Two days ago, San and I went to a one day whale watching tour some 80km southern of Vancouver. After being on similar tour in Mexico last year, when we watched humpback whales off the coast of Cabo, I wanted to see Orcas because some of them are visiting Vancouver occasionally. We missed the opportunity to see them in our "backyard" twice so far.
A little bit about Orcas: even though they call them "whales" they are actually dolphins. In BC and Washington coast there are three different kinds of orcas: transient, resident and offshores. The main difference among them is their diet. Resident orcas eat mostly salmon, transient hunt seals and porpoises and offshores are feeding on sharks and other big fish. In Vancouver area there are three pods of transient orcas (I don't like to call them killer whales as much as I can). They are not easy to locate, they are hunters and very unpredictable but local whale watching companies know the areas where they hunt and this time it was area around US San Juan Islands.
map shows the route and the area where we spotted orcas and followed them for about 2 hours
While the weather in Mexico was warm, here we needed to prepare for much colder conditions. Temperature of the ocean was about 13C and being on a speed boat we were facing strong winds and, literally, buckets of water coming our way. Therefore we were all dressed in a proper suits that were keeping us warm and mostly dry. We dressed them on land and immediately felt hot but once we entered the Strait of Georgia we were happy to have them on 😀
I was cleaning my glasses which proved to be futile when first wave splashed all over me 😛
To get to San Juan islands – Cypress Island, where we spotted a pod, we spent 2-2,5 hours travelling, stopping occasionally to photograph wildlife we met on the way 😀
Steller sea lion sleeping despite the bell
Captain slowed the boat when we saw a group of similar boats moving slowly west of Cypress Island – whale watching is profitable business and we saw about ten boats in pursuit for the orcas. Then San spotted some fins and moist fumes about 250m from us.
Both US and Canadian laws are strict: boats are not supposed to come closer than 100m and must avoid to come in front or behind whales. Therefore, most of the photos posted here are heavy crops, my lenses are not made for such distances.
We were following them trying to keep a distance and their hunting behaviour – zig-zag swimming and disappearing under water for about 5-10 minutes. Microphone in the water showed no sound, a proof they were hunting, keeping complete silence. This time a prey were seals. We saw few of them swimming out of the area, scared but happy to be alive :happy:
This pod consisted of one dominant male, three females and kids. What is interesting about orcas is the fact that they never mate within the pod but search for other pods, therefore avoiding genetic anomalies.
On the way back we sailed among many islands then across the Strait of Georgia again and after almost 7 hours since we left Granville Island marina, Vancouver greeted us on a way back to the port. That was one perfect day 😀
I would like to go there again, definitely. I am just wondering if I will be able to get some better lenses next time :whistle:
more photos here;
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