The Ultimate Orca Encounter

We’ve been guiding Orca Camp for 40 years now and in all that time, we’ve never had an encounter quite like the one we had on a warm summer day last August.


kayaking BC's Johnstone Strait in the heart of Orca territory


How Orcas see in the Water

Our group had been out paddling all morning when they noticed a pod of Killer Whales in the distance. As is our practice, our guides had the group “raft up” together – essentially creating one large mass made up of six kayaks – all the better to be detected by Orca echolocation – the pulses of sound Orcas use to find food, recognize objects and navigate dark waters. When Killer Whales focus a series of clicks in one direction through their melon (seriously, the fatty part of an Orca head is officially called the melon) the clicks bounce off objects and back to the whale’s throat, jaw and ear, creating a sound map of their surroundings. The larger the mass, the greater the chance of being discovered, so we always raft up in the presence of whales.

The Thrill of Whale-watching by Kayak

We’ve said it before…but it never gets old seeing that dorsal fin slice through the water – no matter how close or how far away. Your pulse quickens and you can’t seem to grab for your camera quickly enough, because you’re trying to put down your paddle while keeping an eye out for the whales, all the while trying to maintain a low centre of gravity so as to not upset your kayak. We all managed, somehow, to get off a few snaps while bobbing together in the water, giggling and shouting “Woo-hoo,” the whole time.


Kayakers capture close up shot of two Orcas as they kayak the Johnstone Strait


The Rules of Safe Whale-watching

While we were watching and photographing that first pod, another popped up directly behind us, thrilling us all with their proximity to our kayaks. Safe whale-watching regulations stipulate that any vessel (large, small, motorized, or man-powered) maintain a distance of at least 100 metres from marine mammals at all times. These animals approached us, so all we could do was get out of their way as quickly as possible.


Kayaker looking at her camera while Orcas surface in front of her


And just as we got ourselves situated to safely watch the group emerging behind us, another pod quite literally surfaced from beneath our kayaks! Count ’em. That’s three separate pods of Orca all swimming together to create a Super Pod – a rare opportunity to see three separate family groups socializing together. Wardens from the Fisheries Department who witnessed the encounter later congratulated us on the manner in which our group behaved in the presence of these sea giants.

Captured Moments that Live on Forever

Jordan, our assistant guide, happened to have his GoPro handy and captured the moment. They say it only takes a moment to create a memory that will last a lifetime. We’re pretty sure everyone on that trip, that day, will remember this moment forever.

Watch the ultimate encounter:



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January 13, 2016