There’s no better way to start a whale watch than with a solid, confirmed report of killer whales, and that is just what we got today before we even left the dock. A group of four transient killer whales were sighted just off of the west side of San Juan Island, not a long boat ride from Friday Harbor. We set off north to circle around the island through Spieden Pass and almost immediately spotted their blows and jet-black dorsal fins traveling quietly through the water.


Transient killer whales are exclusively marine mammal eaters, focusing 60% of their diet on harbor seals alone. Due to the perceptive nature of their prey of choice, transients usually travel silently, limiting their vocal interactions and any splashy surface activity so as not to alert their prey of their presence. So when these four whales started splashing and circling, flashing bright white tail flukes out of the water, we knew they were already locked on to something yummy.


We observed three adult females and one calf take down what was presumably a harbor seal for a good amount of time before they resumed their silent travel, changing directions sporadically. After a particularly long jog of sub-surface travel, we observed the same splashy activities all over again. What a lucky hunting day for these whales! They finished up yet another course of their meal and travelled beside us heading west before we had to turn around and head home.


We docked as a light rain shower blew in, thankful for how fortunate we were to witness wild animals performing their wild behaviors in their natural habitat. How lucky we are that such fierce and beautiful animals share their waters with us!


Naturalist Sarah C.

M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris