Do orcas mess with kayakers? Orcas are among the largest whales in the dolphin family, sometimes weighing up to 6 tons. So, kayaking next to them isn’t exactly safe.
These giant whales don’t attack humans. On the contrary, they’re gentle when it comes to humans. Even so, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be careful when you’re next to them.
Kayaking next to orcas isn’t as dangerous as you think, but there are some precautions that you should consider. So we’ve compiled a list of safety tips to follow so you can enjoy your trip with no disturbance. Stick around to find out more.
Do Orcas Mess With Kayakers?
The scientific name for orcas is “Orcinus orca,” which means “demon of the depths.” Others call them killer whales. These names typically make you scared of kayaking in a place where orcas exist.
When understanding the nature of these whales, you’ll find that they have a picky diet. So humans aren’t really on the menu for orcas. They don’t eat anything that doesn’t have gills.
More clearly, orcas only eat marine mammals, such as seals, sea lions, whale calves, and dolphins. Besides, their diet includes over 92% of Chinook salmon, and they’ll hardly sacrifice the salmon for human flesh.
Although many divers and kayakers share the same waters with orcas, there’s no proven case of them attacking humans.
Tips to Kayak Safely Around Orcas
You need to take some precautions to stay safe, even though orcas don’t prey on humans. You’re primarily responsible for your safety, and you must know when the orcas will swim where you’re kayaking.
You should also pay attention to many warnings and signs so you don’t get into a situation where your life is in danger. So here are some safety tips we’ve compiled to keep you in a safe space.
Maintain a Safe Distance
Always make sure to look in all directions. If a whale appears in front of you, stay completely out of its way. It’s best to stop kayaking if it’s passing by you. Also, it’d be better not to suddenly change your direction so as not to attract its attention.
Stay In a Group
Some boaters advise staying within the group, as this often has a less annoying effect on the orcas. However, it’d be better if you’ve got a tandem kayak. This kayak has two seats, allowing you to have company.
If you all have tandem kayaks, there’ll be fewer kayaks in the water overall, which is better for the orcas.
Keep the Communication With the Other Kayakers
Before going down to the water, agree with other kayakers that you’ll have communication in case of any threat. You can warn them if the whale approaches them or vice versa. This will ensure all the group is on alert, and warnings will go out if an orca is detected.
Be Aware of the Laws
You should check the marine mammal viewing laws before kayaking. These laws differ from one state to another and are determined according to each type of marine organism.
For example, according to Washington state law, you must remain at least 200 yards from killer whales and 400 yards from their travel path in the inland waters of that state. It differs according to the state, though.
You may need to keep track of updates for each state, as these laws are changeable. For example, the state was recently studying new restrictions to increase the distance away from killer whales to 300 yards.
Don’t Chase Them
Maneuvering your kayak next to the orcas (not in front of or behind them) will help you avoid blocking a group of whales or separating a mother from her young.
Orcas are likely to behave somewhat unruly if they miss their group or are separated from their young. This definitely puts you at risk, so you have to be cautious.
On the other hand, don’t chase them for close-up pictures or things like that. It’s better to keep your distance because you can’t predict their next move. They may not attack you, but they may flip the kayak. So for your safety, have fun from a distance, and always be careful.
Don’t Ignore the Signs
Observing the behavior of any living creature is the best way to predict its mood. Anger may be expressed with a simple sign from orcas.
When a whale sweeps its surrogate irregularly from side to side, it means it’s feeling fear, anger, or a fit of aggression. Also, the whale that changes direction suddenly and quickly is probably upset with you or something else. So it may help if you are quick to act and walk away at the right time.
Try to Limit the Viewing Time
Your viewing tour shouldn’t exceed 30 minutes. You should be aware of your impact on whales. In other words, you aren’t the only one who watches them on certain days, and they may not appreciate the attention.
It’s better if you and your group watch them at the same time and keep it short. You don’t want to overwhelm the orcas and get them stressed.
Follow the Kayaker Code of Conduct
The kayaker’s code of conduct is a guide developed to help paddlers follow whale watching rules. The main goal of this guideline is to raise awareness of the correct behavior while watching whales.
Where to Kayak With Orcas?
Although it travels to most of the world’s oceans, there are some areas where the orca is found in abundance. For example, the Arctic Circle is home to over 700 killer whales, where orcas come to get food in the winter.
Make sure that the place where you’ll kayak is a good and well-kept place for kayaking boats. Here are some areas that have high numbers of orcas.
Monterey Bay, California
You’ll see orcas visit this place to feed, especially on gray whales, from April to May. That is before continuing their journey north.
This site also contains resident and transitory orcas, which mostly appear when other mammals flow in.
Johnstone Strait, Canada
This area has about 200 orcas only. They’re residents on this site throughout the year.
San Juan Islands, Washington
The orca whales living in this area mainly feed on salmon. Also, the best time to see these enormous whales is between the end of May and October.
How Do You Recognize Orcas?
The male orca has a distinctive fin that can be up to two meters long. The fins stand in the back area straight like a triangle, as it also has a straight back. On the other hand, females are smaller in size and have smaller crescent-shaped fins.
Experienced guides usually identify orcas by the frequency and sound of their strokes, which are much clearer and stronger than minke and humpback whales.
In the end, these signs are the most important characteristics of the orca, and many recognize them in this way.
Orcas may be the cutest species of whales; they love to have fun alongside humans. When they see kayakers, they get curious about the creature they share the water with.
Your kayak will give you the wonderful feeling of being close to these gentle giants and seeing them. Even so, don’t forget that your safety will always be first. Orcas are unpredictable, and their size raises warning signs.
Hopefully, our article will give you a better idea of what orcas are and how to stay safe when you are near them.