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June 9th – We welcome back Lpod into the Salish Sea

Every winter, the resident orca population spends most of their time out of the inland waters around Vancouver (know collectively as the Salish Sea) in favor of better hunting grounds on the outer coast. Lpod is probably the furthest ranging of the three resident orca pods (they have been sighted off Monterey Bay California several times during the winter), so their arrival in the Salish Sea for the first time since the winter is always cause for celebration.

Here is a wonderful photo captured by our naturalist Selena of prominent Lpod member, L41 “Mega” breaching.


L41 "Mega", the largest orca in the southern resident community

Although this was a short visit from Lpod (they disappeared to the outer coast the very next day), they will be back for the big chinook salmon runs that peak in July and September.

Gearing up for the summer! Photo gallery from the last few weeks …

Its that time of the year! On Monday, June 18th we will begin our summer sailing schedule, which means our tours will leave twice daily (one at 9am, the other at 2pm).

The area has been bursting with wildlife the last few weeks from amazing humpback whale sightings, to bald eagles and California sea lions, and both resident AND transient orcas hanging around in the area. Our naturalists are keen photographers, so check out some of the incredible sights we have seen in the past few weeks …

California sea lions on the Steveston Jetty

Humpback whale feeding in the Strait of Georgia on June 10th

Transient orca T30A on June 1st

Resident orcas (part of a group of over 40 of them) resting together, May 31st


New baby transient orca T30B1 with big uncle T30A following behind

May 26th – Whales on our doorstep

Today’s tour lead us a short distance from Steveston to find a wonderful, lively group of transient killer whales! There was a very young calf in the group, likely no older than a month or so. The sun was out in full force, and the water was calm.
I think these photos speak for themselves …


Photo of mother and new calf by passenger Leslie Gwirl

There are 4 orcas in this photo! Can you count them all?

Part of the transient orca family known as the T65's

Surfacing together

May 22nd – Resident orcas back for the summer?

It is always an exciting time of the year when the resident orca pods start to come back into the inland water more frequently. Today, Jpod in its entirety (including honorary Jpod member L87 “Onyx”)  were spotted off south San Juan Island. Very exciting! When we arrived on scene, we found the family of orcas known as the J22s with their close associate J32 “Rhapsody”. The J22 family group are affectionately referred to as “the cookies”, as the matriarch of the family is named J22 “Oreo”, and her sons are J34 “Doublestuf” and J38 “Cookie”. J32 “Rhapsody” lost her mother in 1998 and she has no offspring, so she travels with her aunt J22 “Oreo” a lot.

The four of them were not traveling in any direction, but instead milling in a tight cluster, likely catching salmon as we saw at least two bursts of speed at the surface. They seemed to be a very busy group with chomping salmon below the waves. It is really cool to watch resdient orcas simply doing what they do best … catching salmon! Welcome back Jpod, we missed you dearly!

14 year old J34 "Doublestuf" with his mother, J22 "Oreo" foraging for salmon together


May 19th – More marine mammal eating orcas!

T26, a 46 year old female orca

We located 4 transient (marine mammal eating) orcas off Mistaken Island, near Nanaimo. But make no mistake, this was a gorgeous trip! They were traveling north, and swimming slowly under the surface of the water, allowing us to glimpse the white patches on their body flashing below the waves.
Just before we left the scene, the four orcas were joined by at least 9 other transients, making their way north. Wow, what are they up to?? Typically, transient orcas travel in smaller groups, so to see multiple animals suddenly join up into a larger group is intriguing.
On the way home, we stopped in to look at the California sea lions on the Steveston Jetty. These animals are certainly on the menu for transient killer whales, so they will haul themselves out on rocks for protection.

California sea lions hauled out on the jetty

May 12th – Transient orca surprise

Transient orcas surfacing with Mt. Baker in the background


The sun is still here, and the waters were calm. Our tour set off for the American San Juan Islands for a scenic cruise, when we got a surprise call of transient orca whales back toward Vancouver. We turned around and made it to the area the orcas were last seen. There were at least two groups of orcas, moving north. There was a wonderful mix of young and old whales, males with their huge towering dorsal fins and small calfs. We caught up with T87, possibly T90, and one other female with a calf (appeared to be at least 2 years old). Further off the Valdez Island shoreline was T102 with at least 5 others, including two younger juveniles. They continued to make their way north up the Strait of Georgia, giving us a breathtaking view of Mount Baker in the background as the whales surfaced. Beautiful day on the water, and very exciting with the surprise orca encounter.

