"Whale watching" is the term commonly used to describe the activity of sighting cetaceans at sea. It is a pursuit that has proved very popular around the world and is increasingly so on the Sanctuary’s borders. However, whale watching is not without its dangers: an ever-greater number of boats are used to seek out marine mammals and there is a significant risk of disturbing individual animals. Cetaceans go through different phases of activity throughout the day: sleep, hunting, reproduction, social bonding, moving to other locations. In the hope of sighting them, pleasure boaters approach too closely and disrupt their patterns, thus inducing long-term negative impacts (loss of social bonds, less effective hunting, disturbed sleep etc.).

This is why the Pelagos Sanctuary awards whale watching its full attention. More information on whale watching is available by clicking here.


Where and when can I sight cetaceans?

In the Sanctuary, mainly in the summer! You can simply leave the French Mediterranean coast behind and head out to sea and there is a good chance that you will see whales and dolphins! The summer season is best for sightings for two reasons:

  • weather: in winter, conditions are particularly harsh, windy and cold, and the sea is often choppy, making whale watching almost impossible.
  • ecology: cetaceans find the food they need within the Pelagos Sanctuary in summer! This is why many species congregate there. For a brief description of the species that are frequently found in the Sanctuary, click here.


How can I see them?

A study published in 2009, which can be downloaded  pdf here  (French version) listed all the operators of whale-watching tours along the Côte d'Azur, and specified the ecological status of their activities. They are offered training programs to help them learn and apply the elementary rules that enable this increasingly popular activity to take place without bringing harm to the animals. Pending the introduction of the official label that will enable you to identify operators who have received and successfully completed the training program, here is the list of whale-watching operators who have obtain the certification "High Quality Whale-Watching" in France.


Rules to follow

The code of good conduct was the initial step towards the development of a marine mammal sighting charter for the Mediterranean. Download the code of good conduct by clicking  pdf here .

The key features of the code of good conduct are set out in the table below:

  • Whale watching must take place at least five nautical miles from the coast
  • Whale watching must be stopped if the animals show any signs of distress
  • Any attempt to approach when newborn cetaceans are present is prohibited
  • The viewing position must be at least 100 m away from any animal
  • A boat must approach from the side, travelling from the rear to the front
  • A constant speed of no faster than 5 knots must be maintained and should match the speed of the slowest animal
  • Only one boat is allowed in the viewing area
  • A boat can remain in the viewing area for no more than 15 minutes
  • Swimming with, touching or feeding the cetaceans is prohibited