About Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching
Maya’s Legacy is an authentic Pacific Northwest experience. With our reputation for going the distance, we’ve been the local favorite since 1996 and have been named one of the 25 best things to do in Washington State.
Our Crew Are Marine Naturalists, Scientists, Educators & Guides
Our captains and marine naturalists come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we all share a common thread: our passion and unending enthusiasm for the waters and wildlife of the San Juan Islands, the still wild ecosystems that thrive along its coasts, and sharing it with others.
We are place-based, passenger-focused and committed to knowledge sharing and education.
In us, you’ll find field scientists, educators, professional guides, scuba divers, recreational sailors, former fishermen, artists and all-around whale and wildlife enthusiasts.
Our small group tours provide consistent opportunities for personal interaction with our captains and marine naturalist guides, each with unique backgrounds that will generate rich layers and personalized context to bring our tour experience to life.
“What makes each company different is the people. For Maya’s Legacy it is a close-knit group of friends and family who are creating smaller more personal experiences. Regardless of finding orcas, they give you a memory you’ll cherish forever.” – Online Customer Review
Behind Every Great Tour Is an Extraordinary Crew
In addition to expert, highly knowledgeable captains, we have marine naturalists and biologists who enrich our whale watching and wildlife tours. They are revered as exceptional educators, each possessing extensive knowledge of the Salish Sea.
No matter who is on board, we’ll always take good care of you!
We’re more than just whale watching guides – we’re also whale watchers and nature enthusiasts, and we understand the power of a profound experience with wildlife lasts beyond the life of a single tour. When not on the waters in the San Juan Islands, we seek out whale watching and wildlife opportunities around the world.
From snorkeling with orcas in Arctic Norway and humpback whales in the Dominican Republic, driving whale watching boats in Antarctica, sailing the Pacific, conducting raptor research throughout the Americas, caring for animals at the local wildlife rehabilitation center to being engrossed in reading the latest marine science literature.
From all of our diverse experiences, we understand the importance of knowledgeable, authentic and sincere hosts.
Behind the Vision
Rachel and Spencer Domico
All the best love stories and epic tales begin at sea, and the very best ones begin in the company of whales and a handsome captain, right? Ours begins with all three…
About ten years ago, we were accidentally introduced by Captain Jim Maya, a mutual family friend. We ended up on the same tour one sunny June afternoon, Spencer at the helm and Rachel more interested in being inside the cabin than usual. We quickly discovered a shared love for the region we both grew up in, and appeared to have met our match in enthusiasm for exploring the world, its wild spaces and wildlife.
This discovered, we planned to get to know each other while camping our way around Australia. It was on this adventure, exploring another continent and witnessing a very different sense of place, that we recognized our mutual desire to share our own sense of place with others at home.
We returned to San Juan Island and began working on our dream of bringing the same authentic experiences of the area we love to others. We called our dream Legacy Charters in honor of the rich legacy before us and a desire to see it appreciated into the future.
Jeff and Joelle Friedman
I met Spencer and Rachel in a similar way – per Captain Jim’s recommendation, Joelle and I were passengers of theirs one summer day, soon to be in the company of orca whales. I have loved whales my entire life. I was the kid at my desk in a midwestern classroom, dreaming of the ocean and writing every report I could on whales.
I spent years volunteering with international whale and oceans advocacy organizations from my land-locked location. I learned of the Southern Resident killer whales and where best to see them in wild – the San Juan Islands.
(Joelle can graciously attest to our every vacation being planned around whales.) We visited San Juan Island and began touring with Jim and Spencer. I soon recognized that being on the water and around whales only on my holidays was not enough. I needed to be a full-time advocate for whales by directly sharing them with people and by educating others about them.
I reached out to Jim and Spencer about my dream of working in the field, and the timing was right.
Joelle and I moved to San Juan Island to join Rachel and Spencer as partners as we purchased Capt. Jim’s business. Together, we have become Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching. Here, Joelle and I have found our forever home and look forward to many more years among friends, the trees, mountains and whales of the Pacific Northwest.
The ‘Maya’ portion of our name comes from the tradition established by a mentor, educator and gifted storyteller well known for his years of adventures among the San Juan Islands: Capt. Jim Maya.
In 1986, Jim Maya and his wife, Carolee, decided to take their summer vacation in the Great Northwest. They were dumbstruck by the natural beauty, the warmth of the people, the mountains, and the sea. That very first ferry boat ride set in motion a dream. That dream was to live close to these waters, where they began watching orcas that summer.
A passion was born.
Lifelong teachers, Jim and Carolee made the move to San Juan Island, and in 1996 started Maya’s Westside Whale Watching Charters.
Years of hosting guests and working closely with the Domicos led to the formal hand-off of his business, combining of the two companies, and the addition of good friend Jeff Friedman. Although he enjoys travel and his photography, Captain Jim still spends many days on the water with Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching.
With the intention of perpetuating the legacy of the Salish Sea for generations to come, Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching carries on a tradition of responsible whale watching and wildlife viewing, personalized private charters and world-class photography tours.