Just a few hours’ drive north of Seattle, you’ll find yourself in the idyllic maritime region of the San Juan Islands. This archipelago is made up of hundreds of large and small islands. Only a few of them are even inhabited, and a huge portion of these landforms are kept as nature preserves.
But apart from the land, the true treasures of the San Juan Islands lie within its deep blue waters. Awe-inspiring whales such as the orcas, minkes, and humpbacks grace this region with their presence to the joy and amazement of tourists. If you truly want to embark on an epic adventure, then get yourself ready for a day of whale watching.
Guidelines from the Authorities
Although the orca pod are occasionally visible right from shore San Juan Islands whale watching is most assured from a vessel. It helps to ensure that your private charter is certified to take you near the habitats of these majestic animals. Because they have traversed the straits for years, your captain and his crew are already knowledgeable about the whales, and they will provide you with enriching information during the cruise.
The Whale Museum at Friday Harbor and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) work to ensure that all tourists and tour guides strictly follow the guidelines for responsible whale watching. Perhaps the most important rule for vessels and tourists is to keep at least 200 yards away from the whales. One should never position your boat or even a kayak along their swim paths, and be mindful of any noise or sudden disturbance that might harass the orcas. Respect for the whale is the order of the day.
Get to Meet the Pods
Constantly traveling in the waters of the Haro Strait are three identified orca pods, denoted as J, K, and L. Each pod has several individual whales. The oldest ever recorded was lovingly named Granny, a true matriarch of the pods. She lived to be more than a hundred years old before she passed in 2016.
Seeing these marine wonders gracefully glide in their natural habitats can be a one-of-a-kind learning experience for young and old visitors alike. Not just for the tourists, but whale watching has become a passion for many San Juan locals as well. In fact, some of them regularly keep watch from land or via boat to see the pods and admire them from afar.
If you listen closely, you might be able to hear the distinct calls of each orca. To protect the pods and help them survive, the Whale Museum further enjoins the public to adopt a whale or make donations. “Adopting a whale” at the museum means you get regular updates and even the latest pictures of “your whale” and its pod. Your connection with the Orca doesn’t need to end with your trip to the islands.
Sail on the Wild Side
If you’re a certified nature lover, then you’re in for a treat. Whale watching isn’t the only exciting activity here. Taking a more leisurely sail on an historic wooden sailboat through the San Juan Islands, you will also catch sight of beautiful floral and faunal species found only on this side of the continent.
As you bask under the warm sun with the waves quietly lapping along your vessel, you may be lucky enough to see porpoises and sea lions. On a clear sunny day, and with a good pair of binoculars, you may even view bald eagles, falcons, wild geese, oystercatchers, and other mesmerizing birds. Keep an eye on Jones Island and Spieden Island as you sail by, and you may get a glimpse of blacktail deer and native sheep.
Explore and Discover
If you would like to get more data on the unique wildlife that the San Juan Islands proudly protects, then talk to your private charter today. They can best map out for you the ideal cruise to safely catch sight of these marvelous animals and more. Take the whole family on this adventure, and you’ll surely enjoy a holiday unlike any other.
Whale Watching in the San Juans, WhaleMuseum.org
San Juan Island Whale and Wildlife Watching, VisitSanJuans.com
San Juan Island’s Whale Watcher, SeattleMet.com