Three distinct bird swirls, two enormous oil slicks and the roughest sea’s we’ve undertaken yet! BREACHING orcas in the distance were our first glance at the orcas, we could feel it instantly, there was something in the air today! The energy was high, the ocean was roaring and the killer whales were bursting with joy! We looked around the vessel…It was going to be a good day.
The pods were spread as far as the eye could see, tacking through the whitewashed waves with such speed and precision. We were following behind the pod that still had chunks of meat clenched between their jaw! We’d discovered this as the female and her calf swam in a clear trajectory toward us, as if to show off the flesh to us! As we propelled through the white caps with the pod more and more individuals rose to the surface surrounding us! We attempted…to mimic their ease and agility whilst tackling the roaring swell. In these moments we realise how insignificant we are in comparison to the ocean’s apex predators and how incredible it is to witness their many behaviours in their natural habitat.
Once the majority of orcas spread back to their “home ranges” we were taken west with Split-tip and Maleko’s pods. It must’ve been the social hour! Out to our 1 O’clock we had action from 10m away through to 1 mile, and everywhere in between! In close we had 4 juveniles bow riding and darting beneath the hulls, almost getting the zoomies until they breached ahead of us! Behind the calves were the juveniles and a VERY boisterous sprouting male. Slim Shady began tail slapping and swimming in toward us upside down to appear out the other side of the vessel before picking up speed and flopping out of the water back on the other side with an almighty crash! After later observation, we realised he was showing off to Kwilana!
The pair continued to fondle in the distance for the next 20 minutes, tail-slapping and rolling on top of and under each other for all to see!
Maleko was in stealth mode, patrolling the outskirts, weaving between the action and only surfacing for a split second with his skyscraper dorsal fin on display!
What happened next is something that has been difficult to describe in a way that gives it justice. The swell had picked up but by now we were rolling down following seas. Slim Shady and his courter appeared at the bow, you could see the entirety of their being JUST beneath us. Just witnessing how they dart between the hulls and miss the vessel by millimetres as their dorsal fin traces the surface is truly mind-blowing! Every orca from the two pods surfaced ahead of us (12 animals), we had to glance into the sky to see the orcas as the wave lifted them above eye level and over the crest of the peaking swell before darting back in toward us! We were riding the waves with killer whales. Repeat, WE WERE RIDING THE WAVES WITH KILLER WHALES! 12 KILLER WHALES! This was such a special moment as everyone on the bow cheered and turned back at the customers in the wheelhouse to share their excitement.
We had over 4 pods throughout the day, Maleko, Split tip, Koomba, and “Russel Sprout”. Throughout the entire day the orcas LOVED lifting their flukes out, tail-slapping, and flicking their peduncles up for all to see! (this also exposes their genital slits which helps us identify their sex). The females have two black dots which represent their mammary glands where the males are clean white.
By the afternoon the orcas must’ve finally burnt all their energy and joined into their family groups to find some afternoon tea! With two epic close passes, we decided to call it a day and end on a high!