Victoria Whale Watching Report: A Day of Porpoise!
August 19, 2020
Wednesday, August 19th, 2020 – 12pm Covered Vessel
Today’s tour was a very special trip that guests nor crew are soon to forget! We boarded the Pacific Explorer and headed out onto the Juan de Fuca Strait for a day filled with wildlife from the Salish Sea. We did not have to travel far before we discovered three families of mammal-hunting killer whales! This eco-type is known as the Bigg’s Orcas and have a strict diet of mammals including seals, sea lions, porpoises, and other whale species. A huge gathering was taking place between the T109, T109A, and T028 families as they stalked the shoreline off Metchosin.
Bigg’s Killer Whales will use bays and shorelines to their advantage as Harbour Seals often use these areas to hunt themselves or relax along rocky shores. It was especially exciting to see the T028 family as they are not common visitors to our area. After getting to experience the wonder of Orcas foraging, we decided to take a little further southwest for other species that may be in the area. The tiny, triangular dorsal fins of Harbour Porpoises caught our eye. Normally they are extremely shy and completely disappear after seeing them surface one of two times, but they were everywhere, so we decided to stop and shut down the boat to see if they would reappear.
Reappear they did! We estimated that there were more than 50 Harbour Porpoises in all directions around the boat! They are normally seen in groups of 1-5! We saw Moms and calves, individuals jumping out of the water, and we could hear their little breaths. It was absolutely a rare experience and something crew have not seen in their 11 years of whale watching! We got such great photos that we were able to pass them on to multiple research organizations who study Harbour Porpoises!
As we were so close to Race Rocks Lighthouse, we went to visit the furry creatures that included the Harbour Seals, California Sea Lions and Steller Sea Lions. They always let you know they are there with their loud barks, growls, and roars! The quieter Harbour Seals stare back at you with big, round eyes and some of the mothers are still nursing their pups.
The adventure was not over as we headed towards Victoria. We got a radio call that the families of Orcas were east of Esquimalt Harbour and potentially harassing a Grey Whale!! Grey Whales are not a common site, let alone seeing Bigg’s Killer Whales stalking them! As we approached the area, we did see the Grey Whale exhale, but it was so close to the shoreline, we could not see its body. The Orcas were circling the area, taking long dives underwater. No carnage erupted, but the Killer Whales may have used the opportunity to teach their young the skills of hunting such a large prey item, or they may have thought about pursuing a hunt, but then decided it was too much effort with so many other menu options in the area! It was truly an epic day on the water! Be sure to see photos from the tour on our Flickr page!