“A Whale Tale”
Anyone who loves the environment and wildlife is in for a real treat when they visit Cape Cod Bay, which is home to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This area of Cape Cod Bay was designated a marine sanctuary in 1972, and it is where whales and their calves feed on the abundance of sand lice, which are also known as sand eels. While feeding, some whales can be seen by watchers “breaching”, which is when they lift themselves almost fully out of the water. It is an awe-inspiring sight, and one that any visitor to the area should not miss.
The most commonly seen whale species in Stellwagen Bank are Humpback, Fin, Minkie, Pilot and Northern Right, but you may also be treated to sightings of dolphins or porpoises. The Northern Right whale is, sadly, on the endangered species list, with a current population of only 350 compared to thousands in prior centuries. This staggering decline was due to commercial whaling in the 18th & 19th centuries, but thankfully these days the emphasis has moved from whale-hunting to whale-watching.
Mid-Cape is home to Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, which departs for Stellwagen Bank twice a day (in the season) from Barnstable Harbor. Take a few hours out to enjoy the exhilarating experience of seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, it will be a day to remember forever. Barnstable Harbor is very easily accessed from any of the wonderful inns which together form the Classic Inns of Historic Cape Cod Bay. Stay at one of these inns, and enjoy a Whale-Watching trip as a very special part of your Cape Cod vacation. And if you take an afternoon Whale-Watch trip, what better way to end your day than to have dinner at the Mattakeese Wharf Restaurant, which overlooks Barnstable Harbor, and is right next to where the Whale-Watch boat docks. Try to be there to see the sunset – the views over the harbor are spectacular, and you’ll take away even more wonderful Cape Cod memories.
Cape Cod is also home to the global headquarters of IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, who work tirelessly to improve the welfare of all wild and domestic animals. But the relevance for Cape Cod is that they are deeply involved in innovative marine mammal research and education, which is conducted from their high-tech ship the “Song of the Whale”.
You can learn more about whales and the efforts to protect them at http://www.whales.org or http://www.whalecenter.org.