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Online Reservations

Research Vessel Sea Explorer

A 65-foot floating laboratory with five distinct teaching areas fully equipped with video microscopes, touch tanks, viewing aquariums, and state-of-the-art electronics.

Participants must be accompanied by an adult if under the age of 18. OI members enjoy a 10% discount. Click on a cruise below for more details and to make a reservation or call (949) 496-2274.


Programs and Whale Watching Cruises on the
R/V Sea Explorer

Whale Watching Cruises
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Bioluminescence Night Cruise
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Parade of Lights Cruise
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Click here to download our R/V Sea Explorer handout (PDF -- 428KB).
R/V Sea Explorer Public Programs Frequently Asked Questions >


About the R/V Sea Explorer

The Ocean Institute is a nationally recognized non-profit, educational facility specializing in marine and environmental science and maritime history. The Ocean Institute operates the 65-foot R/V Sea Explorer, a marine educational vessel that is dedicated to science-based environmental education.

RV Sea Explorer

We offer exciting whale watching programs where the public can view the whales and dolphins that make the coastal waters of Dana Point their home. Depending on the time of year, whale sightings can include Blue, Fin, Minke, and Humpback and very rarely, a small pod of Orca. In the winter and spring months, guests can spot Gray whales, which make their annual migration to and from Baja California and Alaska. In addition, we often see large pods of Common dolphins; and sometimes Bottlenose, Risso, and Pacific white-sided dolphins. Our naturalists use oceanographic equipment to sample and examine surface water, sea floor sediment, and animals that live there. Other cruises include our Bioluminescence Cruise. Held on the darkest nights of a new moon, this trip highlights animals and plants that glow in the dark.

The vessel is ideal as an educational platform. It is a floating lab equipped with onboard computers, satellite technology, touch tanks, viewing aquariums, video microscopes, and state-of-the-art electronics. A bowsprit over the water provides any passenger with a breathtaking view of dolphins, whales and sea lions.RV Sea Explorer

Research conducted aboard the vessel is integrated into our curriculum. There is no more in-depth and poignant learning opportunity for students than to participate in authentic statewide research collaborations such as the projects we have with the California Department of Public Health and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. These include:

  • A phytoplankton productivity project headed by Scripps Institution of Oceanography where we collect water samples off Dana Point that are processed and sent to Scripps for analysis. Chlorophyll in the water reflects the total mass of phytoplankton (drifting plants). These plants are at the bottom of the food chain and their accurate measurement corresponds with the health of all animals in the area.
  • Work with the California Department of Public Health monitoring blooms of plankton that might be dangerous to human populations. Certain plankton produce a biotoxin that can be fatal to birds and sea lions if ingested in large concentrations.