See up to 4 Types of Whales from 4 Departure Locations!

Icons of the Pacific Northwest

Killer whales, or orcas, are one of the most recognizable and beloved marine species on the planet. They hold a special cultural significance in the Pacific Northwest and we are fortunate to share our local waters with more than one type of killer whale.

Mammal-Eating Orcas

J, K, and L Pods

Common Killer Whale Behaviors

Every day and experience is completely unique and unpredictable! The beauty of seeing these magnificent orcas in the wild is that they are doing what they want to do when they want to do it. No two encounters are ever the same. Below are just a few of the many behaviors that orcas might exhibit throughout their day.

How do killer whales find food?

Echolocation

Orcas (both resident and transient) utilize echolocation, which is similar to sonar used in bat species, for “seeing” under the water. “Sound Pictures” are formed when the nasal passage of the orca produces a high-frequency, extremely fast series of clicks that are projected out from the melon and sent out into their environment. the sound vibrations that bounce back from objects are returned to the lower jaw which is then directed to the inner ear where an acoustical image is created. Orcas are able to perceive distance, speed, shape, texture, and composition from these images which help them navigate and search for prey.

How do we identify whales?

Photo I.D.

The early 1970's, Dr. Michael Bigg, a scientist with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, began studying the orcas of the region, mainly to determine the population and its dynamics in light of orcas being captured for captivity. He developed a technique using photographs to ID individual whales. Currently, the Center for whale research conducts an annual census of the southern resident orcas. Located just behind the dorsal fin on each side of the whale is a white pigmented area called a saddle patch. The saddle patch is like a fingerprint. Unique encroachments of black and sometime scars within the patch make each one distinctive. Characteristics of the dorsal fin itself – such as scars, nicks and overall shape – are also helpful in identifying individual whales.

Swoop

Learn more about the area's wildlife and scenery

The waters surrounding our four departure locations offer some of the most diverse whale and wildlife viewing on the west coast.  Onboard each of our tours, an experienced naturalist helps identify all of the whales, wildlife, and 
rich history that this area holds.

Online Reservations

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Online Reservations

Whale Report

See what we've seen on the water. There's a detailed account from every tour since 2002!

Whale Report