Captain’s Blog

Port Renfrew Whale Watching Report: When do Humpbacks Breach?

August 27, 2020

August – 9am/1pm Zodiac Vessel Tours

In my 10 years experience driving zodiacs, I have never witnessed higher instances of breaching whales than my time in Port Renfrew. Sometimes it’s a distant explosion of water rising above the horizon and sometimes its whales much closer than that. While viewing whales nearby it’s awe-inspiring to watch as they spin, flip and crash into the water around us. Even on foggy days we often find whales by listening for the distant booms and crashes as they land back into the water.

One of the most sought-after experiences while viewing whales is to see the entire animal as it hurls itself into the air and then crashing onto the water with a resounding boom. Therefore, on our excursions it is often one of the questions we get asked most: “when do whales breach?”

The answer is not simple and depends largely on which species of whales you are watching. For many whales, breaching is seen as social behaviour where groups of animals greeting each other may begin breaching all-together. Other times breaching can be associated with mating, where individuals may perform acrobatics to display their impressive physical prowess. Young whales are known for breaching continuously in spurts of energy – perhaps it is practice or maybe purely for their own enjoyment. These are just a few examples of what causes breaching and there are many more.

In Port Renfrew the high instances of breaching are probably mostly due to the large numbers of whales in the area, especially Humpback whales. With so many Humpbacks around, our odds for seeing this unique behaviour increases dramatically. Sometimes a single Humpback will breach continuously 10-20 times, giving us plenty of time to carefully approach and attempt to photograph a 30,000 kilogram whale fully airborne.

We are so fortunate to see breaching whales that sometimes the “why” isn’t even important and you just have to enjoy the mystery and magnificence of the moment we are so privileged to witness.

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