Archive for the ‘orca whale watching by seattle’ Category

Misty Afternoon Spent With Killer Whales

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Well, well, well, we have whales again! It’s been a great summer with lots of whales and today was no different. Unlike the past few days, the whales decided to take a jaunt up north towards Active Pass in Canadian waters. This was quite alright with Captain Mike, Naturalist Heather, passengers aboard M/V Sea Lion, and myself, since we are always a fan of crossing over into the friendly waters of our Canadian Neighbors. Aside from the occasional warnings that pop up on your cellphone, the sheer cliff-sides and calm waters associated with the Gulf Islands are more than enough to make up for those pesky warnings. And I’d say the whales agree, since we were accompanied by not only J pod, but also members of L Pod as well!

The resident orcas appeared to be in resting mode, slowly meandering up through Swanson Channel just west of South Pender Island. Not a bad place to watch them cruising along as the fog slowly creeped along the tops of the islands, and the orcas below releasing powerful breaths. It was quite the beauty overload today, and was only enhanced by the misty afternoon weather! Here’s hoping for another true pacific northwest feeling day on the water!


Caitlin, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris, M/V Sea Lion

Solstice Whales!

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Whales, what a lovely sight indeed. A group of L Pod whales spy hopping and tail slapping? Even cooler! The summer solstice proved to be a great day for whale watching, which is perfect since there is never enough light in the day to watch all the amazing things these whales are capable of. Captain Mike, Naturalist Heather, and our passengers aboard M/V Sea Lion made a bee line from Friday Harbor out to the westside of the island in search of our resident whales. Low and behold we found them spread out along the west side of the island. And with the help of our trusty dusty, whale identifying extraordinaire, Naturalist Heather, we knew we were hanging out with Fluke and Race Rocks.

Not only were the whales out, but also the poop sniffing canine, Tucker. Tucker and the crew of R/V Mojo, were following closely behind L-pod hoping to pick up a scent of the highly sought after orca feces. These feces help with knowing the stress hormones and overall well-being of the orcas in the area.

Overall it was a great day to be on the water and observe nature on a fantastic Solstice!


Naturalist  Caitlin

San Juan Safaris, M/V Sea Lion

Minke madness with a bonus of orcas!

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Today was an outstanding day on the water! The weather was gorgeous and warm and the water was flat calm. Spent the afternoon trip with some transients near Battleship island and a small part of J pod the J17s hanging out near turn point on Stuart island. Had many opportunities to see the whales in all their glory, with a number of breaches and spy hops, but this was just the first trip of the day.

I don’t know if it was the summer solstice or what but we had an amazing evening and sunset with the whales. We were making our way out to salmon bank area on the west side of San Juan Island and out of no where a minke whale pops up right next to the boat and does a slow dramatic dive and we all got to see the entire body. Now for those of you who have not done a lot of Minke watching this is amazing, normally you just catch a glance of their dorsal fin. This close surprise encounter happened twice on our trip. Truly amazing! We also caught up with most of L pod out there as well and got to spend some quality time with some of our favorites Nigel and Fluke.

Hope to  get some more great action tomorrow.


Naturalist Chelsea

M/V sea lion

Transients & Sunsets

Friday, June 20th, 2014

We had such a wonderful day on the Salish Sea. We left Friday Harbor with a couple of very promising reports of orcas for our afternoon trip. We ended up on the west side of San Juan Island with a beautiful group of transients. They were going down on longer dives, leaving us guessing as to where they would resurface. We got a number of great looks at the orcas, which left Captain Mike and me anxious to get back on the water for our evening trip!

After a quick turn around in Friday Harbor we headed back out with a small group of 11 people! We set course for a good report of another group of transients. We got on scene and the group turned out to be the T124A’s with their new calf born in March! When orcas are young their white patches look peachy in color, and this little calf is no exception. Man, this calf is a cutie-pie! We were the only boat with the pod as the sun began to set… Everything was bathed in a perfect golden light. We finished the trip with a pass by Spieden Island to look at a bald eagle nest and some of the exotic animals that were released on the island.

Overall it was another great day onboard the Sea Lion!

Naturalist, Sarah, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

A Whale of a Day with J and L Pods

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

This morning we woke up to the news that both J and L pods were inbound. We haven’t seen much of the Ls yet this season so it was awesome to finally see them! On our afternoon trip we spent the majority of our time with the engine off  surrounded by whales. Everywhere you looked the were orcas playing, tail lobbing, spy hopping, and breaching. Both guests and crew were left speechless by the display.

With such a great afternoon we were eager to get back on the water for our evening trip!  The whales definitely did not disappoint! We were treated to an amazing breach-fest, some beautiful looks at orcas from J and L pods, and a gorgeous sunset! Today was just a magical day.

Naturalist, Sarah, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Time Well Spent with our Resident Transients- the T065A’s!

Monday, June 16th, 2014

After being in the rain for the past two trips Captain Mike, Sarah and I left the dock today with sunny skies over head. But, what was even better then the sunshine were the orcas that were reported to be right in our “back yard”. After motoring for about ten minutes  we saw blows in the distance in-between Lopez and Shaw island, a sight that was welcomed by our guests. I quickly identified the small group as our five transient orcas known as the T065A group. The T065A’s just happen to be my favorite group of transients! They have the cutest little calf, T065A-5, who always seems to propel itself out of the water in order to keep up with mom and it’s three-year-old sibling. In doing so we’re all able to see it’s pink/orange baby skin. This pink/orange coloring is a result of an extremely thin blubber layer that it’s born with. As soon as the calf  fattens up on it’s mothers milk it’s blubber layer will grow, and the pigment will turn white. We watched as T065A (AKA-Mom) traveled very closely with her two youngest calves, while the other two older siblings (T065A-2 and T065A-3) trailed about 40 yards behind them. Naturalist around the Salish Sea, including myself, are starting to call these guys our “Resident Transients” since we’ve see them almost every every week since April! I love spending time with them and getting to know their individual personalities! What a great day!


