The home page of the Sea Quest Expeditions (SQE) website shows Orca breaching within single digit meters of kayakers. My wife and I, after perusing the SQE website were left with the impression that there would be a fairly high likelihood of seeing Orca from our kayak. While this is certainly possibly, in fact, it is a very rare occurrence.
Buyer beware: do NOT take this trip with the expectation of actually seeing Orca in the wild. It just doesn't happen all that often, at least NOT from a kayak. If you want to plan a kayaking/camping/whale watching trip to the San Juans, go for a 3 day kayak tour, combined with powerboat whale watching specific trips. Powerboat whale watch expeditions literally go out of their way to take you to the whales, while with kayaking, seeing Orca in the wild is a happy, albeit rare, accident. A fluke, one might say (bad pun absolutely intended).
That being said...kayaking is a spectacular way of experiencing the San Juans. Puget Sound is a magical place of indescribable beauty. There is no better way to absorb this beauty than from a kayak, and SQE does excel at providing the superlative San Juan experience.
As for guides...specifically request CHARLIE. My wife and I have done a fair amount of guided trips, and thus far, Charlie tops them all. Fantastic personality, in-depth knowledge of the San Juans, incredible cooking skills, and true concern for the safety and well-being of his guests.
On a side note: my wife is 58, and I am 55. Both of us, while definitely not athletes, are in better physical condition than most people our age, and do participate in regular daily exercise at home. We found the 5 day kayak tour to be a real challenge at times, on a purely physical level.
Our guide Charlie did a spectacular job of planning the paddling portion of our trip to work with wind, currents, and tides, but there were times that the 5 day became a real endurance test. If you have doubts about your physical abilities, you may want to limit your kayaking adventure to a 3 day tour.
To sum up, I would have given SQE at least 4, or possibly 5 stars, except for the fact that the SQE website does leave the definite impression that you will be seeing Orca on your trip. The truth is that while there is the possibility of seeing Orca on a kayak tour, the likelihood that you will actually see Orca from a kayak is fairly low. Pictures of Orca breaching near kayakers plastered on the SQE website is marketing overkill.
To be fair, most of the Puget Sound / San Juan Islands kayak tour companies do overtly use pictures of Orca near kayaks as a marketing pitch. If there was such a thing as truth in advertising, it would be abundantly clear that these trips are about experiencing the San Juans on a spiritual level, and that actually viewing Orca in the wild is a precious gift from the Divine.
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