On Expedition with Great Pacific Adventures: Searching for Whales by the San Juan Islands

On my first whale watching adventure with Eagle Wing Whale Watching Tours, we followed the trail of a pod of transient orcas out to Sidney and Dock Island and I came back with some fantastic photos and the great experience of being able to see transient orcas up close and personal.

On my second whale-watching expedition, the search for whales took a different route. Thanks to a great Groupon deal, my partner and I were able to hop onto Great Pacific Adventures’ 45-foot Ocean Cruiser.  Settling into the comfortable bench seating inside the boat with a cup of coffee, we watched as fifteen to twenty foot waves crashed against the windows as Captain Jo-Anne steered the boat out of the Inner Harbour and into open water.

We stopped at Trial Island and once again, I saw several harbor seals relaxing on the rocks. However, unlike my first time to Trial Island with Eagle Wing, there were more seal pups lying on the rocks as well. We stayed by the seals for a little while and as we left Trial Island, my partner and I stood out on the back deck of the boat and admired the view.

We walked back inside as the wind picked up and when we took our seats, the fifteen foot waves started crashing into the windows once again. Captain Jo-Anne and the crew tell us that we’ve received a tip that J pod, one of the three resident orca pods around Vancouver Island and the West Coast were spotted around the San Juan Islands.

As the boat crossed the border and drew closer to the islands, my partner and I sipped our coffee and watched the sun glisten off the waves. We managed to catch up to J pod by one of the islands and as the boat stopped, we walked out onto the back deck and managed to see two fins pop up above the water line. Because US regulations state that all whale watching boats need to stay 200 yards away from the whales, we were only able to see fins rise above the water occasionally as the boat drifted along the currents.

Overall, it was a fun experience with Great Pacific Adventures; but I would’ve liked to see more whales and other wildlife closer to the boat for more photo opportunities.

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