For most people, seeing whales in the wild is an amazing, awe-inspiring experience. And, when they sign-up for a whale watching tour, that’s exactly what they’re hoping for. They are waiting for something special, a moment that will last in their memories forever…a ‘bucket-list’ experience. And, quite often, that’s exactly what happens. But, this blog isn’t just those amazing moments − it’s about more than that. It is about magic moments. Moments when time seemed like it stood still, moments that were so spectacular, so emotional or so unexpected, that we felt we had to share them! Here is a small collection of whale watching magic moments, that we think are so special they just need to be shared.
We start our story in late August 2012 when crew member, Fiona had her magic moment. It was a beautiful, calm evening aboard Marauder IV. There were no other boats around and the group had the Orca all to themselves. J49 had been born into J Pod the previous week and Fiona couldn’t wait to meet the newest addition to the family. Within 20 minutes, the boat came across J Pod, including little J49. It was calm and the Captain slowed, and shut off the engines so the boat could just drift. What happened next was so unexpected that Fiona says it still brings tears to her eyes.
Quite suddenly, the whales grouped up in a tight bunch with little J49 tucked safely in the middle. They started to swim slowly towards the boat. The whole group watched in awe as the family of whales approached the back, port side of the boat and looked up from the water below. The whales were all swimming in unison, within three feet of Fiona. “It was absolutely magical to be so close and to look into the eyes of these magnificent wild animals,” she says.
It was clear to the crew that J Pod was taking advantage of the calm night and single boat drifting with its engines off. They were teaching J49 about boats for the first time. For Fiona it was a magical experience to be so intimately involved in one of J49’s first life lessons. She says, “I think the whales felt totally relaxed and safe around us, and that is why they took that opportunity to come so close. I have never before, and will likely never again, see adult Orcas training such a young calf like that. It was an absolutely unreal experience that I’ll never ever forget! Even when I re-tell this story, I cannot explain the special feeling we felt that evening. There was a true connection with man and nature!”
Being within arms length of a Killer Whale is not an everyday experience. But, that is exactly what SpringTide Naturalist Krista experienced on her most memorable kayaking trip ever. Traveling out on a day excursion with her friend, Krista knew there was a good chance she would encounter some of the island’s beautiful wildlife, and of course she was hoping to come across some Orcas. What she didn’t expect was for two curious males to approach her kayak and get so close that she could almost reach out and touch them. The two Orcas seemed to have no hesitation in exploring Krista’s kayak, playfully swimming around it and rubbing up against it. For two hours, they dove below the surface and came back up again, looking right at Krista and her friend. For Krista, this was a magic moment that she’ll never forget. It is extremely rare to have such an intimate experience with these animals in the wild, and something that most people will never get the chance to do.
While Krista experienced the tranquil side of these beautiful mammals, our final two stories center on the fact that Killer Whales are top predators. They are highly intelligent, hunt as a group and travel long distances chasing their prey, which is sometimes much larger than them. For these reasons, Orca have earned a reputation as the ‘wolves of the sea’ and, many of our crew have been lucky enough to see these awesome predators in action.
This story is from one of our Zodiac Skipper’s, Sarah. She suggested it for our blog because it was so unexpected she still remembers the look of shock and surprise on her passengers’ faces. The group were on a SpringTide Zodiac adventure and had found a Resident Killer Whale just off the coast. The single male was continually diving under the water and surfacing about five minutes later. Sarah explained to her passengers that Orcas often do this when they are hunting. Although grateful that Sarah was sharing her knowledge with them, the passengers seemed a little disappointed that the Orca was spending so much time under water. However, this was before they knew they were about to get the show of a lifetime. The Orca had taken a dive and was out of sight, when, quite suddenly, the water around the boat started to bubble furiously. At this stage, nobody on board, including Sarah, knew what was happening. Huge Salmon started to fly towards the surface and jump out of the water, narrowly missing the boat. Then, out of nowhere, the Orca flew out of the water with a huge Salmon in its mouth. The passengers were shocked to say the least! But, the Orca wasn’t finished; he was clearly excited about his catch and wanted to show it off. He bounced the giant fish up, on to his nose, and proudly paraded it around the boat several times. For Sarah and her passengers it was nothing less than amazing!
Our next story is from Jim, and it has stayed in his mind because it is an ongoing reminder of the raw power of nature. Jim was aboard a SpringTide whale watch and had located a family of Transient Killer Whales. When the group of keen whale watchers arrived on the scene, it was clear what had just happened. The family of Orcas had pursued, and just killed, a lone Minke Whale just off Salmon Bank (an area east of Victoria, close to San Juan Island).
While the passengers did not see the kill, they were intimately involved in the aftermath. They watched, captivated by the scene, as the Orca’s continuously surfaced with meat in their mouths. While this story might not be for everyone, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Jim and the passengers saw some of the ocean’s most skilled predators showing off their raw power.
These whale watching magic moments are just some of the amazing encounters our crew have had while whale watching, but they demonstrate the many sides of these remarkable mammals. Fiona got a glimpse of their nurturing family life, Krista saw their gentle and curious side and Jim and Sarah witnessed fascinating displays of their hunting prowess. If you have an amazing whale watching story, we’d love to hear it! We encourage you to share your magic moment on the SpringTide Facebook page.