San Juan Islands, Washington

Orca whales, commonly referred to as killer whales, have been a favorite animal of mine since I was a young child. Predating my aspirations to become a surgeon, my 5 year-old self aspired to be a whale trainer (as most 5 year-old selves do).  Fast forward 21 years later, and I find myself temporarily living in Washington.  As if this state doesn't have enough to explore, it has islands. And these islands have orcas. So Laura Lawson Visconti, Victoria Wright and myself packed our bags and hit the sea in search of whales.

We partnered with San Juan Clipper Vacations for an unforgettable whale experience.  We left from Seattle, WA (literally 4 blocks from my house, score!) on a water ferry, which took us to Friday Harbor. From there, we went on a whale watching tour.

Let me tell you a little bit about whales.  Orca whales travel in pods.  In Washington, the local whales are referred to as "the southerners".  They are broken into familial pods, and remain in/around the area.  Then you have "the transients".  These are your gypsy whales.  Pretty much the baddest bad-ass, meat-eating orcas out there.  These are the ones that won't hesitate to swallow your kayak whole.  I kid, I kid.  These whales travel thousands of miles. They come and go from all around the world. That fact alone blew my mind.  But my most favorite fact about orca whales is that they exist in a matriarch-led society. That's right: the woman is the pack-leader in this tribe (so of course the orca is my spirit animal). And fittingly, we embarked on a ladies-only trip in search of these magnificent creatures.

While on our boat ride, we encountered a pod of whales we were told was the "L-Pod".  To see these mammals swimming free in the wild was truly magnificent. Whales are such marvelous, impressively large creatures.  Their dorsal fins alone are oftentimes taller than I am.

We stayed at the oh-so-charming Earthbox Inn in Friday Harbor, and took advantage of their free beach cruiser rentals.  Lesson of the trip: back-pedal brakes aren't the most effective form of quickly stopping.  Sorry about your flower bush, guys ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The following day, we set out to find whales by kayak.  We toured with San Juan Outfitters, and were lucky to have the coolest guides ever (shout-out, Chris + Jordan).  It may or may not have been decided that this place employs only the best looking staff. It was also decided that Laura, Veek, and myself are by far the slowest paddlers in the Pacific Northwest.  The 10 mile trip was supposed to take 5 hours.  Let's just took us 6.  And despite our best whale calls, no orcas breached (or even swam, for that matter) around our kayaks.  I did hold a jelly fish though.

We spent our downtime enjoying the amazing scenics of Friday Harbor, biking to and from the cutest lunch spots in our Teva sandals, trying to eat ice cream before it melted in the blazing sun, asking strangers to borrow their boats (to which they obliged!), and having picnics with Bota Box in tow.

It felt like such a charming summer vacation, I forgot I was still in Washington.

And now to the best part: I am teaming up with Clipper Vacations - who were so kind as to provide this once-in-a-lifetime experience to us - to giveaway a whale watching experience to you and a friend. Details on how to enter over on Instagram!