Victoria Whale Watching 2021 Season Highlights
As we reach the end of the whale watching season, it is nice to take a moment to reflect on the past five months we have spent adventuring out into the Salish Sea! It was my first season working with Orca Spirit Adventures as a Naturalist, and I was amazed to see the plethora of marine wildlife that we can find right outside of our home in Victoria. It is not long after we untie from the docks and leave the harbour that we are able to spot some spectacular marine animals. Transient killer whales have made many memorable appearances this year, as well as humpback whales, minke whales, a variety of pinnipeds, porpoises, our favourite sea otter, and of course a wide variety of different bird species as well!
The diversity of life in the Salish Sea is truly astounding. Not only do we get to view incredible wildlife on our tours, but we are also able to gaze upon beautiful snow-capped mountains, idyllic islands, and see Victoria and surrounding areas from the unique perspective of being out on the water. It is truly a pleasure to share this incredible part of the world with our guests.
While each tour is completely unique and memorable, for this blog post I will be focusing on just a few of the many memorable moments we have had with wildlife this season!
Transient Killer Whales of the 2021 Season
There is nothing that makes our guests happier than seeing Transient Killer whales on our tours. There is simply something about witnessing these black and white creatures travel, hunt, and socialize that attracts and amazes guests from all over the world. Transient killer whales are the apex predators of our ocean, and they spent an estimated 80% of their waking hours foraging. We have had many tours this season where we have been able to witness Transient Killer Whales pursuing their prey – often times with great success.
The killer whale stars of this whale watching season would certainly have to be the T18’s. The T18 family consists of Esperanza (T18), who is the mother of Mooyah (T19) and grandmother to the two large boys in the family – Galiano (T19B) and Spouter (T19C).
We have spent more time with this Transient Killer Whale family than any other – and this family is extremely easy to identify because of its two large males. Galiano’s (T19B) dorsal fin is extremely large and wide from base to tip. He also has a very distinct nick in his dorsal fin. Spouter, Galiano’s brother, was born in 2001, and is known for his tall and lean dorsal fin. This Transient family delights guests and crew members alike.
We have been fortunate to witness many different different Transient killer whale behaviours this season, including spyhopping, porpoising, lobtailing, kelping, and lots of belly flops!
Humpback Whale Highlights
No season highlights post could be complete without mention of the incredible humpback whales we get to see on our tours. Humpback whales are well-known for their impressive surface behaviours – and it is no surprise, when you see a 50ft long, 50,000-80,000Ib animal thrust its entire body clear out of the water it is certainly something you will never forget!
We have been fortunate to observe and spend time with an incredible number of different humpback whales this season, one of which was the famous humpback whale known as Big Mama (BCY0324)! She was first spotted in our waters in 1997, and was the first humpback seen in our waters in over 100 years. Since then she has brought six calves back with her into this area, and she is famous for spurring the “humpback comeback” that we have seen in the Juan de Fuca over the last twenty years.
A particular highlight of this season is the number of calves that have been born to Salish Sea humpback whales this year! A record breaking 21 new calves have been documented in the Salish Sea this year, nearly twice as many as 2020 when 11 calves were reported.
This is fantastic news and we have certainly enjoyed seeing many mother and calf pairings in the Juan de Fuca Strait this year. It is lovely to see a playful calf breach, pectoral slap, and fluke next to its watchful mother.
Race Rocks Diversity and Our Favourite Sea Otter
Many of my memories from this season take place in a familiar location known as Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. It is here that we can find an incredible array of different animal species, and introduce our guests to an ecologically important place on our Coast!
As we cruise slowly around the rocks, Steller and California Sea lions tower over each other and compete for space on land. Harbour seals gaze at us, relaxed, with large soulful eyes. These animals can be found in large numbers around Race Rocks, and are an important focal point of many of our tours.
If we look closely amongst the bull kelp sometimes we can find a familiar furry face… it’s Ollie! Ollie is our favourite resident sea otter, and a rare sight to behold around this part of Vancouver Island. In seasons to come, we are hoping that more furry sea otter faces will be appearing in the bull kelp. Sea otters are a keystone species, and Ollie has an important role to play in keeping bull kelp forests abundant around Race Rocks.
Until Next Time!
The 2021 Victoria whale watching season was truly filled with excitement and unforgettable moments with the incredible wildlife we have here in the Salish Sea. We are grateful and look forward to the adventures and once in a lifetime sightings that the 2022 season will bring.
Until next summer, you can experience the wild on a Winter Wildlife Tour departing daily from Victoria. We hope you can join us out on the water!