a Whale Watch Tour
which whale watching tour to go out on will be your most difficult
decision. There are so many types of companies that call themselves
"whale watch tours."
whales is your #1 goal then pick a company that guarantees sightings.
These companies are dedicated whale watching companies, not ferry
services, dinner cruises, or wildlife tours who moonlight as whale
watching companies. They are generally more experienced than the
rest, and will go the "extra mile" to make it happen
at other websites look for whale sightings reports and statistics
from the current and previous seasons. Claims of "90% success
rate!" are empty promises unless backed up by real numbers.
Reported numbers of whale sightings will show how experienced
a company really is, and how good they are at getting to the whales.
Good tours should also have whale savvy captains, trained naturalists,
and whale watch boats that can legally cross the international
border with Canada. High quality on board sound systems that allow you to easily hear the narration from the naturalist will also add to your experience.
book your whale watch don't be afraid to ask questions about the
whales, and what the whale watchers have been seeing. Ask specifics -
if the sales person can't quickly tell you where the whales are,
or where they were yesterday, they are probably reading off of
a script. A good office that is truly into the whale watching
experience will be able to answer all of your questions.
leaving the mainland normally run longer tours, on larger, more comfortable boats, for about the same
price as out in the San Juan Islands. They also have the advantage
when the whales are in the west or north end of their range. If
the whales are in the middle of their range the longer tours will
get to spend more time watching whales, and experiencing other
wildlife along the way. 3-4 hour trips are only a good value if
your boat can travel in excess of 30 knots. This is important
because you will not get enough time with the whales if the boat
travels slower than this. A 5-6 hour trip has a great advantage
in that you will get plenty of "whale time." A trip
longer than 7 hours can be grueling for kids, and older folks.
These long trips usually mean a slow boat.
is the most popular departure point for the educated consumer and Island Adventures
is the oldest and most experienced whale watch
company departing from Anacortes.
If you are going to stay overnight
on one of the San Juan Islands anyway, and have adequately planned
for the ferry schedule (which is often interrupted by mechanical problems due to the aging fleet of Washington State ferries), there are some great companies operating
from San Juan Island. Most island-based companies will have a 72 hour cancellation policy so if you miss the ferry, your money is gone. The San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce recommends that you get in line for the ferry up to 4.5 hours before departure time, but at least 1.5 hours ahead during off-peak departure times. (When shopping prices, keep in mind that extra fees will apply for taking the ferry or parking at the ferry terminal if you walk-on. 2008 fares on the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor are : Vehicle and driver $51.20; passenger $13.15; Motorhomes between 20 and 30 feet $153.60. Parking on the Anacortes side is $10-$15.) An alternative worth considering is a short, and pretty, flight on San Juan Air from Anacortes to Friday Harbor.
On San Juan you will do best going out with Maya's Whale Watch, or Western Prince Cruises. Look out for the companies that appear to spend more time advertising than they do on their tours.If you go with a company who has an "administrative" owner, then you are sure to get a scripted, tourist trap type of experience.
Be sure to
choose a company whose owner is also an operator (licensed captain)!
the summertime we think that the Evening Whale Watch trips are
a fantastic option. Maya's Whale Watch
runs a great trip out of Snug Harbor on San Juan Island's west side.
Island Adventures runs an evening trip from
Anacortes as well. Evening tours generally have fewer people on
board, and the light for photography is incredible. In addition
to these advantages, the whale location is known and the captains are sure to know what to expect before they
leave the docks.
Round Whale Watching
There are whale watching
trips available year round in Washington State. Summer is the
high-season due to the sunny weather, and kids being out of school.
Off-season whale watching can be amazing though, so don't be afraid
of a rainy weather forecast. Several species of whales are around all year as
well so don't listen to companies who tell you that the whales
have "migrated" - these are the companies that are closed
in the winter. October is the best month for Humpback Whales.
November and December are great for Orca whale watching in the
Seattle area. March and April are the best for seeing the Gray Whales. May
through September is the prime season for the Resident Orcas in
the San Juan Islands.
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