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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23 Responses to Orcas

  1. claudeb says:

    You don't want to get too close… They could be hover orcas. 😛

  2. SittingFox says:

    Oh – wonderful :yes: I love the photo of the sealion on the buoy :DI haven't seen orcas in the wild for a long time, but they leave a strong impression on anyone lucky enough to watch them. And of course, as you point out, their social groups and behaviour are pretty complex too. Amazing creatures.On a different note, I see 'Surrey, Vancouver' on your map. Coming from Surrey, UK, this is usually amusing, but on one occasion I actually had a letter from the US that reached my home in the North Downs via an unexpected visit to Vancouver :eyes:

  3. Spaggyj says:

    How can something so massive and almost bovine like be so graceful and majestic? (And no, I don't mean you, Darko :p )

  4. gdare says:

    Felix, I was actually hoping to see something like this but they were too busy hunting, I guess :PKimmie, well, I am not massive but rather… gracious… so to say :PThey are really amazing, we were watching them through binoculars, too. Just amazing :DAdele, I was so envious to a people on another boat when entire pod suddenly appeared very close behind them. I really hoped for something like that. But most of the boats kept the distance and I think this is the best for orcas.As for Surrey, there is a part of Metro Vancouver called New Westminster, probably called after the Westminster, London 😀

  5. sanshan says:

    When you see their behaviour you can really understand that they are actually dolphins. The naturalist said, "All whales are actually dolphins but not all dolphins are whales".

  6. gdare says:

    San, and she said it was her secret, right? :DStar, no she didn't. I did :whistle:

  7. Stardancer says:


  8. Stardancer says:

    Awesome. Literally. Awesome.What a great trip.:up:(Did San take the hint on the lenses? :lol:)

  9. H82typ says:

    Oh, my! How beautiful! And the vid of the whales surfing with the boat, I watched both versions, (with music and with the raw audio feed). :up:

  10. Spaggyj says:

    Yes you are, you're a giant 😀

  11. gdare says:

    Dennis, that video shows what happened to some american tourists in Mexico earlier this year. Incredible!Kimmie 😀

  12. raniakasim says:

    "I was cleaning my glasses which proved to be futile when first wave splashed all over me"though it solved the problems of headache and make me see better, but it has many disadvantages, and here you're facing the one of them, that's whay i don't put them all the time.

  13. clean says:

    Happy (belated) Birthday, Darko!

  14. gdare says:

    Rania, I need to have them most of the time, I have astigmatism and everything is blurry if I don't wear them :awww:David, thanks :cheers:

  15. qlue says:

    I :love: orcas!

  16. gdare says:

    Amazing, ain't they? 😀

  17. Dacotah says:

    I love Orcas, they are the smartest and largest dolphins. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/killer-whale/

  18. raniakasim says:

    Originally posted by gdare:

    I have astigmatism and everything is blurry if I don't wear them

    .sorry to hear that , i have deficit , bout 3/4 in each eye , so I don't put them all the time .

  19. gdare says:

    Carol, they are magnificent :up:Rania, I have 0.5 on both eyes – which is close to nothing – but astigmatism is the main problem I have :eyes:

  20. raniakasim says:

    whether you are putting glasses or not ,You're a good photographer, I expect in the near future that there will be a real competitor to Adele and Nicolas

  21. Dacotah says:


  22. gdare says:

    Rania, thanks, they make a very good photographs, hope to reach that level one day 😀

  23. raniakasim says:

    hope so 🙂

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