For our five year anniversary in August, Skyler and I took a little two day trip to the San Juan Islands. We walked onto the ferry at Anacortes and enjoyed a nice hour plus boat ride to Friday Harbor with a game of gin and great views. The ferry was $23 for both of us, round trip.
We were very fortunate to have friends that are also healthcare travelers that lived on the island at the time, so we had our own personal tour guides and a free place to stay. They are actually the creators of the Healthcare Travelbook website. You should definitely check it out if you haven’t already. Lots of great info and a way to connect with other travelers. Anyway, Wes and Rebecca were great hosts and we were so thankful to them for the free place to stay! Once we arrived in Friday Harbor, Rebecca met us and walked us back to their house. We dropped off our bags and then hit the ground runnin’.
Our first stop of the day in San Juan was the Whale Museum. It costs $6 per adult, but to be honest, we weren’t all that impressed. It was definitely geared more towards children and was quite small. I would probably skip this stop if I were to do it all again. But, it was a nice precursor to the rest of our day.
After the museum we were both ready for lunch so we made our way to Downriggers, a cute little restaurant on the water with great views and a nice large balcony.
Not a bad view for lunch eh? The food on the other hand wasn’t that great. I ordered the Dungeness Crab Mac & Cheese and Skyler ordered the Blackened Salmon Sandwich. Mine was dry and both the salmon and crab were very fishy tasting. The table next to us ordered salads that looked amazing though, so we were both envious of their choices. The food was sub-par, but the views were pretty great.
Western Prince Whale Watch
After lunch we made our way to board the Western Prince for our whale watching tour. This was by far the highlight of our day! And one of the coolest things we have ever done!!! If you ever go to San Juan, this is a must do excursion. There are lots of different tour companies to choose from and I’m sure that there are a lot of great ones, but I definitely recommend Western Prince! They keep the groups fairly small and there were two very informed Naturalists on board that could answer any question we had about whales. We learned so much! They were definitely great. And seeing the whales that close in their natural habitat was an incredible experience!
Did you know that whales travel and live in their family groups, or pods? They stay with their mothers forever. The resident pods don’t mix with transient pods at all. They will play and mate with other pods that live in the same area (there are 3 resident pods – J, K, & L - that live in the San Juan area), but they will not join pods. There have been instances where one whale will get separated from its pod for years at a time and it will never join a new one. And did you know that the life span of a whale is very similar to that of humans? And the female’s cycle is very similar to a human’s as well. Also, the oldest female is the leader of the pod. So interesting!
Unlike humans that just naturally breathe, whales have to remind themselves to breathe. That is why they only sleep with half of their brain at a time. They also show emotion too. For these reasons, the lady that was explaining everything to us really believes that there have been instances of whales and dolphins in captivity that chose to commit suicide. There was the whale that jumped out of the pool during a performance, and then a dolphin that swam up into its trainers arms and then took its last breath. Both acts seem questionably deliberate.
If you remember, I was a huge fan of Sea World and all the cool shows, but after this tour it definitely makes you think differently about whales in captivity. I assure you, I’m not a huge animal advocate or hippy or anything. Sadly, I don’t even really like animals (I know, I’m weird). But when you learn so much about them; whale’s start to seem much more like humans than they do animals. The ones held in captivity are separated from their families, something that is completely unnatural to their way of life. And then they are thrown into a small tank with whales from other pods. Again, complete contrast from their natural habitat and instinct. Kind of sad. I can’t say that I will never go to Sea World again, because I am a sucker for those shows, but I will always think of whales differently for sure. They are definitely beautiful, massive creatures!
We saw lots of other wildlife besides the orcas on the tour as well. Including an eagle (on top of the tree in front/center),
sunbathing sea lions,
and a jellyfish.
The whale watching tour was an absolutely amazing experience! Something we will never forget! Like I said before, I definitely recommend this tour if you are in the area and have the time. It is between 3-4 hours and costs $79 per person. Worth every penny! I wish I could go back right now! Aparently October is a fantastic whale watching month. They have not only been spotting orcas, but humpbacks as well. If you want to see some great pictures taken from this tour check out their blog here. My pics aren’t nearly as cool as theirs.
Once we were back on dry land again, Wes and Rebecca met us in town to grab a couple of drinks and a bite to eat at Friday’s Crabhouse. To be honest, it was just all frozen and deep fried food, so not even worth reviewing. But sitting outside enjoying a cold beer with great company was terrific! They too had spectacular views of the harbor.
Bonfire on the Beach
After we relaxed at the Crabhouse for a bit, we ended our night at the beach with an awesome driftwood bonfire. It was so incredible! We watched the sunset over the mountains, listened to the crashing waves of the ocean, drank a few beers, and joked about the ups and downs of being a healthcare traveler. Day’s like this one are for sure one of the highlights!
Before we boarded the ferry to leave the next morning, I stopped by a street vendor shop and bought one of his handmade glass whale tale necklaces as a souvenir of our fantastic day of learning all about whale’s.
We had an amazing time in San Juan on Friday Harbor, but this was only the first of our three day anniversary celebrations…