Pods of orcas congregate along the west coast of San Juan Island. In order to try and get an up-close view of them, we booked a full-day kayaking excursion with Discovery Sea Kayaks. Though originally from Texas, our guide, Andrew, displayed an impressive knowledge about the surrounding flora and fauna as our small group of five paddled along the shore.
At first, banks of fog partially hid the steep bluffs of the island, and we could see only mysterious outlines in the silvery sunlight. The lighthouse we passed looked positively haunted. A pod of harbor porpoises surfaced in the distance, but the orcas remained hidden.
After a quick lunch on the beach (we’d brought provisions from town), we returned to the water. The fog cleared and we spotted basking harbor seals; in a thicket of kelp, a sea otter quickly ducked out of sight. Birds were everywhere, and Andrew knew them all.
At one point, we paused to admire some Salish pictographs depicting a sea turtle and the Beaver, the first Western vessel able to outrun the Salish canoes. As we inspected the designs, trying to imagine how the artist reached that section of the bluff, a curious harbor sea pup surfaced nearby, inspecting us.
The orcas eluded us that day, but it was an unforgettable kayaking trip nevertheless.