Written by: Lori, Naturalist
There are few experiences in life that compare to seeing an orca in the wild. There is something about their unique colouration, intelligence, and obvious power that makes experiences with them absolutely unforgettable. People from all over the world travel to Victoria and book whale watching tours with the hope of witnessing these magnificent creatures in the wild.
While hopping on a boat certainly offers us the best chance at bridging the gap between human and orca – there have been rare times this year where orcas have bridged the gap themselves and have come remarkably close to human beings.
In this article I am hoping to highlight just a few of the incredible encounters some very lucky folks have been able to experience with orcas this year!
Orcas at Harbour Air Seaplanes
This was a once in a lifetime encounter that surely nobody could predict! At 5:30 p.m, a pair of orcas were spotted swimming next to the Harbour Air’s Coal Harbour seaplane terminal.
The orca were first seen swimming under the nose of the plane, and in the video you can see them break the surface of the water right next to the docks.
What an incredible experience this must have been for those working on the docks that day! Seeing Orcas so close really gives you an appreciation for their large size – the six-foot dorsal fin on a fully-grown male certainly looks tall when you’re standing right next to it!
Orcas Close to Shore at Bowen Island
It is no wonder that this encounter with orcas went viral this year. It is an encounter that most people dream of having when they stand close to shore and look out on the water. In the video, a group of orca are seen swimming leisurely several metres from the shoreline on Bowen Island, much to the thrill of onlookers. In the video, you can clearly hear their exhales and experience this moment through the video lens of a completely enthralled viewer.
Orcas off Clover Point!
Now here’s an encounter that hits close to home! On August 11th, 2021, beachgoers were delighted to see a whopping 13 orcas swimming a short distance from shore. The orcas were identified as Transient Killer Whales, and the whales included the T018’s, T041’s, and T109C’s. To make matters even more beautiful, the killer whales were spotted right at sunset.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled!
While these incredibly close encounters with Orca are rare, they are always possible. In the early 1970’s, seals and sea lions were killed under the belief that they were eating too many salmon. Now that their numbers have recovered, many Transient killer whales are coming closer and closer to shore looking for some of their favourite prey sources. I have been fortunate enough to see killer whales from shore near Dallas Road as well as Ogden Point this summer, and I encourage people to keep their eyes peeled when down at the beach. You just never know what you’ll see!