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Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

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Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

We are definitely going to sea-kayak with family. But I wonder if we are better off taking whale watching tour on a boat and then do a more naturalist excursion with kayaks. I do not want kids (older) spending good part of day chasing Orcas in a kayak if there is good possibility of not seeing them. I wonder if we would better off taking a whale watching tour on boat and then do a more interesting naturalist sea kayaking trip with zero pressure.

Port Townsend...
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1. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

Your chances of seeing whales from a kayak are very slim. Orcas can swim up to 30 knots, your kayak, maybe 2. So you don't need to worry about chasing.

Take a boat tour if you want to see orcas. Rent kayaks if you want to be close to the water, maybe see some seal and birds.

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

I would do a boat tour to see the whales/orca's as you will have the best chance to see them that way. These tour operators know where the whales are. In a kayak you might have to go too far out to find them and it's more enjoyable to just kayak without having to chase orca's. Remember it is wildlife after all and you may not even see them during a boat tour. Just check with the local tour operators whether there have been sightings and then you can still decide if you want to go.

If you are visiting San Juan Island, you might want to visit Lime Kiln Point State Park...it is a place where you may see the orca's just from the shoreline of the park: www.parks.wa.gov/parks/…

San Juan Island...
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3. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

The San Juan islands is the #1 spot in the nation for orca whale watching. The waters are quite calm but very cold and you have tides, currents, rocks and wind to contend with if you go kayaking by yourself out here. It’s far safer around here to go with a guided tour for kayaking because of the very cold water, currents and tides around the islands...all the islands. If you have experience with kayaking in seawater and know how to read tide tables,charts & currents then there are some areas that are safer to go in without a group but these are limited. You will find info on the companies that do kayaking on San Juan at visitsanjuans.com/what-to-do/san-juan-island… Links there lead to prices and much more information. Here on SJ I myself prefer the companies that leave from docks than the others (but that's cause I don't like hauling heavy kayaks around or wading into approximately 45 degree water to launch them). The ones that leave from docks are at Roche Harbor and Snug Harbor. Their web sites are at http://www.sanjuanislandoutfitters.com/ and http://www.crystalseas.com/

The West side is where orca whales are more often seen, although to see them from a kayak would be a matter of great luck of being very nearby where they just happen to be traveling by at the exact time. In decades of kayaking in the summer here I have only been near orcas twice. A motorized whale watch boat that can cover many dozens of miles in a short time span and has radio comminucation with all the other motorized whale watch boats are a far more likely way of see orcas from the water around the Islands. From land orcas can sometimes be seen from a few parks on SJ island, Limekiln and American Camp but then it’s really a matter of luck and timing. Lime Kiln Park is also known as the “whale watch” park because orca whales can sometimes be seen along the coastline during the summer months. There are also bald eagles, seals, porpoises, and the occasional minke or grey whale which can at times be seen as well. However a motorized whale watch boat that can cover many dozens of miles in a short time span and has radio communication with all the other whale watch boats gives the best chance of one seeing orcas during their season in these waters on a vacation visit. Info on Limekiln Park is at www.parks.wa.gov/parks/… and for whale watch boat tours see visitsanjuans.com/what-to-do/san-juan-island…

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4. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

Thank you very much for the replies. It would be once in a life time to have one near you while you were in a kayak but it is not worth it if very unlikely. Another question, are the bays pretty calm? We will have place on a bay and I'd like to rent kayaks for week to keep at house for shorter excursions.

San Juan Island...
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5. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

Which bay are you speaking of? The waters are quite calm but very cold and you have tides, currents, rocks and wind to contend with if you go kayaking by yourself out here. It’s far safer around here to go with a guided tour for kayaking. If you have experience with kayaking in seawater and know how to read tide table ,charts & currents then there are some areas that are safer to go in without a group but these are limited. If you are experienced and want to take a few kayak trips in more protected areas around here let me know and I'd suggest a few places off SJI here but do tell me what bay your lodging is located at.

western WA
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6. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

I have seen them all around a boat tour we were on and there is absolutely no way (no way in H-E-double-toothpicks) I would want to be in the middle of that in a Kayak. You are not realizing how big and powerful they are, or that they are smart and wild. You can have a fantasy about it but don't think of it as a vacation option.

Kayaking - great. Be smart, don't get far from shore, wear lifejackets, etc. Whale watching from tour boat - also great.

Edited: 08 June 2013, 08:41
Poulsbo, Washington
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7. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

This subject kayaking with Orcas comes up often. Pala and Drifting have nailed it. Even an Olympian can not keep up with a dolphin. I had my dream come true the same day I came home to a bear in my back yard. I was surrounded by orcas and hade female dive under my kayak. Pala I will have to show you the photo some day. That was such a rare situation. They are wild mammals ,but I must say they are so intelligent I never felt threatened, but I also never kayak alone and always with someone I am confident can help me get back in my boat.

Port Townsend...
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8. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

If anyone's interested:

My buddy Rick is a pretty amazing guy, he's lived a good chunk of his life kayaking with whales.

http://hawaiiwhalesrus.com/

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9. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

Thank you Drifting Clouds. In Fishing Bay (Orcas), near East Sound and Indian Island. We would not leave that portion of Bay. We have all kayaked before, lakes and ocean. I would save any ocean kayaking for Tour.

San Juan Island...
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10. Re: Whale Watching -- Boat Tour or Kayak?

Yes that would be a protected area to be kayaking in. You should be fine alone there being as you are experienced too.

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