San Juan's killer islands

Trip Start Jan 10, 2008
Trip End Oct 03, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What a killer day!

A side trip from Seattle, K and I were on a mission to find Killer Whales... apart from Great White Sharks, surely the most fearsome creatures in the sea (they hunt and eat sharks and giant whales).

I have to admit that we actually took two trips out to see the killer whales which frequent a series of islands just off the coast of the very north-west tip of north America, right near the border with Canada.

As I mentioned in our last blog, we took a whale watching cruise out of Vancouver which proved a frustrating and relative waste of money due to the fact that we spent hours simply getting to the area where the whales were and so little time actually watching them.

So we learnt the hard way that the most efficient and best way of getting to see orcas was to drive 2 to 3 hours north of Seattle to the small port town of Anacortes where we drove onto a car ferry which took us over to Friday Harbour on the main San Juan Island.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, quite unlike the volatile weather we had encountered throughout Canada.

Arriving nice and early, we drove through pleasant farming land and forested areas on our way to the other side of the island and the small marina and port where Captain Jim's Maya Cruises departed from.

We ran into Jim while there and were thrilled to get the news that as many as 70, yes SEVENTY orcas had been spotted in the area through the early stages of the day. A staggering number considering we had only seen four or five during our tour from Vancouver.

Apparently, two or three pods had come within a close vicinity of each other in order to feed on a rich supply of fish in the area.

Shortly after lunch, we all jumped aboard Jim's super little twin catamaran boat and got the exciting news that all the orcas just happened to be passing through the waters just outside the bay we were exiting from.

Within 5 minutes of cruising out of the bay, we spotted the first orcas in the distance and Jim revved up the engine and sped in their direction.

It's hard to describe all the individual encounters we had with the orcas.

Rules understandably dictate that all boats maintain a 100 metre buffer between themselves and the whales so we could only get so close but for the next three or four hours, we followed various groups of orcas as they either circled in a small area while fishing or simply cruised along the coastline of the island.

Ok, so we would have loved to see one breach up close but they're not circus animals and we were just thrilled to be out on a boat for so long watching them cruise through the waters, popping up to the surface for air every few minutes. Just don't ask me how impossible they are to photograph.... tough stuff.

It was awesome to see such large pods of orcas, including many juvenile and baby whales. They are such fearsome animals, yet today they were so casual going about their business, cruising through the waters... so while they might not have displayed any of the fierce characteristics that many associate with them, I think we saw them for the beautiful animals they really are.

It was such an incredible day of whale watching and being on a small boat with just two other couples and the captain made it such a memorable and almost intimate experience... sharing such great quality time with the whales.

Our captain, captain Jim was a lively guy that knew the San Juan Islands like the back of his hand... he had countless stories of one-time celebrity residents such as Olivia Newton John, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and he was an encyclopaedia of knowledge about the whales... all in all, he made the experience an extremely enjoyable one for us and infinitely more memorable than our slap-dash visit from Vancouver.
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ericamum on

fishing boats
Wow! again, I particularly love the fishing boat photos. I can't imagine how wonderful you must feel about being so close and seeing the whales. We must get to do more whale watching here in Sydney. Congratulation on pursuing the best viewing of the whales. love Ericamum

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