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Smaller crowds allowed during whale watching trips in Santa Barbara

Whale watching
John Palminteri
Whale watching trips on the Condor Express have resumed after they were stopped due to COVID-19 rules. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Whale watching
John Palminteri
Whale watching trips on the Condor Express have resumed after they were stopped due to COVID-19 rules. (Photo: John Palminteri)
whale watching
John Palminteri
Whale watching trips on the Condor Express have resumed after they were stopped due to COVID-19 rules. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Whale watching
John Palminteri
Whale watching trips on the Condor Express have resumed after they were stopped due to COVID-19 rules. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Whale watching
John Palminteri
Whale watching trips on the Condor Express have resumed after they were stopped due to COVID-19 rules. (Photo: John Palminteri)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The the most well known whale watching vessel out of the Santa Barbara harbor, the Condor Express, has been approved to resume day trips by the Santa Barbara County Health Department.

The whale watching business was shut down due to COVID-19 rules but changes have been made to reopen.

The boat trips are going out daily in a fully sanitized boat, crew members will be wearing protective masks. The business is also requiring passenger to wear masks and for watchers to social distance from other passengers.

To make operations safe and running smoothly, the Condor Express is only taking on 39 percent of its normal passenger limit.

One of the passengers, Ryan Gracey says everyone on board received the guidelines on spacing and wearing a mask. It was not hard to comply because they are similar requirements elsewhere, "They gave us the protocol," said Gracey. "They told us all the things they do to keep it clean and sanitized and make sure everyone is safe and social distancing."

Condor Express' Captain Dave Beezer says normally the vessel can take up to 127 passengers. "We are holding far less than 40 percent of that. This gives everybody plenty of room to spread out."

All of the new sanitation plans were cleared through the Santa Barbara County Health Department.

"We have an extra crew member dedicated just to sanitize the boat," said Beezer. "During the cruise, they are constantly roaming around making sure all the hand rails are wiped down."

They also extensively clean before and after each trip.

It's not easy, however, to keep everyone spaced out when a whale is spotted, but the crew says the vessel is very large and that helps.

"Everybody respects everyone's space and it's really a fun environment out there and it's really nice to get people out of their homes and back out on to the ocean," said Beezer.

Whale watching happens throughout the year.   

Some months are busier than others. These days, "We've got humpback whales out there, fin whale out there, minky whales and blue whales, and we have an endless amounts of dolphins."

"We've been out on the water many times and I've never seen a blue whale so that was pretty incredible," said Gracey.

For more information go to: Condor Express.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.