Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
August 30, 2011
What started as a cloudy morning with choppy waters soon gave way to sunny skies and calm seas. We headed out on the Orca Spirit in search of marine wildlife. With no reports of animals yet, it us up to us to spot the first animals of the day! We headed south to scan the area for blows of mist or dorsal fins. We decided to head for Race Rocks to see if any action was going down around the waters of the Lighthouse. Just as we were about to pull up to the historic marine reserve, Captain Lyle spotted blows a few miles away in the sunlight waters. We whipped a left turn and headed for the promising puffs of air in the distance. And boy we were lucky! We discovered 2 humpbacks! And what a viewing we got! Humpbacks tend to take 3 to 4 breaths close together, followed by a longer dive where they display tail flukes. But this mother and calf stayed near the surface taking breaths about every 30 seconds. We even got to see the tail flukes of the whales, which measure 18 feet across on an adult. The sheer size of the whales amazed guests, and their blows were loud and reached high into the air. After a great visit with the humpbacks, we headed west t o search for more wildlife. We found an elegant bald eagle perched on an island in Beecher Bay, then headed towards Race Rocks Lighthouse. Here we were greeted by the growling and barking of Steller and California Sea Lions. Most were lying out on the rocks, and as usual, several were showing off their testosterone by picking fights with each other. We headed back to Victoria after a great morning spent with a variety of the wildlife that the Strait of Juan de Fuca has to offer.
This afternoon turned out to be VERY sunny and the waters of the Salish Sea were calm as can be. We set out from Victoria and headed south east. Soon we approached the border between Canada and the United States, where we came across 5 transient orcas! What an exciting afternoon, as we do not see transient orcas, killer whales that eat marine mammals, very often. The whales were lunging, raising their tails and making tight turns, all signs that they were chasing prey below the surface. After reviewing photos, we learned that the whales were hunting Harbour Seals. It was amazing to watch the whales play in the water, we got to see a spy-hop and some belly flashes during our visit. The whales passed by the boat, turning on their sides to look at all the action happening above the water. It is the first time in two seasons that I have seen transients so curious about the boats above. It was as if they were waving their tails at us to say hello! The excitement on the boat was electric, everyone was so happy to be treated to such a rare occasion. It is not often that we see transient orcas engaging in active behaviours, as these stealthy hunters need to be quiet to surprise their prey. We all enjoyed a sunny and calm trip home, stopping to see a few Harbour Seals resting in the sun on the Chain Islands. It was a perfect day for whale watching off Victoria's Pacific waters.