I am always one for investing in experiences. Yes, things are great (I buy myself a little something every raise or promotion to commemorate) but years down the road, I firmly believe that experiences are the things you will remember. So spend the extra money when you are traveling to climb to the top of the tower or see the exhibit because that is what you will remember.
That is why, for my sister's 25th birthday, I gave her tickets to go whale watching off of the San Francisco coast. She has loved whales for as long as I can remember and what better treat than to spend a day searching for them in their natural habitat?
I spent quite a bit of time researching whale watching trips and overwhelmingly, SF Whale Tours came up time and time again. I couldn't have been happier with SF Whale Tours. The guides were knowledgable, the captain was experienced, confident and calm (three things that you WANT in a captain) The boat was also really good at handling the waves (although I would recommend taking Dramamine)
We started out the day cruising along the coast on the hunt for humpback whales. I really found it interesting that the way they find these whales is searching for large gatherings of birds. When the whales swim around, the fish flee and are pushed up to the surface where birds hover to get a meal. So if you see a lot of birds above, that likely means something is stirring the pot underneath the water. This was true in our case and a beautiful humpback swam right out of the water taking a big gulp of krill. We were fortunate to get so close to the whale they call "Curly" because of his curved dorsal fin.
After hanging out with the whale for awhile, we jetted off to the Farallon islands. These islands are about 30 miles off of the coast and in pre-historic times were connected to the mainland. They since have been separated from the shore and remain a haven for all sorts of bird and mammal life. The islands themselves look pretty desolate when you approach them. There isn't any vegetation of any kind except two trees that sit close to two houses built in the early 1900s to house scientists. Only park rangers are allowed on the island. Not that you would want to be vacationing there because the smell is terrible. Because of all of the birds and the seal and the sea lions, the smell almost knocks you out. Like the worst port-a-potty you can imagine. Glamourous? No. But it was amazing to see.
As we headed back to the Bay, Amanda (my sis) and I munched on our Lucca sandwiches (they are seriously the best sandwiches to bring on picnics) We had the opportunity to spot one more whale before crossing under the Golden Gate. As we returned home to the dock, I realized how much I love this city and how happy I am to be here. It's funny because each time I leave, I appreciate it even more coming back.
Ultimately, we were so happy with the day. Being out on the water and getting to see these huge animals in nature was such a wonderful gift. We both completely passed out when we got home because we were so exhausted from our adventures. I hope you enjoy this little snapshot of our trip. If you are visiting San Francisco any time soon, I encourage you to book a whale watching trip. Just don't forget the Dramamine ;-)