Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
This afternoon we set out on the Orca Spirit boat with high spirits, hoping to find whales and other amazing marine life. We made a turn towards the west as we left the harbour and cruised along the beautiful shorelines of Vancouver Island. We made it all the way to East Sooke when we were surprised by the sight of black dorsal fins slicing the water's surface! They were a group of 4 Transient Orcas!! Transient Orcas hunt mammals like seals, porpoises and sea lions. We were captivated by the presence of a female and her 3 offspring, including a new calf which still had its peachy colour where orcas are normally white. The peach colour appears on all newborn calves, eventually fading to white within 6 to 12 months. The Transient Orca population is listed as threatened, so every new addition to the population is very important and exciting. The calf remained by his or her's mother' side allowing the calf to use its mother's slip-stream to swim more easily through the water. The whales seemed to be traveling and searching their environment for food. The group eventually split into two but remained in close proximity. Identification was not easy but we believe it was the T100 matriline. Transients travel in one matriline rather than in large pods as they need to sneak up on their prey, so they can't be in large numbers.
Just when we were about to turn around and head to Race Rocks, we received a report that there was a group of Resident Orcas further west making their way towards us! It is extremely rare to see both Transient and Resident Orcas not only in the same day, but especially on the same trip in such close quarters. The two types of orcas tend to avoid each other, never engaging in any social behavior. The whales we were approaching belonged to J-pod! And who else would be leading the familiar family but Granny (J-2) herself! Granny is the oldest known orca in the world, turning 101 this season! She is also the matriarch leader of the J-pod family. She was accompanied by her best friend Spieden (J-8), along with a teenage male and several other females. Spieden is often easy to identify as she makes a wheezing or whistling sound when she surfaces and exhales. This peculiarity does not negatively affect Spieden as she has been making these noises for decades. Spieden is one of the oldest whales in the Southern Resident population, born in 1933. You can read more about each member of the Southern Resident Community in the education section of our website! It was so fantastic to see J-pod coming in, we hope they stay in the area for many days to come!
We had one last stop to make for our guests so that they could see some huge sea lions! We pulled into the islands of Race Rocks Lighthouse where we were greeted by Stellar's Sea Lions, Elephant Seals and several Harbour Seals. They were all laying on their favourite rocky spots, enjoying the calm weather of spring. Stellar's Sea Lions are the largest sea lions that occupy our waters, weighing in at 2500 pounds and reaching lengths of 10 to 12 feet! The docile Harbour Seals were lying out of the Transient Orcas reach, safe on top of the rocks. The Elephant Seal females continue to bask on the top of one of the larger islands, molting their fur as they have been doing for the past two weeks. Our boat eventually had to leave so that we could return back to beautiful Victoria. What an awesome and incredibly exciting day on the Salish Sea!