September 19- HB’s and Orca Whales

© Five Star Whale Watching/Katie Smith. Image —Two Bigg’s (or transient) orcas travel southwest from Victoria near Bentinck Island, Metchosin.

We had a fantastic time on the water today, and experienced the wonders that come along with witnessing several Salish Sea species! On both our morning and afternoon trips, we began our journey by heading southwest from Victoria, which led us into Juan de Fuca Strait.

Juan de Fuca Strait is a large body of water that stretches south of Vancouver Island, leading to the open Pacific Ocean to the west. In the morning, while in the Strait, we encountered our first species- Humpback Whales! These sightings were near an area known as Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, a protected marine reserve frequented by a diversity of animals. There were several of these massive Humpback Whales here, and appeared to be foraging around the reserve. Humpback Whales feed on a diverse array of small food such as plankton and schooling fish, like krill and sardines. In the afternoon, we also witnessed this amazing species near Race Rocks.

Humpback Whales can be recognized by their large size, small and triangular dorsal fins, and their unique tail flukes which are different for each individual. On both tours, we had the fortunate opportunity to witness tail- fluking behaviour, where a whale’s tail is lifted high into the air, often before a dive.

Our encounters were not over yet; we were able to see Orca whales along the shoreline nearby Race Rocks itself this morning. The reserve is a common haul-out area for Sea Lions and Harbour seals, a prominent prey for the type of orca that we saw (Bigg’s, or transient). There was even a small juvenile (calf) in the family. In the afternoon, we also saw Bigg’s orcas hunting within the reserve itself. There were multiple orcas in the group; they surfaced in unison, fed, and eventually travelled west towards Bentinck Island. It is always an amazing opportunity to see these whales in their natural habitat; they are a top ocean predator.

It was remarkable to see various types of whales on both of our trips; it is not always that we see the same species on our trips in similar areas. Along with these amazing whales today, we came across marine birds and enjoyed the remarkable scenery of the coast. It was an incredible day for all on board, and we were thrilled from such encounters.

To view more images from today’s trips, click on the links below:

September 19th- Morning Humpbacks, Orcas in the West

September 19th- Afternoon Whales at Race Rocks


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