Spotting orcas in the San Juan Islands doesn't always require inflatables and survival suits.
You can see the same whales via float plane and boat when you fly to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island aboard a Kenmore Air Whale Plane.
Fran Griesing and her daughter are first time whale watchers:
"I'm from Philadelphia and I'm on vacation, and my daughter wanted to see orcas so we planned this trip,” said Griesing.
Initially the trip aboard the San Juan Safaris' orca watching boat is uneventful.
Then the captain gets some news over the radio:
"We got a report of whales north of Lime Kiln on the west side of San Juan Island."
Suddenly, the folks on this eco-adventure see what they’ve come for: transients, whales that hunt seals, not salmon. Watchers even glimpse a three year old calf.
Guides have a phrase for this kind of luck:
"Some people have really good orca karma. When they get really good looks at whales, we call it mugging,” said Heather MacIntyre, a naturalist with San Juan Safaris.
All of these boats must remain 200 yards away from the whales at all times. The respectful distance means the whales linger longer.
Today the MV Sea Lion – San Juan Safaris’ whale watching vessel -- has excellent orca karma. And Fran Griesing has a whale tale to take back to Philadelphia.
"Oh we saw families of whales! Kinda like synchronized swimming, going in and out of the water!”
And then she added: “I thought it was beautiful to see them here, and I'm glad they're able to live free here and not be in captivity."
San Juan Safaris – www.sanjuansafaris.com
2 Spring St, Friday Harbor, WA 98250
San Juan Safaris won, "Best Eco-Adventure", in Evening's 2016 Best Northwest Escapes viewers poll.