Whale-watchers off Dana Point got the Christmas gift of a lifetime last week when a trio of gray whales was spotted frolicking with scores of dolphins and sea lions.
Capt. Steve Plantz is a lifelong ocean explorer who has led tours with Captain Dave’s Dana Point Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari for the past two years. He said to see the gray whales alone would have been a sight, but to see all the sea creatures floating in unison was a rarity.
Plantz took a group of whale-watchers out to sea on Christmas Eve aboard the Manute’a, a 50-foot catamaran sailboat. The goal was to find marine mammals, including gray whales, who are most often spotted between December and May during their annual migration from north of Alaska to the lagoons of Baja California.
What the 49 passengers witnessed instead was a water ballet among the animals.
“It’s definitely a top-tier kind of sighting,” Plantz said.
In a video published Friday, aerial footage captured by drone pilot Grayden Fanning shows the whales swaying from side to side as Pacific white-sided dolphins jump and spin, cruising the pressure wave created by the massive mammals. Nearby, sea lions splash while a flock of seagulls flies overhead.
Plantz said there were two adults and one juvenile among the whales. He thinks a courtship was brewing, which piqued the curiosity of the dolphins.
The boat includes an underwater viewing area for passengers — whom Plantz described as ecstatic about the water show — to observe the dolphins. It’s not uncommon to see the animals this time of year, he said, when they come in closer to the shore as the waters cool.
The tour lasted longer than the typical 2 1/2 hours as the excursion traveled farther from the harbor, following the whales down the coast toward Camp Pendleton.
Dana Point was recently deemed the whale and dolphin capital of the world. Plantz said seeing both sea creatures swimming alongside each other really drove that message home.
“It’s a special treat to see that.”