Naturalist, Heather, M/V Sea Lion

San  Juan Safaris

Breaching Orcas!

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Rained on and off throughout the day, but opened up to clear skies for our 2pm charter today. All passengers aboard the M/V Kittiwake were in full support of some sunshine and whales! Captain Jim is not one to disappoint, and with reports of resident orcas along the west side of San Juan Island, the whales were also in on making it a great day on the water! We made great time on our original San Juan Safaris vessel, the M/V Kittiwake, and made it just in time to see some of J pod members propelling their full bodies into the air for 2 spectacular breaches! Two seconds later and we would have missed the best part of the show. After a few breaches and a spy hop in the distance, the residents changed directions a bit and headed further northwest. The residents seemed to disperse more at this time, which is not unusual for them. Orcas rely heavily on sound- it is their main way to interact and navigate in their marine environment. They  can even hear each other over 10 miles away! Pretty incredible. We decided to stick with the residents for the remainder of our trip before we headed back to Friday Harbor with smiles on everyones face. All in all, it was a superb day for whale watching.


Caitlin, Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake

San Juan Safaris

Humpback in San Juan Channel

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

With our first departure at noon, Captain Mike, Naturalist Rachel, and myself left the dock with no reports of any whales. With rainy and foggy weather we headed north toward Flat Top Island. Our guests were able to see Harbor Seals and Pigeon Guillemots.  Pigeon Guillemots are part of the Puffin family and are diving sea birds. They can dive over 100 feet deep. We motored to the Cactus Islands and Spieden Island seeing Bald Eagles and juvenile Bald Eagles. Guest were also able to see two different groups of Mouflon sheep on Spieden Island! It is common to see the females and males separated at this time. They only come together when they are mating.

During that time, Captain Mike got a report of a Humpback whale that was swimming north in San Juan Channel.  We altered our course and headed towards Lopez Island, where the Humpback was last seen! Once on seen guests were impressed to hear there was a Humpback in these waters.  During this time of year, Humpbacks are migrating North to Alaska.  Every so often, we are lucky enough to be able to spend a day or two with them. This Humpback had a traveling pattern of surfacing three or four times then staying under for about eight minutes. Our last viewing was the close enough for our guests to hear the blow!

We arrived back to Friday Harbor with the clouds breaking apart and the sun coming out! Captain Mike and myself also had a sunset trip tonight. I was excited because the weather improved and we still had them Humpback in San Juan Channel.  We motored out of Friday Harbor and were able to give it right off Turn Island. Our guests were lucky enough to get  a great view of this Humpback, surfacing about 100 yards off our port side! Right before that surfacing, I was telling guests to listen for the blow of the whale, needless to say everyone heard it. The Humpback was swimming in the current lines being caused by the tidal exchange. This was the perfect place for small fish and krill to be, and that happens to be what the Humpbacks eat!

We motored south to see some other wildlife, hitting some rougher water down in Cattle Pass. With the massive flood and strong winds, guests were impressed how rough this inland body of water can get. Down along Long Island we were able to see two Bald Eagles and their nest. We headed back toward the Humpback to see one last time. Guest were able to enjoy a cruise back to Friday Harbor and watch the sunset!

Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

Playful J Pod!

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Today started off dark and rainy; however, as we left our Friday Harbor location in search of killer whales, the sun started to peak through the clouds. The day was starting to look beautiful, and as we rounded the corner of Cattle Pass, you could clearly see the snow-capped Olympic mountains. The only thing that could make this scenery better was a tall black dorsal fun slicing through the water.

It wasn’t too long before what we were all hoping for became a reality when members of J Pod surfaced off out port side. Naturalist Sarah and I quickly identified some of the members and family groups. Among them were L87, J34, J22, J32 and J36. The whales were foraging and being extremely playful! We saw L87 tail slapping repetitively, J34 breaching high, and many of the youngsters having a great time as well!! Nothing really gets better than watching killer whales off the beautiful San Juan Island and seeing all of the wildlife in the surrounding area. As well as killer whales, we saw a variety of birds, seals, and porpoises!
Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

J Pod Westside!

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Well you can probably guess it, but it was another beautiful day on the water! Today, Captain Pete and myself, were accompanied by a small group of passengers who were eagerly awaiting to get out on the water and find some wildlife! Captain Pete isn’t one to disappoint, and with a few sightings of Residents on the westside, M/V Sea Lion was ready to find them. Our intention was to meet up with J Pod  along the north end of San Juan Island, but the orcas had other plans for us when they decided to turn south. We had to play a bit of catch up, but once we were on scene with members of J Pod , it was well worth the effort! The resident pod was spread out along the shoreline, but all seemed to be chasing their own meals under the surface. These whales are continuously chasing down their favorite prey, chinook salmon. Chinook is the fattiest of the salmon, and makes up the majority of our resident orcas diet. Fully grown these orcas can ingest a whooping 200 to 400 lbs of salmon a day! Makes sense that these orcas are constantly on the look out for food, which is awesome for us to see the residence on the prowl! Orcas feeding makes for an awesome day whale watching!

Caitlin, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris