The trip out on the Strait of Juan de Fuca this morning was an unforgettable wildlife experience for our Zodiac passengers. Upon reaching Hein Bank, guests were greeted by a pod of close to one hundred Pacific White-Sided Dolphins! These dolphins, also known as “lags” due to their scientific name Lagenorhychus obliquiden, are one of the most active marine mammals we see here in the Salish Sea. Passengers had an amazing view as the dolphins “porpoised” (a behaviour where the animal is skipping along the surface of the water while traveling very quickly), played around the bow of the boat, and wake surfed!
Skipper Geoff couldn’t believe his eyes as the playful mammals swam right up alongside the Zodiac and turned on their sides, as if checking out the boat. Every time the Zodiac slowed down to give the dolphins more space, the pod slowed down with it, waiting for the boat to speed up again so they could continue playing. In addition to Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, guests also saw about eight Dalls Porpoises, Stellar Sea Lions (the largest sea lion species we get here in Victoria), a Minke Whale feeding at the surface of the water, and a Humpback Whale fondly known in as Split Fin! The trip was a huge success as all three major types of marine mammals we get here: toothed whales, baleen whales, and pinnipeds (sea lions) were spotted during the trip!
The afternoon trip saw the only type of whales that were missing from the morning trip: Resident Killer whales! Guests arrived on scene at Andrews Bay off of San Juan Island, where they were introduced to a mix of J-Pod and K-Pod orcas. Crew onboard the boats identified two 23 year old adult males: J26 and J27, commonly known as Mike and Blackberry, as they cruised past showing off their 6-foot-high dorsal fins. Passengers onboard the Zodiac got an exciting view as J22 (Oreo), swam past with her children J34 (DoubleStuf) and J38 (Cookie). Cookie, a curious young orca took the opportunity to check out the stationary zodiac by swimming right underneath. On the way back to the harbour, a stop at the Chain Islands gave guests a chance to check out our adorable harbour seals, which were lounging around on the small islands, alongside some cormorants. Overall, a very exciting wildlife-filled day in the Salish Sea!