Humpbacks and Orcas Make for a Smashing Day on the Water

Lauren Fritz, Naturalist, 6/7/17, Sea Lion 12pm tour

Whale, whale, whale…what have we here? Is it a humpback? Or an orca? When you see something splashing through the water out here on the Salish Sea, there’s a few check points you can go through automatically in your head to determine what sort of animal you’re looking at. First of all, how big is it? What color? Is there a tiny dorsal fin, or none at all? Yesterday, we were able to spot three humpbacks out on the water just north of San Juan Island in the Haro Strait. These animals are easy to identify because of their regular breathing patterns and beautiful, distinctive tail flukes. They also have small dorsal fins, and huge bodies – up to 50 feet!

When we search for orcas, we look for some entirely different characteristics. After viewing these humpbacks, we continued south to meet up with some Transients. No mistaking these animals – huge black dorsal fins towered above the surface of the water, wobbling slightly back and forth as the orcas came up to breath. We were able to see 3 families all traveling together, and what a sight to see! The T124’s, T124A’s and T101’s were out and about. These animals are so social and rely on their family members for survival. They hunt together, rest together, travel together, socialize together. They literally take care of one another, and have some amazing bonds. To see that in action is incredibly humbling.

It was a perfect day out on the water. Not only did we enjoy viewings of humpbacks and orcas, we were also able to circumnavigate San Juan Island – not one bit of the coastline was left as a mystery today! We stopped by Cattle Point and checked out some Steller’s Sea Lions as a finale to the trip.

Before you leave, check out these dorsal fins! How beautiful are these whales?

Lauren Fritz, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris


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