emission four-stroke 250HP engines. What does this mean? It can be fast, really fast! Also, is provides an open 360 degree view of your surroundings, is sturdy, and so quiet you won’t even know it’s on. Perfect for wildlife viewing and photography!
Traditionally, Fast Raft offers two different types of tours, the first of which is a Monterey Bay Coastal Safari. On this 2 1/2 hour tour you will explore Point Lobos and surrounding areas, with the opportunity to see sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, dolphins and more! This is what we did on our first trip out, and we were lucky enough to see a raft of four mother sea otters with their pups, lounging sea lions on a bouy, and even caught a sea otter with his crab lunch who fought off a sea gull or two. It was an exciting experience to be that close to animals I had never seen in the wild before.
Group of sea lions by the marina.
Sea lions resting on buouy.
A sea otter with his fresh catch of crab.
Sea gull eyeing the sea otter’s lunch.
Sea gull is closing in.
The otter ducked underwater for a few seconds and tried to get away, but the seagulls persisted.
The otter has decided to fight back with these two juvenile seagulls, after the adult seagull flew off with half of his meal.
The second type of tour offered by Fast Raft is a Whale Watching Safari
from Moss Landing. On this tour, you not only have the opportunity to see all of the marine life in the Coastal Safari, but also the chance to see whales up close and personal. Depending on the area and time of year, you might see humpback whales, killer whales or blue whales. On our trip out, we were not only lucky enough to see two humpback whales, but they were incredibly friendly and frolicked right up next to our boat for quite a while.
Two humpback whales.
Notice the barnacles on the edges of his tail.
They’re getting closer to the boat.
Close-up of one whale surfacing and its blowhole.
Dorsal fin on the back of one of the whales.
Barnacles on the tail of one of the whales.
Top of the head and blow hole of one of the whales.
Head, chin and barnacles under the chin of a humpback whale.
Check out this video captured by our Captain.
This was an incredible opportunity, and I can’t even explain how thrilling it feels to be mere feet away from such a majestic creature. This is where I am glad I was on a boat like Fast Raft’s Ranger. A larger whale watching boat came up after a while and was packed with people and sat high up in the air. While they struggled to get a glimpse of the whale, we had been close enough to touch them with no obstruction of view.
Monterey coastline from the boat once the sun came out!
Sea lions catching some sun on the rocks.
Marina in the afternoon sun from the boat.
If you are in the Monterey area, or are planning to visit, I highly recommend you look into taking a trip with Fast Raft Tours. Rates for both the Coastal Safari and Whale Watching Safari are $140 per person and are worth every penny! Tours are open to ages 12 and up. There are only 6 seats on each tour though, so be sure to buy early and book in advance. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!