On a childhood fishing trip with his dad in the San Juan Islands, Shane Aggergaard noticed a group of orcas swimming toward his boat. Rather than steering clear of human contact, they swam directly under the boat—one even looked Shane right in the eye. It was a moment of whale-human connection he never forgot, and nowadays tries to approximate through Island Adventures. The whale-watching tour company, which Shane founded with his wife, Jennifer, brings passengers into close contact with the aquatic mammals of the Pacific Northwest.
Depending on the season, wilderness-savvy guides—who’ve led more than 6,000 collective wildlife tours during their careers—can introduce passengers to minke whales and the San Juan’s three resident orca pods, migrating gray whales, or humpbacks. Their 101-foot vessel, The Island Explorer 3, boasts a large bow pulpit and a viewing deck with more than 400 feet of railing, ideal for seeing whales in their entirety, from their tails to their trusty sets of water wings. The team backs each tour with a whale-sighting guarantee and strives to ensure future sightings by making sustainable choices, from its ecofriendly cleaning products to the boat's cabin floor made from recycled tires.