August was another solid month for orca whale watching on our San Juan Islands kayak tours. Starting in June, we had an unbroken streak of daily killer whale activity in Washington’s Salish Sea that ran for 83 straight days until August 20th when they mysteriously disappeared. Fortunately, the orcas quickly returned after being absent for only two days. Despite the threats to their survival in our local waters, killer whale watching in the San Juan Islands near Seattle, Washington is the best that can be found in the entire United States!
August is the month when the resident families of orca whales begin to stray further and further from the primary hunting zone on the west side of San Juan Island as they pursue salmon all the way to the Fraser River’s mouth in Georgia Strait. These long range pursuits slightly reduce the whale watching success on our kayak day trips in August when compared to the peak killer whale watching months in spring and early summer. The one day kayak tours are affected the most since they spend the shortest amount of time in the orcas’ habitat. The kayak camping trips are only slightly affected by the changing hunting tactics of the killer whales.
Despite the killer whales’ pattern of more widely ranging hunts in late summer, our one day kayaking tours operate exclusively along the west side of San Juan Island as this remains the primary feeding area and offers us the best statistical chance of finding orca whales in any month. Our multi-day camping trips don’t experience a significant drop in whale sightings since these kayak adventures explore the outer San Juan Islands that the whales pass through en route to the secondary feeding area off the Fraser River delta.
Here’s the August whale watching report for Sea Quest Kayaking Tours:
- We found orca whales on nearly 70% of our camping trips!
- Four out of five of our 5-day San Juan kayak expeditions saw orca whales for an 80% success rate.
- Nearly two out of three of our 3-day San Juan kayaking trips found killer whales for a 63% success rate.
- Exactly two out of three of our 2-day San Juan kayak tours found the orcas for a 67% success rate.
- Three out of four of the above camping trips saw either Dall’s porpoise or harbor porpoise, the smallest of the toothed whales that reside in the San Juan Islands. There was only one unlucky camping adventure in the entire month that didn’t find either a pod of orcas or porpoises, but more than half got to see both the big guys and the little ones on the same trip.
- Our 1-day San Juan kayaking trips succeeded in finding at least one species of cetacean on over 4 out of 5 trips in August for an 83% success rate. The killer whales appeared on nearly half of the day trips for a 44% success rate.
The slight drop in August whale watch sightings is a pretty fair trade for enjoying the warmest, driest weather of the entire year. Temperatures typically range in the 70s and 80s and yield less than a half-inch of rainfall. We’ve experienced a few Augusts that didn’t shed a single drop of rain. Most people underestimate how dry and pleasant our rainshadow climate is in the San Juan Islands!
Photo credit to San Juan Island whale watching captain par excellence Jim Maya.