Selecting a whale-watching tour from the plethora of options you are likely to find online, or the brochures you find in your local hotel or tourist office, is not easy. Your final choice may be based mostly on proximity and convenience, but hopefully after visiting this site, you will also want to ensure that you choose a responsible operator. The following questions will help you make the right choice. Asking these questions directly to operators during your email booking, visit to their office, or telephone conversations will demonstrate that consumers value responsible behaviour, and will thus encourage tour operators to offer more than just the thrill of getting close to whales or dolphins in the wild:
- Do you adhere to any local or national whale-watching guidelines or regulations? It is unlikely that any operator will answer “no” –but asking the question shows that you are aware that they should be following guidelines, and that as a client you view this as important. You may want to do some homework in advance and consult the guidelines and regulations section of this site to learn about the regulations that are in place in your whale watching destination. Where local or national guidelines or regulations exist, operators should display them visibly in their office and/or on their vessels. Where there are no formal regulations in place, the following questions become even more important for you to ask.
- How do you ensure that your tours/boats are causing minimal disturbance to the animals? A good operator should be able to give you some specific examples of measures they take to avoid disturbance – such as respecting approach distances, not approaching groups of whales that are already surrounded by other boats, limiting the amount of time they spend with an individual whale or group of dolphins, taking extra care around mothers and calves, etc. Remember, that research has shown that vessels respecting approach distances and allowing the whales or dolphins to choose how they will interact with the boat generally enjoy more rewarding and longer encounters with the animals than those that approach too quickly, chase, or crowd the animals. As a potential client – you have enormous power to show that you are aware of this fact, and that you will expect your operator to be aware of it as well.