At Lime Kiln State Park (also known as “Whale Watch Park”), the conditions are just right for the whales, and they often cruise by close to the shoreline. They cavort, breach, tail slap, feed, and delight visitors who hang out on the rocky shore waiting for the whales to pass by.
Looking For Whales At Lime Kiln State Park
Alas, we’ve never seen the orcas at Lime Kiln. At least, not up close.
We’ve tried—oh my, have we tried. Many, many times we’ve tried. We’ve spent hours at the park, walking down the path to the shoreline as people excitedly call out, “Oh, the whales were just here!” They then proceed to show us their iPhone videos of the whales breaching just a few feet offshore. The best we’ve managed is a far-off view—mostly the unique curved arc of the dorsal fin. It’s thrilling, but not what we’ve been hoping for.
A Whale Watching Expedition
And so, we decided to fork over the money for a whale watching expedition. Not just any expedition, mind you. Maya’s Legacy is reputed to be the best—a small boat, with only six passengers. A fast boat that would get us quickly to the whales. A captain who knows the island waters like the back of his hand.
We made our reservations for the first available time slot in late August. With our friends LuAnn and Terry, we caught the early ferry to San Juan from Lopez, and with great anticipation and excitement, began our journey in search of the orcas. Our captain was skilled and determined to show us the whales. “We’ve seen whales every day this summer,” he told us. With transient whales hanging around as well as the resident pods, our chances were good for an encounter with the orcas.
It was a perfect day. Sunny, cool, and calm. We started out the morning observing the gulls, the seals, enjoying the beauty of the islands. We motored along the west and north side of San Juan Island, no whales to be found. We moved into open waters. We cruised past Shaw Island, traveling 10 miles to Orcas Island, where whales had reputedly been sighted. No whales. Our captain gunned the boat, and we took off at top speed, heading south. “It looks like we’re heading to Lopez,” I said to Eric. “Why are we going to Lopez? There aren’t whales at Lopez.”
Returning To Lopez To See The Whales
But there they were. In all the waters of the islands, a transient pod of orcas chose on this particular day to visit Lopez. Not only did they choose Lopez, they chose Spencer Spit. We sat on the deck of the boat, looking directly at Spencer Spit State Park, our home for the past two months.
The whales cavorted, spouted, snapped up a seal, rolled, tail slapped, and made a fine display, all within a few feet of the spit. Had we stayed home and walked on the spit—which we do almost every day when we’re on the island—we would have had a magnificent view of the whales, and been closer than we were on the boat. (By law, boats must stay at least 200 yards from the whales.)
We didn’t see spectacular behavior like spy hopping. Nor were we so lucky to be as close as the folks who happened to be on shore—or better yet, kayaking when the whales passed by. Nonetheless, we had a fabulous time. I’m still determined to see the whales at Lime Kiln. Better yet, maybe they’ll visit Spencer Spit again next year, and we’ll be strolling on the beach when they pass by.