Buddy's 5th birthday was back in November. We didn't really get him anything besides a ream of paper (to make paper airplanes) and an IOU note promising a whale-watching tour in Depoe Bay, Oregon. Everyone knows how much he loves animals, especially birds and sea life, so we figured this would be a perfect gift. He was thrilled even though he didn't have any presents to open. We planned to go in December.
Well, then December came and went (it snowed most of the month) and we moved in January/February. Then it wasn't whale-watching season. We planned to go in May but G spent most of the month traveling, so then we started to feel bad. Meanwhile, Buddy would remind us every few days that he still wanted to go.
Then in June we were at the children's museum and he found a flier on one of those tourist-pamphlet-racks advertising killer whale-watching tours in the San Juan Islands. I looked into it and while it sounded like a lot of fun, we weren't really planning any trips to Seattle. Over the next few weeks one thing lead to another and everything fell into perfect place so we could arrange our trip.
G's parents were coming for a visit, so we scheduled our trip to Seattle while they were here. After spending a fun-filled day in Seattle, we took the 2-hour drive north to Bellingham Saturday morning early. Buddy had no idea where we were going. When we arrived at the boat dock he was overjoyed to learn we were going out into the ocean to look for killer whales. Seeing his joy was pure joy for me too.
We boarded the boat a little before 10:00. The first three hours we headed through the San Juan Islands. Lucky for us the weather was gorgeous, which just made our boat-ride through the islands even more beautiful. The lush trees. Wow.
We had a very knowledgeable naturalist on board who kept watch for any cool animal-life, plus gave us all sorts of facts and figures and history about the islands. Along the way we saw a California sea lion, salmon jumping, some deer, and some different birds. She spotted a bald eagle, but much to the disappointment of all of us, we were on the wrong side of the boat to see it too. (Buddy keeps telling people he saw it, though.)
Finally a little before 1:00, we found the killer whales. I was so excited when I saw my first one. I had no idea that we'd be so close and that we'd see so many and it was only moments before the reality of the experience set in. I'm not sure how many whales were in the "pod" we were with, but maybe around 20. But we kept seeing them breech and slap their tails, not to mention the different times we'd see their huge dorsal fins swimming by. The naturalist knew each whale by name. It was amazing. Etiquette requires boats stay closer than 100 yards from the whales, but if they swim toward the boat we didn't have to move. At one point two whales swam right near the boat. Literally just feet from the side, right where we were. It was amazing, incredible, and impressive. In fact, I wish there were stronger adjectives to describe the experience. It was truly a highlight of my whole life. Even the captain said it was the best tour he'd been on all season. We watched the whales for nearly two hours then headed back to the dock, returning at almost 5:30. I have to say I actually felt dread leaving the boat. We can hardly wait to do it again (this time minus the little one, since containing him on the boat was like containing a cat in a paper bag.)
I'm sorry the pictures aren't very good. I wish I had a better camera. But even if I had a totally awesome camera, the photographs would never do the experience justice. After a little while I finally had to put our camera away and just enjoy the whales without the lens in my way. One guy on board took 400 pictures and said only one was good enough to capture the actual beauty of the whales. Seeing them in person -- in their element -- was remarkable.
Happy Birthday Buddy, 8 months late! I'm so glad you have such good taste in hobbies!