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Whale & Wildlife Tours

Magnificent orca (or killer) whales live in the San Juan Islands year-round, and this is the best place in the world to see them in the wild. You can also spot humpbacks, minkes, gray whales, steller sea lions, and many other species of wildlife. Three orca pods, J, K & L­—the “Southern Residents”— were historically in the area from late spring through early fall. Recently, transient or Bigg’s orca have become more prevalent around the San Juan Islands than the Southern Residents. We ask everyone to follow the Be Whale Wise guidelines and watch all whales from a respectful distance.

Whale sightings are never guaranteed, but the greatest potential for spotting them is with a professional whale and wildlife tour. An added benefit to a tour is that onboard naturalists provide identification, education and stewardship suggestions for passengers. Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) members on both sides of the border are committed to prioritizing their efforts on watching the abundant Bigg’s killer whales and humpbacks whales, instead of the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), when this option is available.

The shorter your stay in the Islands, the more important it is to plan ahead. Booking activities in advance will make your trip run smoothly and you'll be more likely to get your first picks! Most tours have generous cancellation policies in case you need to make changes. (Check with individual companies to be sure of their policies.)

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