May 7th

The sun has made a much desired return to the Vancouver area, and even better, we had reports of north bound killer whales off Point Roberts. These turned out to be a group of resident orcas! They were spread far apart, taking 5 minute dives, surfacing in sporadic directions, and “sharking”, which seems to be a clear indication that there was lots of foraging going on. Very exciting to see their hunting skills in action! Around the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, they began to porpoise north, and didn’t stop until they passed the coal port, and then continued foraging.  79 year old J8 “Spieden” and J37 “Hy’Shqa” spent most of their time foraging in fairly close proximity to one another, while L87 “Onyx” was several hundred meters ahead of everyone. The orcas began turning south soon after they reached Sand Heads.

79 year old J8 "Spieden" foraging for salmon

L87 "Onyx" in the waters off the Fraser River


October Sightings and End of Season Blues

First off for those of you who regularly read our blog sorry for lack of content over the past month! September flew by just like the rest of the summer and we all can’t believe we are now 1 week away from the end of our season 🙁 October has brought cooler weather and shorter days but we are still enjoying the beautiful fall colors that lighten up the grey skies! Just like every year, changes on land indicate even better changes on the water. The Steller sea lions have returned to the Belle Chain’s, growling and showing off in hilarious displays of aggression and curiosity of our boats. These interactions have been some of the highlights this month for us as well as our customers.

The Orcas have been doing their typical San Juan Island shuffle and have been seen frequently out near Race Rocks. We even had the delight of finding J’s in Trincomali Channel last week (Galiano Island) initially thinking they were Transients!! It won’t be long now till the killer whales travel south into Pudget Sound to feast on Chum Salmon for parts of the winter.

'Big boy' L-87 Onyx, shows off with a GIANT breach near Race Rocks

The return of several humpbacks have also been the highlight for many of us this month and we hope to continue seeing ‘flukes’ next spring when they return to Alaska for the summer. On special days when all three of these amazing marine mammals have been spotted, along with Dall’s Porpoise, Harbor seals and Eagles, we feel incredible blessed to live and share these beautiful waterways! Thanks to everyone who enjoyed a trip with us this season and we hope to see all of you next summer! Until then, stay warm and dream of whales….you know we will be 🙂

Any questions regarding bookings for next summer, please send an email to

Till next season! -Claire


October 16th- Transients! Um wait no, It’s J Pod!!

What a big surprise today! J pod with the K7s and L87 came south through Trincomali Channel today (very rare location for resident whales) at approximately 13:00. They were in a very relaxed and social mood, displaying a range of behavior from spyhopping (three at once!), breaching, porpoising, logging, sharking, cartwheeling, “blowing raspberries”, and even some mating/sexual play going on. At one point, the J4s, J7s, most of the J9s, and K7s came together in what I can only call an “orca soup” or orca dog pile, as they stopped swimming and simply rolled over each other, all the while vocalizing which could be heard above the water. Speaking of which, the hydrophones revealed VERY chatty whales! LOTS of amazing and near constant vocalizing. Incredible day, I will never forget it.~ Tasli Shaw

K25 Scoter when he surprised everyone on board, busting to the surface off the port side.

September Summer-End Special!!

On Monday September 5th we will be switching to our fall schedule of 1 sailing which will depart everyday at 11am for the rest of the season. We are sad to say goodbye to summer but with such an amazing season so far we have nothing to complain about 🙂 Residents are back in the area and the long-term forecast has sun, sun and more sun!

Book a whale watching trip this month and mention you read our blog post for 15% off the cost of your trip!

Reservations are recommended to ensure space on the boat! Call the office anytime for information on our tours and bookings! 604-272-7200 or toll free in North America 1-888-272-7203

T20 and Crazy Legs