Transient Encounter North of Active Pass – A Fabulous Trip to Canada

[Lauren Fritz, M/V Sea Lion, 08/23/17, 1:30 pm Tour]

Some days – you go to Canada to whale watch! What a delight it is to live on an island where another country is mere minutes away by boat. If you come out whale watching with San Juan Safaris, you just might have a chance to depart Friday Harbor and head up north or west into the waters of our Canadian neighbors. This is exactly what we did today. A group of transient orcas had been reported up north in the Strait of Georgia, but lucky for us, they were headed in our direction. After our wildlife introduction and safety briefing, Captain Gabe, Naturalist Kelsey, and I cast the lines and cruised on our way to see where the day would take us.

Today was a little chilly here in the San Juans – it seems that fall is on the horizon. Our cozy blankets were passed around, and once guests were snuggled up, we had plenty of time to soak in the amazing scenery on our route up into Canada. By the time we crossed the border, we had seen several different types of seabirds, some cute little harbor porpoises popping up around us, and even a few harbor seals blinking their big puppydog eyes in our direction. Naturalist Kelsey and I pointed out some of our favorite islands, and I of course spent a nice bit of time drooling over the gorgeous views of Mount Baker to the west. That mountain is one of the most stunning pieces of scenery out here!

We were nearing Active Pass after about an hour – the whales were close! Captain Gabe slowed us down as we arrived on scene, and after a few moments of scanning, we spotted some blows and dorsal fins near the shoreline. The T137’s were the family of orcas that we were watching, consisting of a 34 year-old female and her three offspring: a 15-year old male and two younger orcas (5 and 11 years old). I was so excited to be able to match up some very distinct dorsal fin sightings with the photos in my ID catalogue on board. When you live in the Salish Sea, you have the opportunity to identify most of the orcas you see on a regular basis, because we have a relatively small amount of frequent visitors (if you can count 200-300 orcas as a small amount). This makes it easy to ID the family and speak to which whales you’re watching! We loved watching this family as they continued to head north.

It was a whirlwind trip, with lots of beautiful views and some amazing wildlife encounters. We relaxed on the way home, enjoying the breeze in our faces and the rhythmic splash of water on the hull of Sea Lion as she glided back towards Friday Harbor. Thanks to those of you who joined us on the tour today. It was wonderful to have you out there!

Naturalist Lauren

San Juan Safaris


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