SAN JUAN ISLANDS, WA ::
Kristie and I enjoyed our Labor Day weekend with an orca watching trip via Island Mariner Cruises
. Their 110' boat conveniently departed from Bellingham to take us on a scenic, eight-hour voyage around the San Juan Islands. We were able to avoid the ferries and be back home before sunset.
The boat was accompanied by a seaplane that spotted the orca pods and allowed the outfitter to guarantee a sighting. However, on this calm and clear day, the spotter wasn't necessary, as we were able to see all of the pods from quite a distance away. A naturalist was also onboard to narrate our journey and help us identify the J, K and L pods and some of the individual orcas.
Fortunately, the orcas were very active. We saw several spy-hop, breach and lobtail
. They were also feeding, swimming in circles, and jumping often. Among the pods were cute little babies and enormous old guys that dwarfed some of the smaller boats.
There are laws to protect the orcas that kept us from getting as close as we would have liked. The boat could not maneuver into their path and had to remain at least 100 yards away on all sides. If the orcas decided to swim towards us, we were lucky. This only happened a couple times. For the most part, we relied on our binoculars and my 300mm telephoto lens, which is woefully inadequate. Some guy had a 600mm monster on his Nikon and I was super jealous.
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