March 16- Bigg’s by Saturna

©  Five Star Whale Watching/ Andrew Lees. Several Bigg’s (or transient) orcas surface near Saturna Island in Georgia Strait today; note the presence of the large male in the back of the group, known as “Galiano”.

We had a great day witnessing some special animals in the Salish Sea. We were fortunate to encounter a diversity of species!

To begin our trip, we headed west out of Victoria into Juan de Fuca Strait. This is a body of water that runs between the southern end of Vancouver Island and Washington State. While in the Strait, we visited Race Rocks, a popular haul-out area for various marine mammals such as Sea Lions and Harbour Seals, favourite prey items for mammal-hunting orcas. Our guests were delighted to witness a known Sea Otter here that frequents the area on occasion.

We then decided to turn our search northeast to look for whales, and headed towards the Gulf Islands. To our excitement, near Saturna Island, we encountered some orcas! These were the mammal-hunting, or “Bigg’s” orca type, that feed primarily on marine mammals. The whales belonged to families known as the “T18’s” and “T19’s”. Perhaps the most recognizable of the group is the large male known as T19B, or “Galiano.” His impressive dorsal fin is extremely tall and robust (see above image); male orca whales’ dorsal fins may reach up to six feet high.

Within the vicinity of the whales, we spotted a Sea Lion feeding on a salmon. The animal is a known prey item of Bigg’s orcas, the orcas traveled toward, but did not pursue the pinniped. It was very exciting to witness this encounter.

Orca whales hunt and feed cooperatively, and are one of the ocean’s top predators. It is enchanting to see these hunters surface and travel powerfully and gracefully through their wild habitat, with their dorsal fins slicing through the sea.

We had a truly memorable time with a number of amazing creatures on the water today. We headed home, southwest towards Victoria, thrilled from such a special trip.

To view more images from today’s trip, please click on the link below:

March 16th- Bigg’s Killer Whales near East Point.


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