Orca whale watching in the San Juan Islands, Puget Sound is the center of whale watching in the Pacific Northwest.
The best time of the year for the Orca whale watching season is from mid-April through mid-October when the resident pods of Orca whales prowl the ocean for marine food sources.
The marine wild life that can be seen during this period include the Orca whales, porpoises, seals, minke whales, and bald eagles. .
Orca whales are highly social;and are composed of matrilineal family groups where they stay with their mothers for their entire life. Since females live as long as 95 years, several generations can be seen traveling together. Closely related matrilines travel together as groups called pods, usually consisting of one to four matrilines. Though on occasion, pods may separate for weeks or months at a time.
Orca "Killer" Whale watching in its natural environment is one of the most prized marine wildlife experiences. Orca whales are members of the dolphin family and can vary in size from 17 - 32 ft and in weight form 3-11 tons. There are three different types of Orca Whales: Off shores, transients, and residents. Each differs physically, in diet, and in behavior.
Very little is known about the off shoes because of their unpredictable travel patterns.
Transient pods are smaller than resident pods generally having an adult female and one or two of her offspring. The first born male tends to stay with its mother. The diet of the transient Orcas consists mostly of seals, porpoises and other marine mammals.
The San Juan Islands has three pods of Southern Residents Orcas, numbering around 88 whales. It is the only Killer Whale population listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The diet of the resident Orcas consists mostly of fish, primarily salmon.
Wild killer whales are not considered a threat to humans although there have been cases of captive killing or injuring their handlers at marine theme parks
Visiting the San Juan Islands is not complete without taking in some of the areas fascinating outdoor attractions.
Chuckanut Drive (Route 11)
One of the west Coasts most spectacular coastal drives. This 22 mile drive from Burlington to Old Fairhaven in Bellingham, takes you in view of the San Juan Islands along the coastline, with hidden beaches, and a 2500 acre Larrabee State Park. The route offers the traveler some excellent hiking, cycling, beach-combing, and fine dining with awesome scenic views of the San Juan Islands. For dining recommendations, try the Oyster Bar locate above the steep cliffs with a view of Orcas Island. This is a top fine dining restaurant. For a less expensive alternative, try the Chuckanut Manor with a large glassed dining room overlooking the The Samish River and bay.
Deception Pass State Park
Located on Whidbey Island, this is one of Washington's most popular state parks, The park is famous for it's scenic bridge over Deception Pass. The bridge is a scenic wonder consisting of two steel arches that span over Canoe Pass and Deception pass with a scenic view of the narrow cliff lined crevasses that funnel the churning waters below. The park offers many activities for the outdoor traveler including camping, fishing, hiking, kayaking, boating, and picnicking.