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Humpback, Orcas, and Grays

December is turning in to be a great whale-watching month

A humpback whale surfaces near the Chilkat tour boat. One of the types of whales you can see on a Puget Sound Express Seattle Whale Watching Tour. Photo credit: Puget Sound Express/Brian Goldberg

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Orcas have been spotted in the South Puget Sound near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and as far south as Priest Point in Olympia in recent weeks. Farther afield, a few humpback whales have been seen in the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Rare still this time of year are a few gray whales who have been lingering in the Puget Sound. If you really want to get up close and personal with the whales, you need to get out on the water.

The Puget Sound Express is offering Seattle's only half-day guaranteed whale-watching tour, which departs out of Edmonds. The Hanke Family, who has offered tours for over 30 years with three generations, owns the company. That experience, and the naturalists that accompany each trip, are what set this company apart. Tours out of Edmonds cruise on either the Saratoga, new for 2018, or the Chilkat Express. Both vessels are propeller-less, so they are very fast while running extremely quiet. Each has indoor seating, outside viewing decks, restrooms and a café. The Seattle Whale Watching Tour is the company's newest tour, and they guarantee you'll see whales, or they will give you a free return trip.

According to Keven Elliff, Director of Marketing for Puget Sound Express, "Outside of Alaska, the Salish Sea is one of the best places in the world to see whales. There is such an astonishing diversity of whales in this area. At various times of the year you can see Orcas (both the Southern Resident and the Transients), Gray and Humpback whales. Less common are the Fin whale, the second largest in the world and the Minke, the smallest whale in the world."

The Salish Sea includes the Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Strait of Georgia and other coastal waterways that extend from southwestern British Columbia to Northwest Washington state. Edmonds makes a sweet spot to depart from for whale watching as you can easily reach the areas where the whales hang out.

Whales aren't the only wildlife you will see on your tour. Porpoises, dolphins, seals, sea lions, otters and many species of birds are often seen from the boat. Tours depart at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The company will run daily tours from Dec. 26-31 at 11:30 a.m., which is a perfect Christmas break activity. The company takes a break January and February to conduct maintenance on the boats and then kicks back up again in March for the Gray whale migration. (Insider Tip: Make sure to try the signature freshly baked blueberry buckle.) View the website for more tips, and note that trips begin boarding 45 minutes prior to departure time. Boats can be bumpy, so make sure you have a secure way to take a photo. You don't want to lose a pricey phone overboard. You can find inexpensive clear waterproof cases that you wear around your neck to protect your phone and allow photos.

Puget Sound Express, schedule varies, 500 Admiral Way, Edmonds, 360.385.5288,

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