When we decided to travel to the Pacific Northwest for our vacation, I knew there were 2 things that I wanted to do above everything else. The first was to go on a whale watching tour. I have always loved dolphins and whales. I wanted to be a Marine Biologist (until I found out how few get to work with dolphins and whales) and I even adopted a humpback whale named Pepper when I was in college. I found the FRS Clipper Whale Watching Tour and immediately knew that it was the one. They have a guarantee on their site that you will see whales on their tour (with an asterisk, because really, whales are wild creatures and can’t be controlled or completely predicted). Anyway, it was the first of our activities that I booked after we had our flights and hotel.
We arrived at the pier for our tour and had not problems getting aboard and seated. I sprung for the first class deck to give us each a little more room, and I made sure we all had forward facing seats. It was a beautiful day – you could even see the mountains, which I’m told is often not the case. Mount Rainier was on one side and the Olympic Mountains were on the other, and it was just gorgeous to be out on the water and see so much green on the shore. Here are some scenic shots of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and some cool suspension bridges we went under (you have probably seen video of one of the bridges twisting and turning in the wind – that is why there are 2 right next to each other).
We hadn’t been traveling very long when Charlotte and I decided to get spots on the top deck. I am so glad we did, because pretty soon we were told that a humpback whale had been spotted. It was so exciting to see it come to the surface a few times in a row to breathe and then do a full dive with its tail coming up. We got to watch this cycle twice before we left in search of the Orcas. I was also really excited when I went through the photos at home and saw I captured the tail twice. 🙂
We traveled about another hour to get to the area the Orcas had been spotted. I do want to point out that I know that Orcas are actually related to dolphins and not whales, but they repeatedly called them Killer Whales, and I am fine with it. It was amazing to watch the pod of Orcas interact. We got to see them traveling and hunting something. There was one mature male and several females and juveniles. You can tell the mature male because his dorsal fin sticks straight up and much higher than the others. We were also a little amazed at how close people on jet skis were to the Orcas – I would not have been comfortable with that. Here are my favorite Orca shots.
I could have watched them for hours – it was so cool! I am completely thrilled with our tour and have no regrets. Having said that, I do have 2 things I would suggest to others looking to book this cruise.
First of all, I think that the people on the lower deck had better views of seal life. Our seats were well above the water, so we did not see the porpoises and other sea life that those in the lower deck were able to see. It also got extremely hot and stuffy on the second deck on the way back to the pier. If I did it again, I would get seats on the first deck. They also had better access to the front of the boat view area, the galley, and the bathrooms.
My second advice directly relates to this obstructed view. As you can probably see in my photos of the humpback whale, there were towers and bars and equipment on the front of the boat which obstructed the view from the top of the boat at times. We chose spots with a clear view almost everywhere except 11 o’clock (if straight ahead was 12 o’clock and straight behind was 6 o’clock). I figured that we would be able to see almost everything with a clear view. I was wrong, of course. The boat pretty consistently turned to keep the whales at 11 o’clock. I don’t know if it was because of some track equipment or what, but it was definitely a theme. So, choose your spots on the top deck with care so you can see at 11 o’clock.
I would 1000x do this again. It was exciting and the good far outweighed the bad for me. Have you ever been on a whale watching tour? Where were you? Would you recommend it? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