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Have you ever looked an Orca in the eye?
Today I asked for that gift and actually received more than my wildest dreams.
I went out for an afternoon kayak trip today. Knowing that the currents and the wind were at their calmest, I decided to paddle out to one of the ‘outer islands’about 300 meters offshore. I went out there with friends yesterday and had so many seals swimming around us I just couldn’t resist going out again. We also have seen a Minke whale not too far from a nearby island and I was hoping to get lucky again. So as I paddled out I asked as I always do to see whales. I hadn’t seen an Orca yet this summer and of course wished for that but since we were having more luck with Minkes I hoped to see one of those. I asked for the whales to come by Swirl Island where I was headed. I asked for them to come by if they were in the neighborhood and it were not too much out of their way. I asked for this specifically to be a kind of sign to me that it was really ok for me to explore in my kayak by myself and that I should not be such a whimp about doing this more often!
I started to paddle around the island to the west, watching the seals as I went. At one point I, for some reason, turned completely around to look in the opposite direction. When I did this, I saw about a third of a mile away, a huge splash. I knew this could only be a whale! As I wondered if Minke whales breached that fully I saw the dorsal fins of ORCA whales!!! They were breaching, spy-hopping and tail-slapping more than I have ever seen them do. With chills all over my body, I decided to head to the east (the direction they were) and sit in the kelp at the edge of Swirl Island and watch them from that vantage point. Sitting in the kelp stabilizes your boat and keeps it from moving with the current. As I watched I realized that they were indeed coming my way. I asked them with all my heart to please, please come close to this island. Close enough so that I could look at them in the eye and tell them how much I honored them. I saw a few of the pod (a family of whales, usually about 12) going on the outside (the open ocean or straits side) of the island in the distance (Coleville Island). This course put them about 100+m away from the island where I was. thankful just to be able to see them, especially while in my kayak.
There was blowing and slapping going on all around. They were having a blast!!!!
As I was thinking this, I saw a large male do a FULL BREACH on the inside of the same island (nearer to the shore) about ¼ mile from me. He was with 3 other smaller whales. If they kept the course they were taking they would swim right by me! They breached, slapped and spy-hopped their way toward me, it was apparent that they were not going to go in front of me but right into me! I sat calmly as they surfaced about 20m from me, still running a perpendicular course. I was frozen! In a split second the large male broke the surface a paddle length beside me. There was a layer of water surrounding his head and body as he broke the surface but his long dorsal fin was fully out of the water. I gave out a light, ‘Oh!’ because he was still perpendicular to my boat and so very large and beautiful. My heart raced, and my hair was on end. He carefully dove back into the water at the bow of my boat and glided off.
I watched them swim off, hearing the blows, watching the breaches, saying thank you so much. I love you!
As I paddle to shore the tourist whaleboats had arrived and were swarming the pod. Not unlike the way the tour buses swarm the ‘big cats’ in Kenya. Don’t they know? All they have to do is ask, sit, wait and they will come!
I have had such experiences in Africa with elephants, but never anything like this. It was definitely a peak experience in my life and I just wanted to share it with you.