Killer or orca whales are a favorite among residents as well as visitors to the Pacific Northwest, who can book a tour and see them in their natural habitat.
The Southern Resident Orcas spend their summers around the San Juan Islands. The community is comprised of J, K and L pods. They were listed as endangered in 2005 when there were 89. Their numbers are currently estimated at 86. The three pods have a 150-square-mile home range centered in the San Juans. These sociable mammals often delight boaters with their company, especially in summer and fall.
Lime Kiln State Park, also known as Whale Watch Park, on the west side of San Juan Island offers great views of the whales. The park has hiking trails and picnic tables.
Boat tours leave from Anacortes through two companies, Island Adventures and Mystic Sea Charters.
Island Adventures whale tours operate from early May through
November. Rates range from $49 to $99. Private charters are also available.
www.island-adventures.com | 800-465-4604
Mystic Sea Charters operates whale tours May through October. Rates
range from $49 to $99 with discounts offered for military and groups.
www.mysticseacharters.com | PH: 800-308-9387
Outer Island Excursions
www.outerislandx.com | 360-376-3711
Both outfits offer guaranteed sightings, meaning you can go out another day if your boat is one of the few that doesn’t spot an orca, gray, minke or humpback whale.
And there is much more to see in the San Juans, including 80 wildlife preserves, rugged shorelines, historic sites, bald eagle nests, barking seals, chattering cormorants and, in early spring and late summer, golden-skinned stellar sea lions.