Whale watching in the San Juans provides a chance to see whales thriving in the wild. Residents and tourists from other areas don’t often get to see this because of where they live or the expense of going to tourist-heavy destinations where orcas or other whales are displayed in captivity.
TV whale vs. real-life whale: is there really any difference?
Not many people realize the charm of seeing whales in real life, though images of them are widely available on TV and the internet. Seeing an orca up-close-and-personal is truly a magical event to commemorate—likely to remain in your mind’s eye for an entire lifetime. It is somewhat like the first time you visited a zoo—you might have recognized the animals from your picture books, but seeing those same animals living and breathing in front of you is a momentous event.
It doesn’t even matter if you personally like whales or not. Seeing whales frolic in their natural habitat can make the most indifferent person giddy with happiness. Like your first zoo trip, you might forget the date of when you went, but you never forget the feeling of seeing animals up close for the first time.
Whale watching: more than just a another form of entertainment
While it is true that encountering a whale for the first time can be joyous, San Juan Islands whale watching is more educational than a trip for mere fun or tourism’s sake. San Juan Island tour companies encourage everyone to visit the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor before taking a whale-watching tour. This gives tourists a better idea of what they are about to witness at sea.
Moreover, observing whales in their natural habitat lends viewers some basic knowledge on how these amazingly large sea creatures live and interact with other sea creatures. For many, it becomes a clarion call to take action that will preserve these threatened creatures and keep them from becoming extinct due to human carelessness.
It is worthy to note that whale watching is not as clear-cut as visiting a local zoo. For one, whale watching usually happens in the middle of the vast sea. So, there is no way to exactly tell if a whale or a pod of Orcas will be swimming within your line of sight or not. Furthermore, since these are wild aquatic animals, they are not required to make an appearance to meet the tour’s schedule.
This is why whale watching should be treated as a precious, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is not every day that you get the chance to see a live, wild whale, even if it is through the lens of binoculars or a camera. Nonetheless, make sure you visit during the time of the year when they most active. In the San Juan Islands several Orca pods annually visit from late Spring into the Fall.
Though some may not be so lucky to see whales during their particular tour, it is still not a complete waste of time and money; the rich aquatic ecosystem of the San Juans is teeming with other rarely seen animals as compensation for what you otherwise missed.
Booking a whale-watching tour
There are a number of day charters and tours around Friday Harbor that offer tourists this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you fancy whale watching while aboard a classic schooner, there is even a whale watching tour company that offers serene, low-impact tours under sail.
Whale watching: Trip of a Lifetime, Telegraph.co.uk
Whale and dolphin watching, USWhales.org