Whale watching in Kochi(高知) prefecture has been one of my personal highlights since arriving in Japan last year. With the warm weather approaching, now is the perfect time to plan your own whale watching adventure!
There are a number of locations in Kochi that provide whale watching excursions. U.S.A. whale watching is one company close to Kochi city that is based in Usa Shiokaze Park(宇佐しおかぜ公園), a 45 minute bus ride from Kochi city. A day’s excursion departing in the morning costs 6,000 yen per person. Most of the excursions depart in the morning, usually at 9:00am. Our group was advised to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure in order to fill out some paperwork.
The excursions take place on small fishing boats, which usually accommodate a maximum of 12 people. This means that the boats are small enough to get pretty close to the whales. As the trip runs well into the afternoon, be sure to eat before you go and take some snacks for the boat, along with plenty to drink. The pacific ocean waves can be quite big, so those who suffer from motion sickness may also want to take some medication before departing, as the ride can be a little choppy.
The best time to see whales is between May and September, and there’s a higher chance of spotting Bryde’s whales in Kochi than any other part of Japan.
On the day I went in August, my group was informed that we had around an 80% chance of seeing a whale. Our boat headed out west from Kochi, down the coast and after about two hours we spotted our first whales. We actually saw a whole family of whales up close, not just once but several times. We were able to take some amazing photos and I found it really moving to be able to witness the whales in their own habitat, free from captivity and the dangers of being hunted. I believe the more tourism can support these kinds of trips, the less local people will have to rely on the old hunting traditions to earn a living.
Whale watching is a unique and highly enjoyable day trip, making it well worth a visit to this part of Shikoku. In addition to excursions from Usa Bay, other companies based in Kochi are in Katsurahama (also close to Kochi city), Muroto on the east coast and in Cape Ashizuri on the west coast.
To get to Kochi, ANA and JAL airlines have many daily flights from major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, which take around one hour. To access Kochi via train, you can take the Shinkansen bullet train to Okayama and transfer to a JR train direct to Kochi. The train from Okayama to Kochi takes two and a half hours.
Buses depart from Kochi station bus terminal to Usa at 6.45am or 7.40am to arrive in time for a 9am start.
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