September 29, 2017

A Cruise to the Canadian Gulf Islands for Orcas

Transient killer whale

[Naturalist Sarah – 09/28/2017 – M/V Sea Lion – 12:00pm]

What a beautiful July… errr, September day? What beautiful weather we have been treated to over the last few days! It has felt more like peak summer with eighty degree temperatures, blue skies, and whales sighted throughout the Salish Sea! As we close out September here at San Juan Safaris, we have had consistent reminders of why September is our favorite month to cruise the Islands.

San Juan Islands Wildlife

Yesterday was spectacular. Leaving Friday Harbor, we headed north towards the Canadian Gulf Islands. We caught glimpses of shy little harbor porpoises coming up to the surface to breathe before dipping back below the surface. Before crossing the US & Canadian border in Boundary Pass, we stopped by White Rock in Cowlitz Bay to look for some harbor seals!

Orcas Encountered

After rounding East Point on Saturna Island we started looking for orcas! Captain Mike steered M/V Sea Lion up through Tumbo Channel, and we found the group of killer whales on the strait-side of Cabbage Island. Parked on the opposite side of a long reef, we had an incredible and respectful view as the whales swam towards us on the other side of the low-lying island. By looking at the unique dorsal fins and saddle patches of each whale, we realized that we had the T100 family group of mammal-eating orcas. Killer whales are matriarchal so we usually identify families by the oldest females within the group.

Sea Lions

After leaving the whales we headed further north to check out the beautiful scenery of the Canadian Gulf Islands. We were lucky enough to find some Steller’s sea lions hauled out on the finger-like Belle Chain Islets, and to encounter more porpoises as we cruised further south through Plumper Sound. It was a stunning day to be out on the water, and I can’t wait to see what today holds!

Filed by:

Captain, Lead Naturalist & Vessel Coordinator

Sarah M.

Sea Lion

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