Posts Tagged ‘San Juan Safaris’

Transient Orcas in Canada

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

With impending rain, Captain Mike steered the M/V Sea Lion north with Naturalists Heather and Emily, and guests in tow.  The goal: transient killer whales off North Pender Island in Canada.  A little Northwest rain did not dampen any spirits on board and before we knew it we were rewarded with great views of 7 transient orcas traveling southeast in Swanson Channel.  T137 and her offspring T137A, T137B, and T137D were traveling with T36A and her two offspring T36A-1 and T36A-2.  It was awesome to see two different family groups traveling together!  We followed the 7 transient orcas for several miles and saw porpoising, a couple of rolls, and a few spy hops!

After traveling with the orcas for a while, Captain Mike took us in search of Steller Sea Lions.  There was a large group of Stellers hauled out on Green Point on Speiden Island.  A couple of the sea lions were swimming in the wind blown water and playing in the waves!  At 10ft long and over 2000lbs, you would think the Steller Sea Lions would not be on the menu for transient orcas, but with a lot of team work and skill orcas are able to bring down these giant pinnipeds.  Recently two Steller Sea Lions were found dead with many rake marks from the teeth of the orcas.  One of the theories for the decline in the Steller Sea Lion population is that they are being selectively targeted in some areas by transient orcas.

Everyone had a great time out on the water viewing orcas and sea lions on this rainy spring day!

Naturalist Emily

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Tansient Orcas Outside Friday Harbor!

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Although the day started out grey, the sunshine quickly took over in the San Juan Islands.  Captain Mike lead Naturalist Emily, Naturalist Kevin, and the guests on board the M/V Sea Lion north out of Friday Harbor in the pursuit of orcas.  We started the morning with no orca reports, which is common in the early season, so we went to look in areas that orcas frequent in the San Juans. As we were headed around the north side of Spieden Island two dorsal fins were spotted and moments later the call came over the radio!  Two transient males, T49C and T77A were traveling in Spieden Channel.  Many transients orcas have been spotted recently in the area; there have been over 50 individuals in our waters in the last week!  The two male orcas passed many a harbor seal, but luckily for the seals, it did not seem to be lunch time.  With great surfaces and a few rolls these tranient orcas were a treat.

After viewing the tranient orcas for a while, guests were also treated to a large group of Stellar Sea Lions hauled out on the rocks soaking up the rays.  A solo California Sea Lion was also spotted sunning himself!  Guests also saw several Bald Eagles and plenty of Harbor Seals.

As we motored back to Friday Harbor, we found the same two transient orcas!  Just outside Friday Harbor, it seemed like the orcas possibly found an afternoon snack, as there were many quick dives and circling in the water.  The two male orcas briefly split apart, but were seen swimming together again inside Friday Harbor!

Great wildlife and orca sightings along with ample sunshine made this spring tour one for the books!

Naturalist Emily

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Orcas Galore in the Salish Sea

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

With another beautiful day in the San Juans, Captain Mike, Caitlin, and I were thrilled to have great guests on board the boat and positive reports of resident orcas. Captain Mike steered us north toward the south end of Pender Island in Canada. We encountered a group of about 14 orcas consisting of member of L pod and K pod. These orcas were displaying resting patterns traveling slowing north. We were able to drop the hyrophone in and listen in on their conversations! After traveling with these whales for a while, we thought we would go try and find some other wild life the area has to offer. On the way south we were surprised to run into another group of resident orcas! This group included K pod and J pod members! Guests were delighted to see many breaches and tail slaps form these whales as they passed our boat. After the second group of orcas faded away, we continued on our way to find more creatures of the San Juans. Six bald eagle sightings later we were headed toward home. A combination of beautiful weather, wonderful guests, and truly amazing orca sightings, made this trip one for the books!

Naturalist Emily
M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris!

Transient Killer Whale Play Time!

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

With the sun on our backs, Captain Craig, Naturalist Aimee, and I headed north out of Friday Harbor. Earlier in the morning we had received word of a group of Transient Orcas in the area, and we were eager to catch up to these beautiful animals! We arrived on scene with a trailing group at the south west end of Stuart Island. The trailers consisted of four whales that were traveling north toward Turn Point. At Turn Point we were joined by another group and had at least nine Transient Orcas around us! The guests and I were thrilled to see lots of tail slaps, porpoising, and even synchronized breaching! The group of Transient Orcas looked like they got at least one great meal along the way, which gave them plenty to celebrate!

With awesome views of Transient Orcas, fabulous guests, and a whole lot of sunshine, it was a wonderful day on the water!

Naturalist Emily
M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Fog Can’t Stop M/V Kittiwake From Seeing Humpbacks and Minke Whales!!

