While most are amazed by the sublime, majestic nature of whales, a small, paranoid minority wonders what would happen to mankind if whales had legs. Worship or worry as you see fit with today's Groupon: for $46, you get an orca whale-watching tour from Orcas Island Eclipse Charters (a $75 value) in Orcas. Tours typically last three to three and a half hours.Tickets for children 12 and under are regularly $46.
After boarding the Orcas Express on Orcas Island, you'll get to immerse yourself in the wild waters surrounding the San Juan Islands, either from the ship's airy open deck or the tables of its comfy heated cabin. In addition to spotting the island's famed "killer" whales, you're liable to spot minke whales, harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and a host of oceangoing birds such as eagles, ospreys, cormorants, and herons. Your captain will get you as close as he can within the limits of whale-watching law and sea etiquette to the whales and their sundry sea-bros.
United States Coast Guard–licensed master captain Dan Wilk and his wife, Denise, have more than 32 combined years of boating experience in the waters around the San Juan Islands. This pair of full-time aquatic mammals experienced a brief but intense affair with fame when they portrayed members of a Coast Guard marine patrol for the film Free Willy 2, though they were never offered another Hollywood role after they sent an orca to accept their Academy Awards. Since then, they've dedicated themselves to providing the best possible orca-viewing experience in the Northwest.
Eclipse's 56-foot Orcas Express—an airy, spacious comfort cruiser with a heated cabin—has a limited supply of raincoats and binoculars on board at all times, so cetacean lovers are encouraged to bring their own cameras, binoculars, and warm clothing.
Orcas Island Eclipse Charters
When the producers of Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home were casting for the roles of coastal marine patrollers, they didn't look to the scores of hopeful actors in Hollywood, opting instead to find boating professionals with real experience. Their search led them to Orcas Island Eclipse Charters founders Dan and Denise Wilk, whose extensive knowledge of aquatic wildlife made them a serendipitous choice for sharing the camera with Hollywood's most famous orca.
Aboard their 56-foot vessel, Dan and Denise continue to share the passion that led them to the big screen in the first place. Their enthusiasm shines through to passengers while they guide tours into the habitats of killer whales and harbor seals. Occasionally, expert guides direct passengers to look up from the water to spot deer on nearby land or bald eagles soaring through the sky above. When asked how they happen upon so many natural specimens on their trips, Dan and Denise would tell you they don't leave their tours up to chance, coordinating excursions with a whale-watching service that pinpoints where the underwater mammals are feeding.
8368 Orcas Rd.
Orcas, Washington 98280