Every off-season is filled with thoughts of what the upcoming whale watching season holds. Regardless of our expectations, predictions, and outright dreams, each season is always richer and more fantastic than we could have imagined just a handful of months before. And the orcas, humpbacks, minke whales and other incredible wildlife always deliver fascinating, unexpected moments.
The 2017 season was no exception.
With it being the first full year of our whale watching & wildlife tours on board our newest boat, J1, the potential seemed limitless. We were not disappointed. We went further than we've ever gone before - going the distance in 2017 - and our trips were jam-packed with adventure, new discoveries, and experiences that become the fondest of memories.
With the search for wild Chinook salmon taking our famed Southern Resident killer whales far from the San Juan Islands during the 2017 summer, we experienced fascinating, record-shattering numbers of marine mammal eating Bigg's killer whales hunting throughout the Salish Sea. This healthy population shares the same habitat with Southern Resident orcas, but has abundant prey throughout the San Juan Islands and Salish Sea. It was startling to see how many of them were present on a day-to-day basis and how many young, healthy calves they had in tow.
Not only were we seeing more known families from that community, but we were seeing whales that had never been seen in our waters before! Word of the bounty of the Salish Sea had spread and the Bigg's killer whales were not going to pass up the call! We reveled in learning more and more about this ecotype and couldn't help but wonder about the possibilities for the Southern Residents if they had enough to eat.
2017 wasn't just the year of Bigg's killer whales though. The humpback whales are still returning as well and we were overjoyed to see many familiar flukes (and many new ones too!) throughout the whale watching season.
The Steller sea lions stayed longer, the Dall's porpoise played harder, and the bird life seen was incredible! We even had visitors from the far north in the form of two Horned Puffins.
As our season ramps up once again we continue our dreaming. What might be in store for us during the 2018 whale watching season? We can certainly count on whatever we dream up being overshadowed by what will come to be.
It's our pleasure to share some of our "best of" photos from the season. We hope you enjoy them and that you get a chance to join us in 2018 to take some of your own! We offer whale watching & wildlife tours from two convenient locations on San Juan Island. We have daily tours from Snug Harbor Resort, on the west side of the island, and from downtown Friday Harbor.