Friendships Bloom when Kayaking with Orcas on Vancouver Island
We love bringing together a diverse group of strangers, teaching them how to paddle, showing them the best places to watch Orca in the wild and the most beautiful beaches to picnic and unwind on. It gives us great pleasure to watch as bit by bit, ten strangers begin to let their guard down, start cracking jokes with each other, helping each other load in and load out at the beach, sharing meals and stories around the campfire at the end of a day of exploration.
Before too long our guests’ true selves begin to emerge – and that’s when the magic really happens…when friendships begin to form…connections get made and a group of strangers become a small community for the duration of their stay at camp. Before camp is over they’re swapping email addresses and making promises to share photos and stay in touch with each other and our guides. Each Orca Camp departure becomes its own tight little community as long as we’re together.
It’s really not much different than the social structure of Orca when you think about it.
Up-close view of Orca Habitat at Ecosummer’s Orca Camp
You see, Orca by nature are social mammals like us. Made up of small families, larger pods, and even bigger clans, the Northern Resident Orca are all part of a community found along BC’s Johnstone Strait – the best place in the world to see Killer Whales in the wild!.
Just like in many human households, the Orca mother is the heart of the family. You see, Orca are organized matrilineally – meaning the mother is the leader of the group and never truly separates from her offspring – even once they reach adulthood. Maturing females often become babysitters to younger Orca, before having a calf of their own. Grandmothers and aunties keep a watchful and protective eye out on the younger members of the family, teaching them the finer points of whale behaviour. And just like some families you may know, the adult male Orca never leaves its mother. Ever. (Sort of gives a whole new meaning to the term “mama’s boy” doesn’t it?)
See Whale Families, Pods and or Clans at Orca Camp
Just like in human families, Orca have big, extended families that span generations. When aunts, sisters, and cousins (whales that are closely related) and their children come together in the same body of water they’re considered to be pods. Pods can range in size from 5 to 50 individual whales. When two or more pods that share the same acoustic traditions come together, we refer to them as a clan.
The Northern Resident Orca community is made up of three clans – the A, G and R clans which are comprised of 16 pods of related Orca. By contrast, the endangered Southern Resident Community seen in the San Juan Islands, the Sunshine Coast and southern Vancouver Island, is made up of only one clan and three pods.
Orca’s Robust Social Life
As much as our guests like to socialize while in camp, so too, do Orca. According to Orca Lab, the Orca research station located across the Strait from our camp,
“In the Northern Resident Community, preceding the arrival of a new group, one of the more frequent user groups may leave the area in order to “escort” the new group into the area. As they enter Johnstone Strait the whales often pause in their travel. Other orcas in the area may come toward the arriving groups, and together they may (often after an intense vocal period) all go quiet, rest on the surface and socialize with each other. This latter state may include spy-hopping (where the head is thrust out of the water), rubbing bodies together, full breaches (where the whole whale jumps free of the water), fluke (tail) and pectoral slaps, and deep diving. Sometimes these same behaviors are exhibited by the whales coming to greet the incoming whales, but they calm down when the groups near each other. On these occasions the greeting whales may turn around before the visiting groups and travel ahead of them. Either way, the whales will usually sort themselves into their maternal groups and then all head in the same direction. For the Northern Resident orca, after they resume travelling, they will most likely head for the Robson Bight area and the Rubbing Beaches beyond.”
How about that…a whale of a welcoming committee, someone to show the new arrivals around. Kind of the role our guides play with visitors to Orca Camp.
Why not come together with the whales and us this summer? Book before February 15, 2015 to take advantage of our New Year’s special, or reserve all 10 spots for even greater savings. We promise to show you the best of BC’s Johnstone’s Strait and a great time in the process. Just like the Orca.
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