Killer Whale

Largest dolphin in the world

Watching a killer whale in the wild is magical. Especially if you see a group when their dorsal fins cut through the water. You can see these animals all over the world, although there are some hotspots. Where the chance is much higher, or even almost 100 percent.

The killer whale, also called orca, is the largest dolphin in the world. The males can grow up to ten meters long, the females slightly smaller. Orcas in the world all belong to the same species, although there are several subspecies. Although there are more researchers who divide the orcas into two types, and sometimes as many as three. But more research is needed for that. So what happens in various places on earth.

Research shows that killer whales can exhibit completely different behaviour. For example, there are orcas that stay in a certain area their entire lives. And find enough food there. The famous orcas of Vancouver Island in Canada are an example of this. But there are also groups that seem to travel continuously, such as those near Antarctica. Their diet is therefore strikingly different. Making them travel more.

What does an orca tour look like?

Orca safaris are offered by boat in various places in the world. Mostly you head off with a small boat on the ocean. A biologist explains you about the animals along the way. With information about their behaviour, how often they are seen, what they eat and much more.

In the meantime, the guide scans the water. Just like the captain does. Sometimes they are in contact with other ships so that they know where the ideas were last seen. When they spot animals, they sail there. But keep at an appropriate distance. More and more countries have strict rules to protect the animals. And to ensure that the boats do not come too close.

The boats often stay with the orcas for a limited time. Many ships even turn so that everyone can see them well. It also depends on the behaviour of the orcas. When they are in transit, you hardly see them. If they are calm, you can only spend such a time with them.

And with a little luck, an orca will come spy hopping. In other words, then he comes up with his complete head and upper body to look at the boat with people. The animals sometimes do this. Have your camera ready, because this is a unique moment. And it will be over in no time.

How do I take a good killer whale photo?

Taking a picture of an orca is a challenge. The animals often only come out of the water for a second (or less). And it is mostly not clear where it is. With a bit of luck you will find a group of which the animals emerge alternately. You can focus on that and wait until a fin is clearly visible.

When the group is smaller it becomes more difficult. Then the animals occasionally come to the surface, but the exact location is not predictable. Or a little bit. The guide usually knows where to aim with your camera, and if you do this a number of times, you will automatically be lucky, I noticed.

Because the boats often have to keep their distance, you need a telephoto lens. Or you have to be content with a photo of the landscape with a pair of fins on it. Which is often very nice when the environment is nice and rough. Although making a good composition is difficult because the animals are quite unpredictable.

You often have the best view on the top deck, but for pictures below deck is better. It's more easy to come face to face with the animals. The choice is yours. I usually start above deck to help with the search. When they are found, I take some pictures from above. Then quickly go down for some better pictures.

What do killer whales eat?

They are opportunists and eat almost anything, although their menu depends very much on where they occur. Scientists have seen the animals attack everything. As; fish, squid, sea birds, seals (even on the beach), sea lions, but also much bigger whales and sharks.

They even dare to attack white sharks. Incidentally, a special behaviour can be seen here. The animals regularly wash up on sandy beaches to loosen parasites from their skin.

How do I recognise a killer whale?

These animals are easily recognised by their black back and white belly. Although you often see their sharp dorsal fin first, which splits through the water. And then another, and another. You can see soon enough whether they are in transit or not. When they are calm they often come to see boats. And do they do spyhopping, in other words that they come vertically half out of the water. Then their entire head is above water, so that they can have a good look. Which therefore indicates intelligence.

Research on killer whales

For years, research has been conducted in various places into the famous orcas in this area. The emphasis is on their eating habits, their social behaviour, but also their threats.
The English name is somewhat confusing. He is called both orca and killer whale. The latter is actually a misnomer as it is a dolphin species and not a whale. Its Latin name is Orcinus orca.

Best places to see a killer whale in the wild