Whale Watching on Orcas Island

Filed under: a group of folks,neat!,photos @ 17:40

My mom and dad, Allen, Michelle and I went up to Orcas Island this past weekend to celebrate Lincoln and Chana’s marriage.

It’s a really nice place.

Besides the wedding activities, the whale watching trip we all took was the highlight of the weekend.

Saturday morning, we headed to Rosario Resort‘s docks and climbed aboard Deer Harbor Charters‘ whale watching vessel Pelagic. Once aboard, our guide, James, talked about the orca whales’ history and behavior and pointed out other local wildlife (bald eagles, porpoises, seals, etc.) as we cruised out to sea. About an hour and a half after leaving the docks, we spotted our first orcas a hundred meters or so off the boat. Soon we were surrounded by whales, though none was particularly close. When feeding, an orca pod apparently tends to spread out unless one of the whales finds a large group of fish.

We motored around a bit to try and get a better view when a group of about six whales to starbord and aft started swimming (quickly) right toward us. Every ten seconds or so, a few whales would surface: each time a little closer. Finally, one whale surfaced about eight meters from the boat. Everyone scrambled to take pictures, but a feeding orca is not above water for very long. Just after it resubmerged, two more whales surfaced literally within one meter of the boat and dove underneath us. We saw them up close and, man, are orcas big.

After that, those several whales hung around us for five or ten minutes; we were apparently right above their chosen fish. I got a couple pictures but nothing as spectacular as being there in person. Hopefully someone else was a better shot.

The tour lasted about three and a half hours (Allen said he had the Gilligan’s Island theme stuck in his head the whole time) and was a lot of fun.

That afternoon, we drove up to the top of Mount Constitution in Moran State Park. My great grandfather was in charge of the CCC‘s construction of the stone tower at the peak of the mountain, so it was something of a familial pilgrimage. The view from the top is spectacular, and we could see tiny little whale watching boats down on the water. Indeed, with binoculars, we could see the whales the boats were watching!

Seeng whales from two feet was more exciting than seeing whales from two thousand feet, but both were a lot of fun.

Tour Guide Famliy 1 Family 2 Miss Whale Watching 2006 Whale 1 Whale 2

1 Comment

    Bob 12.26.2009 @ 12:31

    Great post on whale watching. My favorite time of year. When traveling and selecting a whale watching tour company, I always try to pick one that states they are responsible in how they approach whales. Being as close to a whale may be fun for us, but not necessarily to the whales according to research.

    I just took a whale watching tour in Costa Rica and liked the professionalism this operator demonstrated. This page on their website explains how they approach whales and why.


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