Washington offers one of the best whale watching opportunities in the world and typically focuses on Orcas in and around the San Juan Islands of Northwest Washington although gray whales and humpback whales can also be found off the coasts.
Orca whales, also popularly known as "Killer Whales", are the most sought after whales for watching. Orcas typically travel in family groups called pods and generally are recognized as either transient or resident groups.
There are many whale watching tour companies that operate in and around the San Juan Islands and the consensus is that mid-April through September is the best time for whale watching.
In addition to taking a tour, the Whale Trail is a series of sites around the Northwest coast where you may possibly see orcas, grey whales, and other marine mammals from shore.
We have not yet taken a whale watching tour but I have friends who recently returned from a trip to the San Juan Islands and have graciously allowed me to use this photo:
|Echo (J42) courtesy of Jeff and Jody|
All of the orcas are numbered and named except for the new babies. The Center for Whale Research waits about six months before naming the babies to make sure they are going to make it as they have had some disappear and are not sure what happens to them. They are not tagged in any way; they are only tracked by their movements.