Whale-watching along the Pacific Northwest coast

By on December 28, 2012

The featured image is sourced from Flickr.

Whales are among the most awe-inspiring animals in the world, and one of the best places to spot them is along the coasts of Washington state and British Colombia. Whether you’re staying in the metropolitan areas of Seattle, Vancouver, or Victoria, or enjoying a more rural stay in on one of the many beautiful islands, there’s always the possibility to add a whale-watching trip to your itinerary. There are multiple options to choose from, including a comfortable trip on a ferry, a kayaking adventure, a cruise excursion, or a volunteering trip.

Ferries

The San Juan Islands are a great base for your whale-watching holidays. This group of islands is in the north of Washington state, near the Canadian border. Many trips start in Friday Harbor; here, ferries will carry you out to sea, where you will spot grey whales and humpbacks. Other animals to look out for include seals, river otters, harbor porpoises, and bald eagles. When you pick a company, make sure they provide experienced guides, because their stories and information will greatly enhance your experience. Most tour operators have ethical policies to ensure the animals’ well-being. They make sure that the whales are not disturbed, and some companies even donate a percentage of their profit to conservation projects.

Kayaking

For those who are more adventurous, kayaking is a way to move around freely between orcas or killer whales. Many of these tours also operate from Friday Harbor, so you can easily do both a ferry and a kayaking tour on one trip. The guides can tell you a lot about not only the wildlife, but also about plants and seaweed, enthusiastically persuading the whole group to taste some kelp freshly picked from the ocean. The options range from half-day to five-day tours. The latter includes camping on one of the many beautiful islands in the area. A great time for the shorter trips is around sunset, when most wildlife is very active.

Cruises

On a cruise from Seattle to Alaska, you have the chance to see all kinds of marine wildlife from the luxury of your own bedroom. Furthermore, there is the possibility to book whale-watching excursions further north in the Icy Strait, where sights of large groups of whales feeding around Point Adolphus are almost guaranteed. These exciting Alaska cruise excursions will put you on high-speed catamarans with an on-board naturalist who will explain everything about the whales and many other animals you’ll definitely encounter, such as sea lions, killer whales and birds of prey – and the excursions can even be combined with bear-spotting trips on the beautiful Chichagof Island.

Volunteering

If you really want to submerge yourself in the life of a professional whale-watcher, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer for organizations such as the Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation (CERF). With bases on several islands located between Vancouver Island and the mainland, these organizations use the money from eco-tourism to fund research on whales and other animals. You will stay in comfortable cabins or campsites on deserted islands covered in Canadian rainforest, and help out with all kinds of conservation work in addition to trips on the ocean to count and identify whales. It is a truly unique experience that will teach you all you’ve ever wanted to know about these majestic animals.

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