While Tristan and Ava were on watch during a rather boring passage between Loreto and San Evaristo, we heard excited shouts of ‘Orcas!!!!’ We all ventured upstairs to take a look, expecting to see whales or maybe dolphins. Much to our surprise, they were right; there was a pod of about 10 orcas. While it had been an uninteresting few weeks, with the water turning too chilly for any kind of snorkelling, we were thoroughly dazzled with our first orca encounter, which lasted about 40 minutes.
The Orcinus orca is also known as a killer whale, orca, grampus, blackfish or, my favourite, the sea wolf. Interestingly enough, despite the name ‘killer whale’, they are not a whale but instead belong in the dolphin family. The orcas who visit the Sea of Cortez belong to the Eastern Tropical Pacific population, travelling between the Sea of Cortez and Costa Rica. Orcas feed on squid, fish, sea lions, turtles and even sharks, and are in fact one of the top oceanic predators. Although we have been taught to fear Orcas, and they have killed humans when in captivity, there are no known human deaths by Orcas in the wild. I will admit that both Tristan and I have contemplated whether we would swim with them if we saw them again.
While Andrew drove the boat, the rest of us raced up to the bow to watch these incredible creatures leap and bound through the water; a surprisingly easy feat for them, despite their size. When they came close to us, Andrew put the boat in neutral while we all watched in amazement. At one point they swam around our stern, turning to look at us as dolphins often do.