Victoria Whale Watching Report: Humpback Big Mamma, Race Rocks & Orcas
July 6, 2019
Today we got to spend our afternoon with the giants of the Pacific North West. In particular, we got to spend our time with one very important whale.
Big Mama was out and about during our trip today! She is a humpback that we figure is well over 70 years old and has come back to Vancouver Island every year since the mid-1990s. Not only has Big Mama consistently returned to our area, but she has also brought calves pretty much every other year. We consider this whale to be a pioneer of the Humpback Whales returning to the Salish Sea and the rest of the water around Vancouver Island. Humpback Whales rely on our cold water to supply the food they need to survive the winter in their warm calving and mating grounds near Hawaii or Mexico! Our water is mother nature’s soup for the whales!
Next on the list of things we saw was Race Rocks Lighthouse! This is where we got to see dozens of Harbour Seals, including their little pups, a few Steller Sea Lions basking in the sun and Ollie our one lone Sea Otter. Like Humpback Whales, Sea Otters were hunted to near extinction on the BC Coast. While the Humpbacks chose to return, the Otters were recolonized by a transplant of otters from Alaska. Since the transplant, our population of otters around Vancouver Island has grown to be anywhere from 5,000-7,000. These otters all live around the north end of Vancouver Island. However, about 5 years ago Olly showed up and he has not left!
Otters play a very important role in keeping our waters and ecosystems healthy. They help control the populations of invertebrates like Urchin who’s favourite snack is Kelp. Kelp creates the forest under the sea which hosts more life and is more biodiverse than any rainforest on land.
The wildlife was plentiful today making for a great well-rounded trip!
Passengers and crew on our privileged to encounter two male killer whales near Discovery Island. The two orcas, T125A and T128, were first encountered just south of Discovery Island. We travelled with them along the east coast of the island and watched them dispatch what was likely a harbour seal as they slowly made their way north.
The two whales, T125A (21 years old) and T128 (31 years old) are rare visitors to the area. It was great to see them foraging near the stunning backdrop of Discovery and Chatham Island. The whales eventually made their way into Baynes Channel near Oak Bay.
Aboard the Pacific Explorer, we also did a brief wildlife tour of the Chain Islets to view the many harbour seals and seabirds that frequent the area. An absolutely amazing sunset capped another fantastic day of whale watching.