Rise early. Coffee and breakfast and into your boat. You are off to Johnstone Strait, the summering grounds of the Orca [Killer Whale]. Cruise the area observing pods of these magnificent mammals. In our area we are lucky to have both the transient (mammal feeding) and resident (fish eating) Orca. Humpback whales are abundant and with a little luck they have been known to put on some spectacular shows for our lucky guests. Besides the whales the strait is alive with Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, White Sided Dolphins, Dalls Porpoise and an abundance of bird life including countless bald eagles. On the trip to and from the whale watching area Black Bears can often bee seen feeding on the beach. Our whale watching trips take place on inside waters, away from the open ocean swells. In the summer it is often flat calm for much of the day. After a beach lunch or boat picnic there is more exploring and wildlife viewing and then back to the lodge for a hearty dinner.
In our area we have two types of Orca. We have the residents and the Biggs (aka transient). Although quite similar in size and appearance their behaviour is quite different. The resident Orca show up in the summer and usually remain in the area until the fall. The Residents feed exclusively on fish, and enter the area to feed on salmon. Their primary food source is the chinook salmon, which is the largest of the 5 species. To a lesser extend they also feed on other types of salmon, lingcod, squid and various other species of fish. They will never feed on marine mammals and despite their name tend to leave the area during the winter months. They are very social and often vocalise. On the other hand the Biggs can be spotted year-round. They feed on marine mammals with harbour seals (like the ones in the picture) being their main food source, although propose, dolphins, sea lions and otters are also commonly on the menu. These animals are much “stealthier”, traveling quickly and vocalising much less. This is because they are on the hunt for mammals which can detect their calls. The Biggs below circled this particular rock several times, but in this case were unsuccessful in catching a seal off guard.
The Biggs Orca were named after Dr. Micheal Bigg who pioneered Orca research in the area. He realised that individual whales can be identified by their dorsal fin and saddle patch. This led to the creation of a thorough catalogue of animals and their family structures, which are organised by clans, pods and matrilines.