Posts Tagged ‘san juan island’

Orcas on the West Side!

Monday, July 21st, 2014

What a day! We had two amazing trips with yet another beautiful San Juan Island day. The waters were calm and glassy, making it look like the orcas just glide through glass. Today was a particularly special day for me because I had a couple of my college professors out on our afternoon tour with us. If it’s one thing I know, it’s the orcas out here. It was amazing to be able to educate them, and the rest of the guests aboard, about the social structure, culture, anatomy, and family’s of the southern resident killer whales. What a treat!

We ended up going to the west side of San Juan Island and catching up with members of J and K Pod! We first saw the man himself- Mr. Cappuccino, K21, born in 1986. His two open saddle patches with the thick black streaks in them make him unmistakable! He cruised past us slowly, along with the matriline he usually travels with, the K16′s: Opus and Sonata. Sonata is a “sprouting male” who is just reaching sexual maturity. In the next 5-7 years, his dorsal fin will take off in growth, and will continue to grow until his early 20′s! We also saw members of the “Cookie Clan”: J36, Cookie, and J34, a local favorite named Doublestuf. Doublestuf was born in 1996, so he has not yet finished growing as well. The day was full of laughter, learning, and amazing sights of our salmon-eating resident killer whales. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris Orca Whale Watching

Whales, wonderful whales!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Today Captain Mike and I had a beautiful cruise all the way around San Juan Island. We left Friday Harbor heading north with a report of orcas in Boundary Pass. We met up with a group of J Pod whales just north of Roche Harbor… AND they turned out to be my favorite family, the J16s! Slick, Mike, Alki and Echo are inseparable, a perfect example of the social structure of these amazing mammals! We spent some time with them and then left that group to follow a report of another group of orcas farther south along the west side of the island. We arrived on scene with a group of about four individuals from K Pod, and had the whales to ourselves! We even got to see some mating behavior! The water was beautifully smooth and everyone aboard had a wonderful time!

Naturalist Sarah, M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching

Fantastic Day Filled With Orcas and Humpacks….And A Tufted Puffin!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

We had fantastic weather and wildlife viewing today aboard our afternoon M/V Sea Lion trip.  We found our resident orcas, humpbacks, minkes, stellar sea lions, and even a tufted puffin! We headed to Salmon Bank and found J pod cruising the waters looking for food and were even lucky enough to witness some mating behaviors, and followed them along the west side of San Juan Island.  After an incredible show from J pod we came across a mom and calf humpback whale, and the calf was extremely playful.  We had repeated spyhops from the little calf as it played with the kelp patties!!! Quite a treat.  On our way in we spotted several stellar sea lions sunning themselves in the warm mid afternoon sun.  While watching the sea lions we even had a surprise minke visit.  Then we started cruising back, and just when we didn’t think we could possibly spot anything more exciting we spotted a tufted puffin, perched beside in the San Juan channel.  What a trip!!


Caitlin, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris, M/V Sea Lion

K Pod travels south at high speeds!

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

What a day!! I really couldn’t have asked for a prettier San Juan island afternoon and evening: sunny sky’s, warm weather, great people, oh,  and of course killer whales. The M/V Sea Lion met K pod traveling south from Stewart Island. As soon as we got on scene one came out of the water in a full breach!! You just never know what you’re going to see when orcas are involved, lucky for us!

We turned the motor off and watched as members of K Pod traveled south, porpoising out of the water at high speeds! For some reason, when these whales are coming down from a Fraser River run (to feed on that Chinook Salmon), they always seem to kick it in high gear in between Stewart and Henry Island. When killer whales are traveling at high speeds, the most effective means of travel is by doing this proposing behavior. It’s amazing to watch the water streaming off their body! We saw breaches, tail slaps, and even some spyhopping. K12 (Sequim) was there along with her offspring, K22, K37, and K43. We always love seeing this family! I can’t wait to get out there today!


Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris Orca Whale Watching


Sunday, July 6th, 2014

July 6th was an epic day here in the San Juan Islands! The afternoon trip was glorious as we headed to the reports of the southern residents and we spotted a humpback whale! We got a few awesome looks and got to see some sweet fluke up dives. We caught up with Jpod near Stuart Island. We got to see J2 Granny our 103 year old whale and L 87 Onyx who spends most of his time with Jpod. This was a great start to the day!

The evening trip was rocking too! We headed west this time and ran into a mixture of J, K, and L pod and they were excited. The water was mirror like and we saw a bunch of breaches and spy hops! The whales were pretty spread out so we got to spend some quality time with many different whales. As we headed home to Friday harbor we spotted that humpback again! With  a few surfacings and a couple of dives we continued on and we spotted a minke!!! We hit the trifecta of whales! Orcas, humpback and a minke whale! Wow, that doesn’t happen everyday and our guests and Naturalist were so excited! Let’s hope the month of July continues with action!


