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Captain’s Blog

Spotting Orcas Whales At Race Rocks Marine Reserve

July 24, 2017

10am Excursion

We departed the dock on the MV Pacific Explorer and proceeded southwest in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in search of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises). In the Strait of Juan de Fuca off of Race Rocks Marine Ecological Reserve, we encountered one of our southern fish-eating killer whale pods (L pod). Following this sighting, we noticed the blow of a humpback whale and watched a single individual foraging in the waters near the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Strait. We then proceeded to Race Rocks Marine Ecological Reserve. It has the second oldest lighthouse on our coastline. Race Rocks is a year-round haulout for harbour seals and a winter haul-out site for Steller sea lions and California sea lions. We observed both the Pacific harbour seal and three sub adult male northern elephant seals around the boat ramp on Great Race. Northern sea lions (Steller) were observed as well on helicopter rock. A great morning on the water.

2pm Excursion

Today we were in store for a spectacular day!  We had a boat full of guests eager to see whales and even more to ask fantastic questions, and we love it!  We were fortunate to not have to travel very far at all before spotting the black fins of orcas rising out of the water.  We were watching one of the mammal-hunting orca matrilines, known as the T037 family.

The whales were cruising close to the shoreline of Vancouver Island, seeking a harbour seal meal for sure!  Transients are known to be stealthy hunters, so unless they are full, they tend to avoid attracting attention to themselves.  They may have already had enough to eat because they never went on any long dives, and the whales were very playful.  We saw lots of tail slaps, rolling, swimming belly up, and even leaps out of the water!  The two youngsters, one born within the last year, were very playful.  It was very exciting for guests and crew alike to watch the wild behaviors of this very special family of orcas.

After a wonderful time with the killer whales, we took guests to see the many marine mammals that make Race Rocks Lighthouse their home. We saw Steller and California sea lions, Harbour seals, and even gigantic male Elephant seals!  Race Rocks is an excellent place for these animals to rest and find food, with the rich waters that surround the island.

To top off an already perfect tour, we cruised further out into the strait and found a humpback whale!  We call this a “Double Creature Feature” trip because we saw 2 species of whales!  The humpback is the largest of the whales that regularly visit the Strait, with more humpbacks seen here in the past 2 seasons than ever recorded in the past.  It was a quick stop to see the humpback, but memorable nonetheless.

Thanks to all of our inquisitive guests for their excitement and many questions, you make our trips extra fun!

View more tour photos here.



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