This season turned out to be one of our best ever, with sightings on nearly 95% of our whale watching cruises. We had three different whale watching tours, all of which were popular, with folks enjoying frequent sightings of Orca, Humpback and/or Minke whales. If you came out with us this summer, thank you! We are already getting ready for another great summer in 2018!
Included here are photos taken by Jim Bachman on the last day of the season – what a way to close things out, with a group of Orcas, as well as harbor porpoises, a Stellar sea lion, and a variety of sea birds, including marbled Murrelets.
We are definitely in the midst of prime whale watching season, with great sightings over the past two weeks. We’ve primarily spotted Transient / Bigg’s Orca whales, as well as Humpback and Minke whales. Combined with beautiful, sunny weather it’s been quite a summer, but it’s not over yet. We’re running for a few more weeks, through September 24th, so now is a great time to avoid the crowds and come aboard for a memorable whale watching experience.
The photos here are courtesy of Jim Bachman, who joined us on our Deluxe Whale Watching tour on Sunday, September 3rd – in addition to great viewing of Transient Orcas, we also saw seals and a wide variety of sea birds.
I started working for San Juan Cruises as finals week was wrapping up, not really knowing what I was getting into. As a student at Western Washington University, I was looking for a fun summer job so I could stay in Bellingham for summer break. I had never been whale watching before applying, so I was pleasantly surprised that I would be “required” to go on the Deluxe Whale Watching cruise after being hired. I chose to go out on a Saturday and I was not going to let the dreary Washington weather or the choppiness of Bellingham Bay deter me that morning. We headed out, making our way towards San Juan Island for our shore visit to Friday Harbor. Along the way, Captain Jeff entertained us with facts and history about the various islands we passed, pointing out wildlife like harbor seals and porpoises.
I spent the hour and a half visit in Friday Harbor perusing the art galleries and the San Juan Island Farmers Market, which boasted an array of local farmers and artisans. I left with a warm chocolate croissant in hand, and returned to the boat for a much awaited lunch of BBQ chicken and wild salmon, hot, buttery biscuits, rice pilaf, and fudgy brownies for (my second) dessert. By the time we left Friday Harbor, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining; it had turned into a beautiful day for whale watching. As we ate, the captain announced that there had been whale sightings just south of Victoria. We arrived on scene just in time to see a group of Transient orcas moving in from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, dorsal fins towering out of the water and blow holes spouting. I had never seen anything so beautiful or captivating.
After sticking with the orcas for some time, the captain gave us a choice—there was a humpback sighting not too far from where we were. The decision was unanimous, and we set off in search of a whale named Split-fin. Split-fin is frequently seen in the waters around the San Juan Islands and has made an appearance every summer since 2006. We were able to watch Split-fin for quite a while, his fluke at least six to seven feet across. As someone who had never seen a whale in real life, I was astounded by the sheer size of this amazing creature. Split-fin would dive for about ten minutes, resurface for a few minutes, and then dive again, flashing his fluke each time.
I spent the majority of the ride back to Bellingham on the outdoor deck, which had been warmed by the sun during our stop to watch Split-fin. As we made our way through Rosario Strait we past several Dall’s porpoises, a handful of sunbathing seals, and two stoic eagles perched atop a buoy. As our cruise came to a close and we entered Bellingham Bay, I was reminded again of how beautiful and unique this part of the world is. The Salish Sea and the San Juan Islands are one of a kind, and this cruise definitely reaffirmed my love for the Pacific Northwest.
The season is going great so far, with lots of great orca and humpback whale sightings. We’ve now done 4 Deluxe whale watching tours, plus several school field trips, and have seen orcas and/or humpbacks on every trip so far, with tours taking us west and north of the San Juan Islands so far. With great sightings so far, and a forecast for sun coming into the weekend, now’s a great time to join us. The Deluxe whale watching tour includes a tour of the San Juan Islands, a shore visit in Friday Harbor and our Northwest salmon & chicken buffet.
What an amazing season this was – the weather was close to perfect with lots of warm sunshine, but this was topped by the number of whale sightings. With the season over we saw whales on just over 95% of our cruises, and there was a great variety of whales to be seen as well. In addition to the three resident pods of Orca whales (J, K and L pods), we saw lots of transient Orcas, Minke whales, Humpback whales (especially in May and September), Gray whales and towards the end of the season we even saw a Fin whale a few times.
This season also saw the resident group grow by 5 – 4 of these babies just received names (Scarlet, Nova, Sonic and Windsong) and a fifth (L-122) was just born a few weeks ago and will be given a name soon.
Thanks to everyone who joined us on a tour this season – we’re already at work getting ready for next summer!
The Chrysalis Inn & Spa and San Juan Cruises have teamed up for a great overnight hotel & whale watching package. Enjoy a night or two in one of Bellingham’s finest hotels, with an amazing view of Bellingham Bay, Lummi Island and the San Juan Archipelago. Then hop aboard the Victoria Star 2 for a fabulous day cruise that includes whale watching, a 2 hour shore visit in Friday Harbor, and our delicious NW salmon lunch. Get all the details on the Chrysalis’ website:
The Victoria Star is available for holiday parties this December. With festive decorations and hundreds of twinkling lights, the vessel is perfect for a family or company party. You can bring on your own food, use a caterer, or leave the cooking to us with one of our delicious meal options (including cracked crab, BBQ chicken, salmon & more). We have two bars (one on each level of the boat), serving a variety of Northwest beers and wines, as well as mixed drinks (including some holiday favorites).
Charters start at just $1000 and the boat can comfortably accomodate up to 120 people. The boat is heated, and as the largest passenger vessel in Bellingham, it’ll be smooth sailing as we cruise around Bellingham and Chuckanut Bays.
For more information, and reservations, please call us at 1-800-443-4552 or (360) 738-8099. You may also view information and photos online on our Private Parties page.
As if beautiful, blue skies, warm sun and amazing scenery weren’t enough, we were able to find a Humpback whale on our San Juan Adventure cruise today, up on the north end of the San Juan Islands. It took a bit of searching, but it was well worth the effort. After having a great time watching it, we’re now on our way to Friday Harbor for our 2 hour shore visit. We hope to have photos soon!
It’s been another fabulous week of whale watching, topped off by a “Super Pod” – a gathering of all three local pods of Orca whales. We found them just west of Lummi Island, not too far away. It gave us over an over to view them, thrilling our passengers with an abundance of activity. It was a fun, and beautiful, day to be out in the San Juan Islands!