October to December offers the best opportunity to see Bryde’s whales off the coast in Phetchaburi.
Between now and the end of the year is peak season for spotting Thailand’s largest mammal, which can be found closer to the shore where it feeds on the abundance of anchovies that are present in the region’s waters.
The abundance of fish occurs as fresh water is drained from the mainland by five major rivers: the Mae Klong River, the Tha Chin River, the Phetchaburi River, the Bang Pakong River, and the Chao Phraya River.
The nutrient rich water then becomes the perfect environment for small fish such as anchovies and mackerel, which in turn become a meal for the whales.
The whales are present in Thai waters all year round, although the rainy season offers the best opportunity to see them.
They can be seen throughout the Gulf and even further south near Surin Island in Phang Nga Province and Racha Noi-Racha Yai Island in Phuket.
In Phetchaburi, the Bryde’s whales (pronounced ‘Broo-dess’) can often be seen near Phak Bia Cape in Ban Laem and at Hat Chao Samran beach, but they are also present in the waters along the upper Gulf of Thailand, including in Samut Sakhon at Tambon Bang Taboon.
In Ban Laem, the community along with the Laem Phak Bia Bryde’s Whale Society operate tours from Laem Phak Bia Pier, while fishing boats are put on for whale watching from Hat Chao Samran pier.
While it is difficult to predict exactly when and where to spot the whales, they are most likely to be seen during high tide and when the water is calm.
Byrde’s whales can grow to approximately 15 metres in length and weigh up to 18 tonnes and are grey and black in colour.
They spend most of their time alone or in pairs, although herds of up to 10 may be seen feeding together.
The whales are sometimes first spotted by the flock of seagulls which follow them as they also try to feed on the anchovies.
When not feeding, they come to the surface to breathe, inhaling air before submerging again.
In 2012, it was estimated that only 20 remained in the Gulf of Thailand, but now the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources say there are approximately 70 living in the Gulf.
Part of the resurgence of the Byrde’s whales found in local waters has been due to the pandemic, which resulted in a temporary shutdown of activities, reduced human mobility and demand on resources, which in turn allowed marine environments to not only recover but thrive.
If you do go whale watching in Phetchaburi, remember to have your camera ready as you will only have a few seconds to capture the breathtaking moment.
It is always recommended to go whale watching as part of a tour or organised trip and always respect the nature and marine environment.
A tour boat should keep some distance between the whales, ensuring not to disturb them.
Anyone interested in whale watching is advised to contact TAT Phetchaburi for more information (facebook.com/tatphetfanpage).