Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
July 18, 2011
This morning, we boarded the Orca Spirit with an international crowd with guests from around the world, including the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and the United States. Although the weather was somewhat dismal, with rain and fog, we did not let the weather dampen our spirits. We headed towards San Juan Island to start our tour. The seas were stunningly calm. Arriving near False Bay, we dropped the hydrophone and scanned the area, listening for blows. Without a sign, we headed to Salmon Bank and continued our search. With lots of bird life, including rhinoceros auklets, common murres, and a variety of gulls indicating that there was bait fish below - good indicators that minke whales might be present. However, at that time, we received reports of a possible orca sighting and we headed to investigate.
Arriving near Seabird Point, we spotted our first dorsal fins. We had members of J and L-pods making their way east along the southern tip of Discovery Island. The fog only added to the experience as the orcas made there way slowly, playing in the kelp. We watched one orca draped in kelp and observed several spyhops from the orcas. It was an incredible trip and a great way to conclude the tour.
Our afternoon trip started with a wildlife experience before we even left the dock. As we were about to leave we noticed a raccoon foraging in the intertidal zone right in front of our vessel. It was a great way to start the tour, and gave us a hint of great things to come. With reports of whales to the west, we headed out of the harbour aboard the Orca Spirit and headed west toward Sooke. We encountered our first orcas offshore of Secretary Island, as a large group of whales was spread out travelling westbound. Much of our tour was spent in the company of Nigel (L95), an adolescent male orca. The whales were definitely in travel mode this afternoon! We worked our way inshore with Nigel and spent time with several other L-pod whales. Captain Brad dropped the hydrophone and we heard some great vocalizations. After a great orca experience, we left the orcas to see what else we can find.
Our boat staff is always scanning the waters in an attempt to give our guests the best tour possible, and today our Captain spotted humpback whales. He was actually able to witness a breach through the binoculars! We travelled towards the whales and found them very active! Although the whales had stopped breaching by the time we arrived, we witnessed some great behaviours. We saw some pec slapping and some the tremendous flukes of the humpback whales as they raised their flukes in a deep dive. It was a mother-calf pair, a great sign for a humpback population that continues to increase. With orcas and humpbacks on our afternoon trip, it was a great afternoon on the Salish Sea.