Kayaking with Killers (2)

During a kayaking trip between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island I unexpectedly encountered several killers; a cougar, bald eagles and, not unexpected, orcas. This is the second of three posts about my experiences. The first post is Kayaking with Killers (1)

While paddling across Blackfish Sound we spotted a pod of orcas heading in our direction. At first all we spotted was the alpha male with his two metre high dorsal fin.

Orca in Blackfish Sound

We quickly rafted up side by side and waited. Other fins became visible indicating that we would encounter a pod of orcs and not just a lone male. They were moving in a purposeful manner and were obviously in “travelling” mode and few kayakers were not going to make them change direction. They passed less than 100m ahead of us.

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Watching orca – predators of the ocean

All our senses were focused on the family group. Their black fins glistened in the sun and as their bodies broke the surface. Each orca had individual white or grey markings. The sound of each blow as they came up for breathe was like a short sigh.

No one spoke. We just enjoyed the experience; bobbing on the ocean as the killers of the ocean passed close by.

As they disappeared down Blackfish Sound and we began to whisper our delight it occurred to us that we had spent too much time in one place and that the slack water would not be with us all the way across the sound anymore. That meant some hard paddling and the possibility of a longer paddle because the short cut to Swanson Passage would be too shallow.

These minor hardships were nothing to the experience of being so close to such wonderful creatures.. Each of us dug in our paddles and pulled across Blackfish Sound.

We arrived at the short cut to Swanson Passage. Already the high tide mark was visible but our guides decided we might just manage it.

Kayaking with Killers
Paddling back to camp after our first sighting of orcas

As we kayaked through the shallow passage we could clearly see why it was only passable at high tide. At times our paddles scraped on the rocks beneath the kayaks. Soon we were into Swanson Passage. Here the trees were lit by the afternoon sun and, because the passage is comparatively narrow and the trees come right to the waters edge it felt more like a cruise down a gentle river than the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Arriving at our second campsite
Arriving at our second campsite

Back at camp we took a break before loading up the kayaks for a short paddle to our second camp.

Shaker Camp
Shaker Camp

Our first night at Shaker Camp bode well for the next few days. After unloading the kayaks and pitching our tents we sat on the rocks looking out across Johnston Strait as the sun sank towards the horizon. Almost immediately orcas put in an appearance. They were on our side of the strait.

Kayaking with Killers
Orca heading towards our campsite

There was more activity as the pod approached diving and surfacing and diving again. They were feeding; and it was easy to identify them as the same pod we had encountered several hours earlier in Blackfish Sound.

Mother and calf
Mother and calf
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An adult and juvenile orca pass close to the campsite

We sat on the huge granite rocks watching them pass by less than 20 metres from us.

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Another mother and her calf

There are two types of orca seen in the waters of Johnstone Strait. One group are residents and are the most studied. The other group are visitor and are known as transients. Although they are the same species they have developed different feeding habits. The residents feed on the salmon and other fish while the transients feed on the warm blooded seals. The pod we encountered were residents and were feeding on the abundant salmon.

Kayaks at Shaker Camp waiting to be stowed above the high tide mark
Kayaks at Shaker Camp waiting to be stowed above the high tide mark

Once the orcas had moved on, following the salmon, a large school of  spinner dolphins came leaping by. With both dolphins and orcas putting in an appearance before we had even dipped a paddle in the water at Shaker Camp things looked good for the following few days.

This is the second of three posts on my sea kayaking experiences in the Johnstone Strait between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. You can subscribe to be kept up to date with the content of this site using the subscribe box in the sidebar or you can “like” the Travel Unpacked Facebook page to be kept informed of all new content on this site

For multi-day kayak tours whale-watching try Sea Kayak Adventures

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Travel Unpacked is all about travel; from luxury to adventure travel and all related topics. There are reviews of accommodation, eateries, airlines,  ferries, books and much more. You will find stories, lists, hints and tips as well as experiences you might want replicate on your travels. It’s about travel as you want it

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