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Whale Watching on a Small Boat vs. a Large Boat

Whale Watching on a Small Boat vs. a Large Boat

There are many options available for those wanting to embark on a whale watching expedition. From large boats with dozens of passengers to individual kayaks, getting up close to Orca and Killer whales can be done in a variety of ways. However, the most touted and effective way to see these magnificent creatures is by whale watching from a small boat.

Normally, small boat whale watching tours book fewer than ten guests per expedition. The smaller boat size usually accommodates about six passengers comfortably. With fewer passengers aboard there is no pushing or maneuvering to get to the railing to see the whales. The same cannot be said of larger tour boats who can carry ten times the number of passengers that the smaller boats do.

Education becomes part of the whale watching expedition experience on a small boat. The captains of small boat tours tend to interact more and educate more than those on a large boat. Whether simply because of close proximity to the passengers or because of more investment in the company, small boat captains offer a wealth of information to the guests aboard their vessels. Facts about local wildlife and fauna are usually well known and part of the tour.

Over 170 islands make up the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest. The northwest corner of Washington state is home to this refuge, as well as, a large number of Orca whales who are as fascinated by the tourists as the whale watchers are with them. Larger boats may have a more challenging time than small boat tours maneuvering through this collection of islands. The inability to maneuver as quickly impacts their ability to stay close to the pod of whales.

Speed is also a factor to consider when debating whether or not to board a small boat for whale watching. A smaller boat is typically able to go faster and farther out than some of the larger vehicles. Many of the smaller whale watching tours offered in the San Juan Islands are aboard non-polluting, fuel-efficient boats that help maintain the water quality for the Orca and Killer whale population.

Each type of whale watching tour will have its pros and cons. Consider the price of each in regard to what is actually included in the expedition. The smaller boat company will usually offer a boat that is eco-friendly with greater maneuverability, fewer passengers and a more personal experience. Larger boats may sell tours at a lower price, but also include a large number of guests, a slower boat and less interaction with the knowledgeable captain. Any added cost in choosing a small boat whale watching tour is worth it for this once in a lifetime experience.

Bill Carli is an experienced and knowledgeable captain of a whale watching company who makes his livelihood around the majestic beauty of the whales of the San Juan Islands.
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