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“San Juan Islands - Sea Quest 5 Day Kayak / Camping Vacation”

Sea Quest Expeditions Kayak Tours
Ranked #7 of 25 Tours in Friday Harbor
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Our Goal is Simple: We Want You to Have the Best Sea Kayaking Tour of Your Life! Join us for a kayak adventure that offers the full range from energized fun to calm serenity. Our guides skillfully hand-craft every Sea Quest Kayak Expedition into a custom learning experience - one that will surely enhance your appreciation of our natural environment. Our kayak tours are mainly led by actual biologists and environmental scientists who double as highly-trained outdoor educators and sea kayak guides. This level of excellence distinguishes us from other outfitters and transforms your experience into an adventure in learning.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Detroit, Michigan
Level 1 Contributor
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“San Juan Islands - Sea Quest 5 Day Kayak / Camping Vacation”
Reviewed 25 August 2013

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.

Visited August 2013
3 Thank brett&jyl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
ltokayak, Manager at Sea Quest Expeditions Kayak Tours, responded to this review, 26 August 2013
Thank you for the glowing review of our kayak tours. We do feel that we should address your misunderstandings regarding orca whale sightings on our kayak tours. We have been recording the results from all of our tours for the past 25 years and we can assure you that there is indeed a “fairly high likelihood” of seeing killer whales on our five day kayak tours. During the peak whale watching months from June through August we have seen orcas on 3 out of 4 tours. Unfortunately, not all years are going to be “normal” within nature’s realm. Whale activity, ocean productivity, and weather are all phenomena that can suddenly veer out of normal bounds. This summer has been highly unusual in that very few chinook salmon have been present in the San Juan Islands, and as these are the primary food of orca whales, we have concurrently experienced the fewest orca whale sightings in our 25 years of operating tours. Will chinook salmon numbers, and therefor orca whale sightings, return to normal tomorrow? It could happen. We have the top fisheries biologists in the world working on this species and even they can’t answer that question. Will they return to normal numbers next summer? Perhaps more likely. But one thing is certain: your assumption based on a single brief visit to the San Juan Islands that orca whales are rarely ever sighted on our kayak tours is incorrect. It is tantamount to saying that since it didn’t rain during your tour that it will never rain again and the San Juan Islands are now a desert. In the end, we must all remain focused on one crucial fact that most people forget: both chinook salmon and our local population of killer whales are on the Endangered Species List. Recovery plans made by the government have not resulted in any success so far and it will take a massive effort on the part of our society to insure that these species survive for future generations to enjoy.
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381 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
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English first
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Level 1 Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Fantastic trip and guide”
Reviewed 24 August 2013

My wife and I had done a five-day trip with Sea Quest in 1995 and had a fantastic experience. We decided to go again, this time with our two teen-aged boys, and the return adventure didn't disappoint. Our guide, Charlie, was awesome, filling our kayaking days and nights with interesting nuggets of information about things as varied as jellyfish and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. My wife has a gluten allergy and Charlie and the Sea Quest crew went out of their way to accommodate her, making gluten-free pasta, brownies, pancakes and French toast. Charlie whipped up great meals, including an impromptu appetizer of fresh clams in white wine sauce on our last night. He also was very flexible about our itinerary, giving us and the one other couple on the trip options about where we would go. He was particularly helpful when one of our boys had a tough day kayaking. Charlie revised the plans on the fly to cut the day's kayaking short. He also went out of his way to engage both our boys in conversation, which isn't always easy with teens.
The highlight of the trip was a nighttime outing on Stuart Island in which we got to experience bio-luminescent plankton, something we didn't do on our earlier trip. Charlie led our group out of the harbor to watch the sunset, offered to take photos of our family and then led us slowly back through the harbor with instructions about how to stir up the plankton so they glowed under our paddles.

Visited August 2013
Thank Jim P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Seattle, Washington
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“A magical day”
Reviewed 23 August 2013

Abbot and Peter were our guides for a magical day of kayaking and whalewatching on 8/17/13. From the first moment when they picked us up and had to rearrange the groups (b/c one group of 5 had not previously said that they were together) - the humor, flexibility and knowledge that they demonstrated made our day fantastic. While they came across as sort of goofy they made sure that everyone understood the safety lesson and then hustled us out onto the water when they realized that whale watching boats were gathering. Cue the orcas. From then on, they got us into great viewing positions, answered all our questions about whale habits, told amusing stories, and really did educate us. It's great to have guides with degrees in marine biology! We all (2 adults, 15 year old, and 12 year old) had a great time. We will never forget what it sounds like when orcas breathe.

Sea Quest can't control the weather and they can't guarantee orcas. But the beautiful weather and the amazing views of the orcas could be marred by poor guides and there Sea Quest shone!

Visited August 2013
Thank lauraru
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Diego, California
1 review
“Wonderful Five Day Kayak Trip”
Reviewed 19 August 2013

Charlie was our guide for the five day kayak trip. I was not expecting much in the way of meals with so little room to carry gear but I was amazed at his cooking skills! Meals were to die for! Homemade brownies, fresh fruit, wonderful breakfasts and amazing dinners! The hikes were breathtaking and the moonlight paddle with the starriest sky I have ever seen was unforgettable. I would definitely recommend Sea Quest Expeditions. Charlie went out of his way to make this trip the best ever.

Visited August 2013
Thank Jill E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Milton, DE
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Extra Effort Means 5 Stars”
Reviewed 16 August 2013

Just returned from a 5 day kayak adventure with Sea Quest out of Friday Harbor. Have had this experience on my mind for many years, and it did not disappoint. Experiencing the San Juan Islands from a kayak gives you the time, and perspective to really soak in the area's beauty. Our guide, Charlie Hagler, was very knowledgeable on the wildlife of the area as well as how to travel best with the currents. What took the trip to 5 stars though was the extra effort he went to such as taking us out in the evening to watch a sunset from the water, kayaking under the stars, experiencing bioluminescense, pushing on a bit further to reach some of the best camp sites, hiking to a bluff for lunch, and serving dinner up on a point overlooking Mt. Baker instead of at the picnic table. Menu was vegetarian, and I experienced no withdrawal as Charlie has some great recipes. With the kayaking, hiking and vegetarian menu it is not only a unique and fun vacation, but also a very healthy one. Equipment was excellent and concern for safety was very apparent.

Visited August 2013
Thank trippin_senior
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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