Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
August 4, 2011
This morning, guests aboard our vessels had the privilege of watching L-pod as they made their way across the Victoria waterfront. Aboard the Orca Spirit II, we first encountered a group of whales that included Crewser (L92), a 16 year-old adolescent male, his grandmother Baba (L26) and his aunt Ballena (L90). Other identified whales included Gaia (L78). All told, there were probably over 30 whales present! As the whales passed south of Discovery Island, several orcas began high-speed swimming, or porpoising. Perhaps they had heard other orcas near San Juan Island, as we had received reports of another group of orcas near False Bay. After our orca encounter, we explored the east side of Discovery and Chatham Islands, viewing several harbour seals basking in the early morning sun. Guests aboard the Orca Spirit II explored the Chain Islets and Trial Island. It was a great way to start an exceptional day of whale watching.
Tonight our captains aboard the Orca Spirit II chose to take the scenic route first, while it was still bright enough to enjoy the beauty of Trial Island's Lighthouse and the Chain Islands' many Harbour Seals. The evening lent a particular glow to the horizon, lighting the low and distant fog bank that stretched all the way down the Juan de Fuca Strait and covered southern Puget Sound. A red and purple sunset hovered in the west as we cruised through Haro Strait towards San Juan Island in Washington. Along the shores of San Juan we found the resident L-pod Orcas, or Killer Whales, engaged in intense fishing behaviour and playing in the choppy water. One of the first Orcas we identified was Mega, his distinctive dorsal fin with its notches and his massive bulk giving him away. Mega (L41) is the oldest of the resident male Orcas being 34 years old. His family surrounded him on all sides and they were in a great mood. Besides the antics of a mother and calf jumping side by side, we were able to witness tail lobs, spy hops, porpoising, waving pectoral fins and even breaches! It is a rare trip that the whales indulge us with every trick and show they know; however, it was well worth it when the passengers could be heard "ooing" and "ahhhing" from the outer decks.
When the light began to fade, the sun finally setting behind crimson clouds, we turned back for Victoria. We were not alone as the local Gillnet fishermen were finishing up their last sets, hauling nets aboard and heading for home also. We cruised into Victoria Harbour, embraced by the glowing lights of the city along the shore. A quick tour of the downtown waterfront by boat served as the finale, the parliament buildings and Empress hotel lit up to welcome our guests. It is difficult to say what makes evening tours so spectacular; the majestic lighting and horizons, the active Orcas, or a glowing coastal city to go back to, but they are without fail amazing experiences.
See Captain Lyle's photos below: