When I was growing up, whales would sometimes wander through the waters of my hometown, giving us a wonderful up-close view of these majestic seafarers. And just as Washington is a great place to glimpse a whale, our neighbor to the north, British Columbia, has plenty of opportunities for that as well.
To see the iconic black-and-white killer whales, try Richmond — the city has multiple tour operators and an abundance of whales to see. So far this season, which kicked off in April, an unusually large number of transient whales have been spotted, and many have babies with them.
Want to learn more? Here are five fun facts about the killer whales (also known as orcas) in B.C., courtesy of Tourism Richmond:
1. Orcas are the largest member of the dolphin family and can grow up to 23 to 32 feet, roughly the length of a school bus.
2. The three pods (or families) of orcas that return to the Georgia Strait every year are known as J, K, and L pods. The K and L pods leave in late September to spend the winter months farther out at sea. The J pod stays year-round and is often spotted traveling near Salt Spring Island. It’s the J pod that you’re most likely to see on your whale-watching excursion.
3. Each orca pod makes distinctive noises that its members recognize even at a distance.
4. Killer whales are so named for being one of the top predators in the sea. Their teeth can be 4 inches (10 centimeters) long. These teeth are used for feasting on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales.
5. Orcas are matriarchal, which means that the eldest female leads the group. The J pod is led by Granny, who is thought to have been born in 1911.