IT JUST DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS!!
Arriving early at the hotspot El Notcho, Swirl and Kalimna started us off with an initial sighting. Not veering from their usual activities, it was foraging o’clock for this busy pod who we hung out with for a while before constant blows at the surface at 12 o’clock steered us in the direction for the encounters of the rest of the magical day which followed.
We were soon ENTRANCED by the behaviour of two pods including Nibbles, Digby, , Razor, Blade and Slug with very playful calves and subadults which stole the show. We literally hung out and watched all the activity on the surface unfold, which extended late into the afternoon. Razor, Little Dundee ( , and Little Blade started the performance gliding around the boat, engaging in playful interactions. Both pods were so relaxed and seemed to be basking in the afternoon sun, passing us at their own leisure, whilst the boat was stationary. Older females from the pods were SO inquisitive and we observed them glide through the water effortlessly in our direction towards the bow, only to then lay on their backs looking up at the colour and excitement of waving passengers above!! They then surfaced higher on their backs, exposing their pectoral fins, swimming only metres from the boat as if to return our waves!
SPY HOPS could be seen from every angle, and it was hard to decide where to focus our attention, as the orca increased their curious behaviour and quite literally launched headfirst out of the water for a better view! The highlight of the day was the fact that we lost count of how many breaches we saw! At one point there was a DOUBLE BREACH with two orcas propelling themselves completely out of the water!!
Once the adults were satisfied with their efforts, they slunk off into the distance, leaving three to four members of the pod including calves and subadults by the vessel. A teaching exercise unfolded in front of our eyes as they rolled over each other, pushed one another up above the surface, and then held each other under momentarily, ramming each other’s sides, learning similar (but less intense) predatory behaviour to what we witness when a beaked whale is hunted. It was a lovely feeling to be entrusted by these intelligent animals, with such close family bonds, to allow near encounters with their young, whilst the older members of the pod were not present. As founders of the Bremer Bay Killer Whale Expeditions, this type of interaction reinforced the notion that after 8 years of peacefully witnessing these amazing apex predators, the orcas have also become accustomed and comfortable in our presence. This is a privilege that is rare in most parts of the world, and we are grateful to have built this trust with these animals that we have such respect for!