Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
As the sun began to burst through the clouds lingering over head, we departed out from the dock, passengers eager and filled with the anticipation of viewing some of our local wildlife. As we began our adventure, just after finishing the routine safety talk on board, an orca was spotted! Not even five minutes out on the excursion and we had already witnessed our first glimpse of marine wildlife! What amazing luck! Slowing the boat, we began to approach the whales, cautiously positioning the boat outside of the orcas direct line of travel. After several more glimpses, it was determined that we had come across two transient orcas! Transient orcas are one of two types of orcas that reside on our southern Vancouver Island shores. Resident orcas are the other type we have, and the main difference is what foods are on the menu.
Transient orcas hunt marine mammals, mainly harbour seals and porpoise, but occasionally will hunt sea lions and in larger pods, will even take down much larger baleen whales. Transient orcas are known as the wolves of the sea and use their exquisite brains to work together to efficiently hunt and kill prey. Our resident orcas feed on fish, with salmon making up most of their diet. We watched the orcas slowly travel past the Victoria harbour, heading towards Trial Island and any possibly seals unaware of the danger lurking in the distance. Transient orcas are not as vocal as their counterparts as many of the animals they hunt have very good hearing, and thus the transients travel in silence, sneaking up on unsuspecting prey. Unlike the larger schools of salmon that the residents feed on, the marine mammals hunted by the transients can prove to be more difficult to find, resulting in smaller pods of transient orcas. The number of orcas hunting together depends on the abundance of food in the area, and the risk/reward factor of the prey targeted. Today we have an adult male and female duo, most likely searching for seals and porpoise as taking down a much larger, stronger sea lion would result in a loss of a lot of energy compared to a harbour seal. Orcas eat around 300 pounds a day, averaging out to 1 or 2 seals a day!
As we continued on with our trip we travelled around Discovery Island and Chatham, where we entered Rum-Runners cove. Here we found a large group of harbour seals sitting up on the rocks near the waters edge. Seals are very cumbersome and relatively immobile on land, and when spooked, will immediately jump in the water. Transient orcas have figured out this instinctual behaviour, and commonly comb the coast, slapping their tails loudly on the waters surface. This scares the seals right into the water with the hungry orca whales! Passengers were also given a scenic glimpse of our beautiful coastline, examining the local Arbutus trees. Arbutus trees shed their bark, removing parasites and insects, leaving a very reddish, smooth appearance on their trunks. These pretty trees inhabit the rocky coastline all along Vancouver Island.
Leaving Rum-Runners cove and looping around Chatham Island we reunited with pair of transient orcas. Watching them for several more minutes, we waved goodbye to the orcas and safely returned back to Victoria, concluding another successful adventure!