- $79 for an whale-watching tour for one ($129 value)
During the 70- to 90-mile cruise around San Juan Islands––and sometimes the Canadian Gulf Islands, although no passport is required––qualified naturalists focus on orca spotting with opportunities to spy grey, humpback, and minke whales. Tours last six to seven hours, and the season ends in September.
Since 1962, owner and U.S. Coast Guard–licensed captain Terry Buzzard has gotten to know the San Juan Islands and surrounding miles of water pretty well. Having hauled mail for the Post Office, salvaged wrecks, assisted in oil spill cleanups, and ferried passengers throughout the San Juan Islands, he has built quite a resumé of seafaring. This relationship with water isn't so surprising considering he began boating at the age of 3 when he was allowed to pilot a single-horsepower boat by himself with his trained rescue dog, Rusty.
Regardless of the actual job he's performing, Terry is always drawn to whales. By 1978, this fascination lead him to chartering trips specifically for whale watching, especially toward the schools of orca that made the region their home. Looking back, he's pretty certain his boat was the only one in the area at the time dedicated to the thrill of witnessing some of the world's largest and most beautiful animals. Today, the waters are spotted with various boats filled with passengers snapping pictures of the great aquatic beasts and shouting ululations whenever one smacks its enormous tail against the water, takes a playful leap, or belts a Mariah Carey song.
Terry's boat, the 110-foot Island Caper, provides generous sightlines to all passengers via its spacious outdoor deck and ample indoor viewing areas, and is decked out with a 34-speaker sound system. In business for 53 years, Island Mariner Whale Watching's unparalleled time and experience on the water offers cruise-goers an ideal experience, and also employs a seaplane to help spot whales and guide tours. With his chief navigator––a 8-year-old airedale terrier also named Rusty––Terry is right out there amid the excitement, ferrying whale watchers and sharing his life-long passion.