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

The crew and passengers aboard our original San Juan Safaris vessel, the M/V Kittiwake, braved the dense fog bank that awaited us at Cattle Pass in search of earlier reports of humpback whales. At certain points during the trip visibility was as low as 150 yds! Not to worry though, because Captain Jim wasn’t going to let that get in the way of seeing humpbacks!

As we motored South, passengers were constantly on the look out for our baleen friends who have traveled great distances to get here. Humpback whales spend their winter months in tropical waters, where they go to breed, they then head north towards Alaska to feed in nutrient rich waters. Occasionally, we will get a few stragglers through the Salish Sea, who haven’t quite made it to the nutrient rich waters of Alaska yet. This was the case today when we spotted not one but two humpback whales feeding off the southern edges of Hein Bank. It appeared that they were circling back and forth on the edges of the sea mount. Along the steep edges of Hein Bank, cold nutrient rich water will come up to the surface, which will create very nutrient rich water. Humpbacks thrive in this type of water since there is plenty of food for them to forage on. The repetitive behavior is most likely a result of the humpbacks foraging along the contours of Hein Bank.

After we followed the humpbacks for a bit it was time to leave and head back into the dense fog that sat about 2 miles offshore of San Juan Island. However, before we entered this twilight zone area we were able to sneak a peak at 3 Minke Whales! Not a bad day for whale watching! If anything, the fog just added to the excitement.


Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris

Stellar Sea Lions and L Pod Spotted!!

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

On our sunset tour today, Captain Mike, our guests, and I got to spend our evening enjoying a subgroup of  L Pod right off the west side of San Juan Island. They greeted us right off of Eagle Point and slowly meandered back and forth searching for Chinook Salmon. For the most part they stayed off in the distance minding their own business until suddenly the changed direction underwater and surfaced near our boat, rewarding us with a few tail slaps. Our passengers had their cameras poised and ready for the action and were able to walk away with some great shots of our resident orcas. Our guest were not only rewarded with a unique look at the residents, but they also got a rare glimpse of two Stellar Sea Lions! Generally, Stellars migrate up north towards Alaskan waters during this time, so it was great to see a few this late into the summer. Overall, it was a beautiful day on the water with great company! Can’t ask for much more!


Caitlin, Naturlist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris


Whales and Lighthouses.

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Today, Captain Jim and myself, got to spend our afternoon a little differently since we had a charter on the M/V Kittiwake. This charter was special because we got a great family from Chicago, Illinois, who had an affinity for lighthouses! I got to “wow” them with my endless knowledge of lighthouses, or at least about the lighthouses on San Juan Island. As we took a leisurely drive along the west side of San Juan Island, we were able to see both Cattle Point and Lime Kiln Lighthouses. Both of these lighthouses are run on solar energy, and are completely automated. Lime Kiln was the last of the lighthouses to be fully automated in 1950, when they finally made the switch from incandescent oil vapor lamp to an electric bulb. Lime Kiln is also the site of Lime Kiln Whale Watching Park! Today was a great day for those frequenting the shores of Lime Kiln, as well as our passengers aboard, when we came across a large group of L Pod. Not only did we get to take a closer look at lighthouses but we also got to see L Pod breaching! All in all, a great day to spend our Saturdays.

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris

Bald Eagle Photo Wins Photo Contest for Wildlife

Saturday, September 1st, 2012
Photo Contest Winner for Bald Eagle by Paige Taken August 10, 2012

Photo Contest Winner for Bald Eagle by Paige Taken August 10, 2012

What a day on the water!!

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The weather was perfect: high around 70 degrees, clear blue sky, and very light breeze.  The only thing that could make it better would be a day with the Orcas.  Did you order up Orcas?


Yes, a large order, please!


Coming right up.


We ran north – through beautifully calm water, enjoying the spectacular scenery.  Mount Baker was a clear and crisp as I’ve ever seen it.  Along the way, we saw harbor porpoise, common murre, pigeon guillemot, and harbor seals swimming about.

As we got nearer to our destination, members of J & K Pods showed themselves.  Plenty of porpoising, a breach, a spy hop, another breach – lots of activity.  We identified K-25 (Scoter), K-27 (Deadhead), J-27 (Blackberry), and a host of other gorgeous Orcas.  The boat rang out with ohhhhs and aahhhhhs, as the animals were all around us!

We had to “go the extra mile” today, because that’s where the action was.  It’s what we do.  48 47.91N,  122 46.7436W.  Lots of happy guests aboard!

Happy Whale Watching to You!

Captain Jim (Captain, Naturalist, all ’round fun guy)


Enter to Win – Win by Having Tons of Fun Seattle to San Juan

Friday, August 24th, 2012