WHY FLY TO SAN JUAN ISLAND TO SEE WHALES?
The better question might be, why wouldn't you? Nothing is quite like taking off from Seattle in a seaplane and flying over the Salish Sea. The spectacular 50 scenic flight culminates in the quaint town of Friday Harbor. The perfect place for a whale and wildlife adventure.
Besides the fact that the San Juan Islands are one of the most beautiful places in the world, they also happen to be in the heart of whale territory in the Pacific Northwest. Your best opportunities for whale and the most diverse wildlife is in the San Juan Islands.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO SEE WHALES?
The San Juan Islands (90 miles north of Seattle) is the best place to see Orca Whales, as well as Humpbacks and Minkes, in the world. Whales range through the Salish Sea the most between March and October, although we do have sightings throughout the year. Faster boats, flexible trip duration, and our departure location help ensure that our sightings are as high as, or higher than, any operator in the area.
You can expect to see Orca Whales on the vast majority of our tours, and when Orcas aren't in the area we usually encounter Humpback Whales and Minke Whales. Keep in mind that the Orca Whales we see do travel completely out of the area to the Pacific Ocean from time to time throughout the season and that every year is different depending upon what is happening in the ecosystem.
Even the few tours that don’t include whales are worthwhile with spectacular island scenery, Bald Eagles, Porpoises, Seals, Sea Lions, and lots of interesting sea birds.
WHAT HAPPENS IF WE DON'T SEE WHALES?
Well, it doesn’t happen very often, but don’t panic if it does. Some of our best tours have been encounters with Porpoises, Harbor Seals, Bald Eagles, and Steller Sea Lions. Of course, we are always looking for whales, as well as other wildlife, during our trip and there are often times when we leave the dock without a whale report only to find some along the way.
With the best crew around, we strive to make every tour the very best it can be and if there are whales in the area we will make every effort to share them with you. And, don’t forget that the beautiful island scenery alone is worth the price of the tour.
With that said, guest satisfaction is our primary goal. No one can control wildlife and weather. They are completely up to mother nature, and there are never any guarantees. However, in addition to all the other beautiful wildlife of the San Juan Islands, we want to give you every opportunity to experience the wonder of encountering and learning about whales in their natural environment. That is why, in the rare occurrence that you don’t see whales (Orcas, Humpbacks, Minkes, Grays, Fins, etc.) on one of our tours, we happily invite you to come again on the boat tour for free. You will receive a voucher code after the tour good for the number of people in your party. Vouchers are not transferrable but have no expiration. This policy only applies to the boat tour portion of a flight package.
IS THE MORNING TOUR BETTER THAN THE AFTERNOON TOUR?
We always like to say that no two whale watching tours are the same. That is the honest truth. It is hard to say whether the morning is better or the afternoon is better, because usually if we have whales in the area we will see them on both trips. However, there are days when the whales may not be found by the morning tour or they may be out of range for the afternoon tour. Mornings can be a little mellower out on the water, people wise. But, in the end there really isn’t much difference between sightings in the morning or afternoon, the best way to decide is to look at your schedule and plan accordingly.
HOW CLOSE DO YOU GET TO THE WHALES?
There is always an urge to experience the whales and wildlife as close as possible. However, we have to remember that we are viewing these animals in their environment and it is best to see how they live without our interference. With this in mind we operate under guidelines and regulations that are in place to help ensure that we don’t change their behavior or interfere with their life cycles. Our guidelines change from year to year based upon the most recent scientific research. What you can expect is that we will not approach the whales within 200 yards in US waters and 200 meters in Canadian waters when we are viewing them. However, keep in mind that these distances on the water will still offer an excellent viewing experience when you are viewing a close to 30 ft long animal.
WHAT SHOULD WE BRING?
While the San Juan Islands have some of the best weather around in the Summer, we are still in the Pacific Northwest and you can always plan on it being about 10-15 degrees cooler out on the water. So, layered clothing is the key and remember you will be on a boat, so sensible shoes are best. Also, don’t forget to bring a camera (300 mm lens or bigger recommended for shooting wildlife), binoculars (we also have loaners available), sunglasses, and sunscreen. Most importantly though, bring a fun attitude! This will make your whale watching trip all the more enjoyable.
WILL I GET SEASICK?
It is very rare for people to get seasick on our boats. Both boats are very stable and the Salish Sea, where we operate, is relatively protected and is not subject to the large ocean swells one experiences out on the coast. However, some people are very susceptible to motion sickness. If you are one of those people you may want to take a non-drowsy (unless you want to pay for a nice long nap on the boat) motion sickness medication. We also have Sea Bands on board for guest use. Just ask the naturalist when you board.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLACE TO STORE PERSONAL ITEMS?
We do! We have benches that we can lock up while you are out on the whale watching tour or while you are exploring the town.