Visitors to the Puget Sound region can book whale and wildlife watching cruises from several communities in British Columbia and Washington State. Though there are many variances between operators, there some similarities as well.
Type of Boats and Amenities on Board
Whale and wildlife tour companies use every kind of water craft imaginable, including small, open boats, kayaks and inflatables. However, the majority of the operators use stable, all-weather boats that can carry ten to thirty passengers. Most boats are heated, have comfortable seating, and a head (toilet) on board.
What Can Participants Expect to See During Whale Watch Cruises?
Resident pods of orca whales frequent Puget Sound from Seattle north through the Inside Passage. These animals are well-known to whale watch operators, and often appear in fairly predictable locations. Seals, porpoises, and sea lions are frequently spotted, as are eagles, herons, deer, and a variety of waterfowl including loons and puffins. In addition to orca whales, minke, gray, and humpback whales are sometimes seen.
Naturalists on Board
Whale watch naturalists make the trips enjoyable and informative. Naturalists help passengers spot wildlife, provide information about the geology, biology, and botany of the region, and answer questions.
Duration of a Whale Watch Cruise
Most operators offer day cruises that vary in length from 4 to 6 hours. Most cruises depart either mid-morning or early afternoon and return to port by late afternoon. Departure times are fixed, but return times are approximate due to the distances traveled, weather conditions, and the presence of wildlife.
What Does a Cruise Cost?
Costs vary, but most cruises run between $60 to $80 dollars US for adults, with discounts for children. Some operators also offer discounts to large groups who book in advance. This year, due to rising fuel prices, many companies are adding a fuel surcharge of $2 to $4 to ticket prices.
Children on Board
For safety and the comfort of other passengers, some whale watch operators prohibit children under the age of six, while others welcome families with young children. Generally, whale watch boats are comfortable, but confined, and without child-focused entertainment or food service, so parents need to determine whether this activity is appropriate for their child’s age and activity needs.
How to Find a Whale Watch Operator
In the US whale watch businesses operate from the US mainland, the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands. In Canada tours leave from Victoria, Vancouver, and several of the Gulf Islands. To find a cruise in the US, begin by visiting the GoNorthwest web site. In Canada by going to the British Columbia web site.