Although hosting a great number of wildlife creatures, the San Juan Islands’ whale watching is widely acknowledged as the best tourist attraction in the area. Not only does a glimpse of an orca offer an once-in-a-lifetime experience, the activity itself can be considered as a rare treat and privilege for the watcher.
However, mainly due to its relatively newness, whale watching in San Juan Islands caused some serious concerns for environmentalists as most of these watchers are not well-informed on the do’s and don’ts of watching orcas whilst in the wild.
Do your own research.
While your hired charter boat will surely be knowledgeable of the area and what species of whales (and dolphins, if you are lucky) you might see on the trip, it is more fun to whale-watch when you have some foreknowledge on the species you might encounter. Knowing what to expect and how it’ll look like in real life will actually help you spot whales better when they come.
As it is, you should also look at whale-watching as an educational experience and not just another novelty idea.
Choose your whale watch boat operator carefully.
Some boat operators chase and harass whales as a cheap form of entertainment for their customers. As a result, many orcas either get physically hurt or traumatized and may avoid that area altogether.
Responsible and reputable boat charters will always make the trip both educational and inspirational, and will go to extra lengths to make the activity less intrusive to the animals involved. Make sure to read customer reviews and check out the charter’s website to assure you that your whale watching will be a joyful and memorable experience.
Don’t get too close.
Whale watching is undeniably a fun experience that needs to be photographed and shared with your friends and family. However, there are some who would like to do more than just watch these giant beasts swim peacefully at a distance. While it might be tempting to ask your boat operator to get the vessel closer – either to get a better shot at the whales or maybe touch one, it will not be allowed. Both swimmers and boats are not allowed to approach whales closer than 200 meters.
Furthermore, getting too close defeats the purpose of wanting to watch them in their natural habitat. They might just swim away from you or, worse, attack your boat in groups if they are startled.
Always remember to give the whales the courtesy they deserve as you are the one visiting and passing through their ocean home.
A GUIDE TO WHALE WATCHING: THE DOS AND DON’TS, edreams.com
The Dos and Don’ts of Watching Orcas, Dolphins and Whales, care2.com