San Juan Island's Original Sea Kayak Outfitters & Guides Since 1980

Amazing Orca Whale Encounter #6

Orca Kayak TripKiller whales don’t sleep like normal people.  apparently they sleep half of their brain at one time, leaving the other half to pay attention to where they are going.  You see, when orcas sleep, they keep moving, and, of course, coming to the surface at regular intervals to breath all at once.  They move in a synchronized group swimming side by side with one bull on the outside edge of the formation who is fully awake and acts as navigator.  He communicates with the sleeping pod or sub-pod directing them to avoid driftwood logs, rocks, boats, etc.  Watching killer whales sleep is one of the most amazing things one can witness from a sea kayak.

One summer day, we were paddling south into prime orca country when ahead of us suddenly appeared a group of twenty whales.  I immediately recognized that they were sleeping, as they were in a broad line side by side and coming up to breath in semi-unison.  We didn’t have time to back into the kelp, so we rafted up instead.  We had practiced rafting on the first day of the trip, and each boat came along side of me in an instant.

The surfacing pattern of the orca pod appeared as though their next surfacing would put them directly under our kayaks, so we waited with bated breath.  As we looked down, we saw twenty black and white six to ten ton bodies swim silently just beneath our boats.  When about ten yards past us, the entire group surfaced, and the sound of their metallic, explosive, staccato of exhalations was one we will never forget!  Lucky for us that the “navigator” bull orca had communicated to his semi-sleeping pod to stay down for a few extra seconds to avoid us, and then gave the “OK” when they were safely past.

Who ever thought that watching orca whales sleep could be such an adrenaline rush?

Acknowledgments

All photos in our website have been contributed by past guests. Thanks to all who have shared their experience! And special thanks to guest Philip Robinson for his fun pics.

Contact Info

San Juan Kayak Expeditions
Tim and Sally Thomsen, Owners/Operators since 1980
PO Box 2041
275 A St, Friday Harbor, WA 98250, USA
+1-360-378-4436
sanjuankayak@rockisland.com
Open 7 days a week for questions & reservations.

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