Upon departing Friday Harbor, our guests were eager to suit-up in the bright yellow rain slickers we provide onboard; a little rain was not going to stop this group from having a wonderful time. So, with a pair of binoculars in hand, a sense of adventure in our hearts, and a boat full of positive attitudes, we were ready to see what the day would bring and boy, we were not disappointed!
Having heard reports of whale activity, Captain Craig took us east through Upright Channel and around the north end of Lopez Island where we found 6 Transient Orca Whales surfacing and traveling together in Swifts Bay on the northeast side of the island. There were 2 large males and 2 youngsters in the pod. The whales would surface 3-4 times before diving for several minutes. Transient Killer Whales tend to be stealthier than the fish-eating Resident whales, because they hunt intelligent prey (marine mammals), so they did keep us guessing in which direction to look as they would surface somewhere new after each dive.
The whales then began to slowly travel south towards Thatchers Pass. Again they would surface a few times in close proximity with each other before diving for several minutes but they were more predictably traveling in an easterly direction allowing us to anticipate in which direction to look and providing even better viewing and photo opportunities.
After leaving the whales we headed west between Shaw Island and Orcas Island, taking in the beautiful scenery and picking out a few of our dream homes. As we approached Spieden Island at least 10 Harbor Porpoise were foraging in the highly productive waters off Green Point. As we motored along the length of the island we captured great views of the Mouflon Sheep and even saw a few Sika Deer. As we rounded Sentinel Island several Harbor Seals were swimming in the water, taking curious looks at us before diving, while at least 20 seals were resting unfazed by the rain. It was then time to head back to Friday Harbor but not before we saw a bald eagle perched on top of a tree on the southwest corner of Sentinel Island.
So, the lesson for today is: DO NOT let a little rain scare you away from a whale watching and wildlife tour in the San Juan Islands!
Amy, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours