It’s an amazing feeling to gaze into a massive animal's eyes, knowing that it possesses an equal or greater amount of intelligence and curiosity. Jim Robertson, a 26-year licensed captain, regularly shares this experience with guests in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary aboard his Coast Guard–certified vessel. The Farallon Islands—located 27 miles off the coast of San Francisco—are home to 26 federally listed endangered or threatened species, including leatherback sea turtles and blue whales. With a staff of naturalists on board to narrate the breathtaking scenes before them, guests can peep blue, gray, and humpback whales swimming, breaching, and playing Marco Polo in their natural habitat. Along the way, they might also catch a glimpse of dolphins, seals, sea lions, and a cloudburst of native birds.