Nestled beneath the Cape May bridge in the heart of Utsch’s Marina is the 100 foot American Star, the flagship of the Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center. Owned and operated by the Cicchitti’s, the family that started eco-tourism, over 30 years ago back in 1987.
Walk up the metal gangway and set out on a memory making trip with the kids looking for whales and dolphins. The American Star is staffed every trip with a dedicated team of marine naturalists who will point out whales and dolphins. The staff can even identify repeat sightings by the shapes of tails and dorsal fins. And since Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center participates with Whale SENSE you are guaranteed to view these animals with the utmost respect.
Our trip was crewed with Matt, Kathleen and Melissa. All degreed marine biologists. The knowledge they share is educational and entertaining. You get the feeling that local boats, private and commercial follow the American Star, because they know what they are doing.
Melissa carefully explained the life of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins seen on our trip. One of the things that she said that I thought was cool was that when you see a pod of dolphins, there are as many under the water as there are on the surface. That’s a lot of dolphins!
Mating Season Lasts All Year. Unlike many other animals, dolphins have no true mating season. Males will court females and may mate at any time, although mating occurs more frequently after calving season. Although female dolphins can give birth to a calf every two years, in most cases, there is a three-year interval.
Back at my hotel people ask if you actually see whales and dolphins on “those boats?” Yes, yes you do I usually reply. Whales have been especially more active in the spring with bait plentiful in the cleaner ocean waters off Cape May. The Coast Guard issues speed restrictions on vessels traveling through areas know to have migrating whales.
What sets this experience apart from others is the role of citizen scientists in supporting the research. Kids will truly love the interactive exhibits and explanations of the trip.
Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center carefully researched and located the vessel American Star all the way up in Seward, Alaska. Knowing this ship would hold up to 150 people with heated, carpeted interiors, the Cicchitti family had her shipped all the way down the west coast, through the Panama Canal and up to Florida.
Andrew Cicchitti picked her up in Ft. Lauderdale, and safely piloted the American Star 1000 miles up the east coast. If that is not dedication to eco-tourism, I’m not sure what is?
The vessel is set up for up-close viewing of whales and dolphins. While underway you can almost taste the saltiness in the air. The trip is part sight-seeing boat-ride, part classroom education, but pure excitement the first time someone shrieks about a dolphin breaking out of the water or chasing the boats wake.
If you are looking for a memory making excursion this vacation season, check out the Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center. Your family will have one of the best experiences on vacation.
All photos below were taken by me, with my Canon 7D and a 70-200mm lens. You will get as many nice photos on your trip.