San Juan Safaris

M/V Sea lion

Naturalist Chelsea

K Pod Back In Action!

Friday, July 4th, 2014

The M/V Sea Lion and Kittiwake left Friday Harbor today with great reports of killer whales off the west side of San Juan Island. What was so great about this report you ask? The reports were of one of our resident pods that was thought to have left the night before: K Pod! We have only seen K Pod in this area for the last three days. For over a month now these whales have been MIA, or missing in action. They have finally gotten the memo that the Chinook Salmon, there favorite food source (rich in fatty omega-3′s), are finally coming into the Salish Sea in large enough numbers to make it worth the 80 mile swim into our waters. These salmon are smelling their way to the Fraser River, and up to their natal stream-bed to spawn. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have those familiar dorsal fins and saddle patches in these waters once again.

We soon caught up with members of K Pod off the west side of San Juan Island. They were quite spread out, fishing. We watched K33- Tika, a juvenile male, swim round and round many times trying to catch the salmon he was chasing! Ironically,  his name has Chinook origins meaning “swift.” Tika always stays very close to mom. Having said that, it wasn’t long before Sikiu, K22 surfaced close by. That was the first time I had seen K33 up close since last summer, and he has grown! I almost didn’t recognize him! Some of the J17 matriline were in the mix with K’s as well, including J28 and J46. After watching those whales for a little while, one whale was incing closer and closer. Usually, killer whales only surface 3-5 times and go down for another dive. However, K26, Lobo (21 years of age), surfaced about ten times, giving us spectacular views of his beautifully symmetrical dorsal fin! It is SO nice to have these guys back again!!

Heather, Naturalist,  M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris Orca Whale Watching

Another Beautiful Day with Killer Whales!

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

We departed the docks today with sunny skies above. It would seem like every day in the San Juan’s is just as beautiful as the next; however, today was clear enough so that we had a panoramic view of the Cascade mountain range with Mt. Baker in the center,  as well as Mt. Rainier and the Olympics. Guests got a spectacular view of these mountains as we headed out through the San Juan Channel and out through cattle Pass. It wasn’t long before we started seeing what everyone wanted to see- black dorsal fins slicing through the beautifully calm water!

 We caught up with members of J pod along the west side of San Juan Island fishing for salmon! I quickly identified J27, Blackberry, his brother Mako (J39), and his sister Tsuchi (J31).  Blackberry, J27 is often a favorite. He has a beautiful saddle patch and dorsal fin, but what really makes him endearing is his devotion to his family. These kids lost their mother in 2008. Ever since then, the three musketeers, (J27, 31, and 39) as I call them, have been inseparable! We also saw members of L Pod foraging as well. Before we left, they all started to get rather playful- spyhopping out of the water for better looks, breaching, and cartwheeling! What an awesome day!
Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Late Night Whale Watch

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Today deviated from the norm for Captain Jim and I today, since we had a charter on M/V Kittiwake that didn’t start till around 6:30 pm. Both of us are fairly use to being out on the water earlier in the day, and this was a great chance to see the changes in nature and the surrounding wildlife…oh and did I mention the sunset? With the slowly fading light, navigating the waters can become a bit more challenging, but when you look up and see brilliant orange and pink sunsets with whales breaching in the distance, you tend to forget all of that. I’ll take the numb hands and toes any day for the awesome looks we got of our Resident pods along the westside of San Juan Island today.

Most of the pod was spread all along the westside and appeared to be in a resting mode for the first portion of our trip. Their behavior quickly changed just in time for the sun to dip behind Vancouver Island. The fish-eating orcas became much more surface active and I think I even lost count with how many breaches were going on in the distance. It was quite the show and we have our awesome passengers to thank for the evening. Without their dedication to fit this trip in between soccer tournaments in Seattle and flights home the at 5am the next day, we wouldn’t have found ourselves on the water! That’s some serious whale watchers.

-Caitlin, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris, M/V Kittiwake


Couldn’t ask for a better day!

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

As we left San Juan Island yesterday, everyone couldn’t help but comment on what a phenomenal day it was.  Sunny skies, no wind, and flat calm glassy waters- oh, and the 40 or so killer whales that were in the area helped a little too! As Captain Mike, Chelsea and I motored out into the San Juan Channel, we made our way up to the north end of the Island where we met up with J and L Pod. For those of you who are just tuning in, J and L Pod are made up of Southern Resident Orcas, a group or killer whales that feed primarily on salmon. These whales were spread out over a six mile spread throughout Haro Straight fishing for the biggest and fattiest of all the salmon: Chinook salmon! We spent some quality time with everyone’s favorite’s including J19 and 41 (mother and daughter combo), L87, J27, L54, and L92. It was an amazing and peaceful day, with many breathtaking encounters. I really couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

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