While I’m not the type who lives in the past, I’m often brought back to segments of my RTW (I warned you I’m milking this to the very last drop). Almost anything triggers a travel memory. Most recently, it was my credit card billing statement that reflects Clipper Vacations for the famous San Juan Islands whale watching I did.
When I got to US in July, I considered my RTW already finished. I had nothing planned and was slowly easing back to “normal life” by having familiar faces around me (family & friends).
“ORCA in SEATTLE??”
I almost screamed at my cousin Patrick, whose beautiful house I was crashing. Of course there are whales in Seattle too. Photos and postcards splashed all over the souvenir shops.
Summer is the beginning of whale season in the Pacific Ocean. Since I’ve been traveling along the coast of South America (Peru, Ecuador, Colombia), I’ve been obsessing about witnessing one but I was too early in June.
The humpback whale comes in July, they told me in Pto Lopez. I saw the whale shark in the Galapagos but that didn’t make me less obsessed with other whale types. One day I will come back. I said to myself sitting at the wooden bench along the beach installed for whale watching.
Whale Watching Tour in Seattle
I wasted no more time to google (internet was first world, I miss it!) I got half a million result of companies offering whale watching tours. How to choose which one to go with?
I chose Clipper Vacations because it offers day trip and that the boat departs from downtown Seattle (near Pike Place Market). I didn’t have a car and there’s a bus that goes directly downtown from my cousin’s house. Although I missed the bus, but that’s another story. :S
The adventure begins at Pier 69 where the boarding process was serious because some boats go to Victoria, BC. They almost sent me to that boat actually. Promptly at 7:45am the boat departs for Friday Harbor. The trip is about 3.5 hours but it’s alright. The ride was very scenic with views of the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, lush patches of evergreen forests, where we did a little bit of bird watching. The boat is also nice and steady. You can buy food, souvenirs, and rent binoculars for $5.
And then words started to spread around that spotting of orca is not guaranteed. There hadn’t been sighting the past few days. Huuuwaatttt???? I just rented binoculars!!
I went up and secure a spot along the railings anyway. It was a clear sunny day but it was so chilly. Glad I had on a windbreaker, a beanie, scarf, and gloves. Whale watching is a multi-million dollar industry here in San Juan Islands. There were several boats (of various sizes) scattered around the water near the lighthouse. My boat has about 40/50 passengers. 2-2.5hrs is allotted for whale searching & watching.
20 minutes into the waiting game, someone ohh’d and ahh’d. People pointing frantically at a splashes. And there about 50 meters away, we get some signs of the whale’s presence, a spray, a splash, fin, or part of its tail. The guide says the whale is resting because it stays in the same place. It went on for about an hour without us seeing more than a whale tail and finally our boat started to head back to Fridays Harbor. And then bout 200 meters (or more) the whale started to show off! The boat stopped (but didn’t go back) for us to enjoy the spectacle this whale was exhibiting. It was not an orca but humpback whale. The guide says it was the first time she saw one in 6 years that she had been a guide. Whatever right? It was amazing. It flipped out of the water more than 10 times and was still on it when we finally left.
This is the first time in my trip that my DSLR camera was worth its weight in gold.
Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are world-famous for the native and migratory pods of Orca whales that feed and play in the island waters, making regular appearances and delighting boaters all summer long. The islands are also home to the humpback and minke whales, a variety of other wildlife such as bald eagles, Dall’s porpoises, sea otters and more.
Friday Harbor is a super charming seaside village where we were give a few hours to explore before we head back to Seattle. It’s very touristy especially during summer where hundreds of tourists like myself comes in everyday. Friday Harbor commercial center has everything that can keep tourists entertained–souvenir shops, fab restaurants, the whale museum, wine tasting, local market, even scuba diving! I love the vibe of this super cute town. It would be nice to be stuck there for a little bit and work on a tourist boat or the scuba shop.
If you are visiting or from Seattle or Vancouver, this is a weekend trip that you should check out.