A whale-watching charter out of San Diego on Tuesday spent “five magical hours” with orcas that surfed, leaped, and even swam upside down within feet of passengers and crew.
The extraordinary footage, captured by Gone Whale Watching San Diego, shows Eastern Tropical Pacific killer whales, or orcas, clearly interacting with those aboard the 27-foot Boston Whaler.
“All in all this was one of the best trips in our company’s history,” Domenic Biagini, owner of Gone Whale Watching San Diego, wrote on Facebook.
Acting on a tip from a sportfishing captain, Biagini traveled 80 miles south of San Diego, into Mexican waters, in search of the ETP killer whales.
He first located beaked whales, and footage of that rare encounter is forthcoming. Biagini and crew spotted the orcas on the way back up the coast, about 50 miles south of San Diego.
ETP orcas, which are spotted sporadically off Mexico and in the Sea of Cortez, are famously inquisitive around boats and have been known to surf in their wakes.
Biagini’s passengers were treated to this behavior but also observed the grace and beauty of the mammals as they slowly swam beneath and next to the boat, at times completely upside down.
Passengers also witnessed a predation event (the jumping portion of the video) involving a common dolphin that ultimately became an orca snack.
“The orcas toyed with this common dolphin for nearly 90 minutes before finally completing the kill and sharing in a meal,” Biagini explained on Facebook. “It very well may have been a teaching moment for the youngsters in this pod. They’ll have to complete hunts themselves one day!”
The footage was captured by Biagini, Kyle Henderson, and Alyson Moors.
Biagini assured that his engines were not running during the orcas’ close approaches, and that the orcas were “play-chasing us,” and not the other way around, when the boat was in motion.