Our Favourite Whale Photos From 2021

2021 marked a great year for whale watching, whether on a boat tour, in a kayak or from shore, you shared so many incredible photographs and videos that we had to put them together in a story. Humpbacks, minke, orca whales, and more all passed our coast and put on a show like no other, and one we are likely not to forget.

Breaching, lunging, and pectoral slapping were just some of the whale moves pulled off around Newfoundland and Labrador this year. We can't help but think the whales were as happy to be here as their audience was. Here's some of our favourite whale photos (and videos) from 2021.

Whale Breach

Taken in Witless Bay, this shot of a whale breach lined up perfectly. As photographer Michael Winsor of Newfoundland Photo Tours says, "I took a picture of a breaching whale, and my buddy threw up a smokescreen!" (Also known as a whale spout.)  


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Whale of a Tail

There's something spectacular about seeing a humpback go bottoms up. Intrepid photographer Kara O'Keefe says it's a privilege to share the water with such a spectacular creature, and we're inclined to agree.  


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Up Close and Personal

Elizabeth Noftall captured this once-in-a-lifetime shot of a humpback catching some big air. This one's almost close enough to count their barnacles!


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Rare Sighting of a Sperm Whale

Captain Bob Bartlett of Trinity Eco-Tours was surprised this past August to find two sperm whales swimming around his boat. According to him, he hadn’t seen a sperm whale in the area in three years. He suggested the whales were probably looking for squid—apparently, giant squid is their favourite meal.


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Whale Watching By Night

Whales don't necessarily sleep when the sun goes down. We loved hearing about Murilo's experience watching (and listening) for humpback whales feeding off of St. Vincent's Beach:

“When I got there, the sun had already set, but there was still a bit of light and a couple of people here and there. But when darkness came, I was left with the entire beach to myself. Well, myself and 3 or 4 humpbacks that kept coming and going. It was a beautiful clear night, and even when the stars began to shine, the whales were still actively feeding and playing around. And because there was no wind, the silence was only broken by the sound of the waves and the breathing/spouting of those incredible sea titans under the stars. It was a surreal experience.”


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Whale Ballet

Who knew that a 40-ton mammal could be so graceful?

Have you ever seen a humpback whale complete a near-perfect Cambré? Iceberg Quest Tours caught this whale in action on one of their tours—no barre required.


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Orcas, Too

Sea of Whales Adventures, based in Trinity on the Bonavista Peninsula, had a particularly busy season. Humpbacks, fin whales, puffins, leatherback sea turtles, and giant sunfish all made appearances. But the guests of honour? Plenty of orca whales.


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The orcas didn’t just hang out around the Bonavista Peninsula—they spent some time in Bay Bulls, too. O’Brien’s Whale & Bird Tours (with Gatherall’s Puffin and Whale Watch) captured some footage of this pod cruising alongside with the boat.


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Here’s something you don’t see every day: spyhopping. This happens when a whale holds himself or herself vertical while rising from the water, often exposing their entire head to have a good look around. Turns out they're just as curious about their spectators as we are about them.

Here's a spyhopping whale video from Discovery Sea Adventure Tours.


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A Real Fin Slapper

Tom Cochrane seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. The whales in Trinity gave him a front-row performance this past summer:

“The side (pectoral) fins of a humpback whale are over 15 feet long, and when they're playfully slapping them against the water you can hear it from miles around.”


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A post shared by Tom Cochrane || Newfoundland (@tomcochrane)


(Feature photo by @jasoncharleshill.)

Have a whale photo or video to share? Use #ExploreNL on Instagram for a chance to be featured.

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