This past weekend I went on a fabulous getaway with my husband up to the San Juan Islands near the border of Washington and Canada. I have been there a few times and my husband never had the chance. It’s a really gorgeous place, completely green and secluded with abundant wildlife. We saw deer, bunnies, sheep, and numerous birds. The deer are especially content on these islands as the only predators are birds of prey.
Photo by Ephus Bailey.
We also saw whales on a whale watching excursion. This is something I have wanted to do since I was a wee lady (I couldn’t very well say ‘lad’ could I?) (my mother reminded me that I could have said ‘lass’ there, ah well.) But it is an expensive luxury that I never had the opportunity to partake in. When I met my husband, in the early dating days, he told me that he wanted to take me whale watching. 3 years later we got our chance.
Photo by tibchris.
About a month ago Groupon had a whale watching deal for 50% off tickets. The tickets were still expensive, in my opinion, but we went for it. They just don’t get cheaper than that around here. So I planned a whole weekend around this opportunity, of which I’ll detail in my next post. It was a harrowing weekend with hitchhiking, a sore gluteus minimus, wind-burned faces, and fear of being frolicked to death by bunnies and fawns.
So. Whale watching.
The San Juan Islands are where the orcas like to summer along the west coast from May to September. They were my favorite animal growing up, many an orca I have Crayola’d. And no, it’s not a “killer whale”. Because it is an orca. And that’s that.
To sum up our excursion, it was kind of lame. It was pleasant and fun. The “naturalists” on board were characters and certainly knowledgeable, no problem with them. But about the first 2 hours of the trip was spent putting around the north end of San Juan Island seeing little to no wildlife but birds. It was a little dull. It was nothing we hadn’t seen on the hours of ferry-riding thus far.
Photo by Chrissy Gombos.
When we did get to where a pod of orcas were grazing, we mostly just saw the occasional dorsal fin. It was like a meteor shower, but faster. “Look! There’s one! Aw you missed it. There’s another! Man, they’re quick!”
They fail to inform you that the boat has to stay quite a distance away from the animals, which I respect. But they should inform you that it’s annoyingly far. Don’t expect Shamu to come right up to the boat.
Our whale watching boat. Photo by Jeff Henshaw.
I saw one whale breach. If I hadn’t seen it I might not have even been sure that they were orca dorsal fins. Pretty disappointing.
I understand that the tour operators can’t control what the animals are doing that day, so I don’t completely blame them. I just wish they were a bit more upfront about what to expect. Out of the 4 hour tour, we had about 20 minutes of dorsal fin spotting. That was the “whale watching”. Alas. My childhood expectations ruined me.
This is basically what we saw of the whales. Photo by spacecrafty.
Recommendation: Don’t pay full price. In fact, pay nothing more than 50% for whale watching tickets up in the Juans. It was pretty enjoyable, you just have to have the right expectations. You never know, you may luck out and spot a few more playful whales than we did.