A pod of orcas gave visitors to Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver quite the Valentine’s Day delight this weekend, swimming close to shore as snow fell.
The magical moment on Feb. 14 was captured on video by onlookers and shared to social media during the weekend.
Natalia Kotowska was one of the lucky viewers who got to see the magnificent marine mammals for the first time while out exploring West Vancouver’s sights.
Kotowska, who arrived in Vancouver from the U.K. about four months ago, said she had spontaneously decided to visit Horseshoe Bay for the day and had walked over to Whytecliff Park, when she was intrigued by a few people scrambling over rocks to a little island near the shore.
She decided to follow the small crowd to Whyte Islet, around 3 p.m., and after looking around for about 20 minutes noticed four orcas, a male and three females, swimming close by.
“They were really close,” she said. “It was incredible.”
She said the “amazing experience” was completely unexpected.
“I knew about the orcas and other whales and that's something that I was really looking forward to during springtime, because that's when I've been told that you normally see them,” said Kotowska.
“It was just going to be one of those days where I go for a walk and hopefully see an eagle, because in the U.K., where I'm from we don't have bald eagles, so I was going to try and catch one on video, but yeah, I got to see orcas instead.
“For me, seeing them was absolutely amazing and I couldn't ask for more. It's a great experience.”
Kotowska wasn’t the only one around to witness the orcas, also known as killer whales, stop by, saying a couple who just got engaged also enjoyed the view.
“It's quite funny, because, obviously, it was Valentine's Day and there was a couple that had literally just got engaged,” she said. “The lady said she's been living in the area for like 10 years and hadn’t seen an orca before.
“It was beautiful.”
Amber Sessions, director of communications at Ocean Wise, said viewers had spotted southern resident killer whales.
She encouraged whale watchers to record their sightings using the Ocean Wise Whale Report App.
“Logging whale sightings gives scientists at Ocean Wise and other organizations critical information to track the health of the at-risk southern resident killer whale populations (as well as other cetacean species),” said Sessions, via email. “Also, this data is fed real time to the Whale Report Alert System, which informs commercial mariners (like Ferry captains) that there are whales in the vicinity so that they can slow down, and take mitigating measures.”
She said people could also discover the best locations to see whales and learn more about shore-based whale watching on the Whale Trail.
“Shore-based whale watching is a great way to spot whales and is zero impact,” she said.
Sessions also reminded whale watchers to be “whale wise,” and to give them space, especially when in a boat or a kayak on the water.
Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News