Victoria Whale Watching Report: “Big Mama” The Humpback Whale & Furry Friends at Race Rocks!
October 22, 2019
Each morning is the start of a new adventure on the Salish Sea as nature is constantly changing. With guests aboard the speedy Orca Spirit, we set course southwest into the Juan de Fuca Strait. We do not always find whales in the first 20 minutes of a trip, but today was a lucky day! As we slowed down the boat, we could see the puffs of spray exploding out of the giant nostrils of two humpback whales! “Thar she blows!”
We got to watch these majestic creatures surface in the choppy seas, really punching their rostrums out of the water to make sure they cleared their blowhole above the surface.
Whales can’t cough, so they need to make sure they do not get water in their lungs! These two were enjoying each other’s company as they displayed nose and tail when swimming side-by-side!
With lots of time to continue our search for other types of wildlife, we left the humpbacks and went cruising into Becher Bay. Here you can find beautiful native trees, Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, Harbour Seals, and sometimes the mammal-hunting orcas visit looking for a furry snack! We spotted the high gliding Turkey Vultures and a few Harbour Seals, but the orcas were not taking advantage of the shallow, calm bay this morning.
Off we went to visit the Race Rocks Lighthouse Ecological Reserve. Here the islands exploding with life. Steller and California Sea Lions, all bachelors, spend the majority of their day crammed against each other on the rocks. They spend some time in the frigid waters, rolling, playing, and foraging for food as well. They are accompanied by the much smaller Harbour Seals who eat at least 77 different species of fish in our area.
They are adorable little furballs and a favourite menu item for the Bigg’s orcas! Everybody needs to eat!
We decided to swing further south before moving east to see if any other whales might pop up. As we moved closer to the massive groups of birds on the water, we spotted more humpbacks! This time we had an individual and a mother and calf! We shut down as they approached us we got to experience a close encounter as Big Mama dove under the boat! She is covered in bumps all over her back, making her easy to identify. It was apparent that Big Mama lives up to her name- she is HUGE!
We were also excited to watch a playful calf with its mom. The calf was always swinging its tail high in the air, rolling and having fun in the waves. We got to see their tubercles- the bumps on their jaw- as they surfaced.
Tubercles are only found on Humpback Whales and they each contain a nerve hair at their centre. They may use the nerve hairs to detect their food source.
After some great views of Mom and Babe, we headed back to Victoria a bit late, but whales are so worth it!