It’s beautiful to see an orca in the distance from a boat, but it’s a completely different experience to have one swim right beside your kayak — so close that you could almost reach out and touch it.
That’s exactly what happened to Michael Hack, when a family of orcas swam by him while out on a kayaking trip at North Vancouver Island last week.
“I was definitely shaking afterwards,” Hack told Vancouver Is Awesome.
The Campbell River man had taken the day off work on Monday, Aug. 19, to go kayaking with his sister Erica and brother-in-law Richard to celebrate his 30th birthday.
The day trip turned out to be better than they "ever expected."
The trio were returning from a four-hour adventure between Sayward and Telegraph Cove when they noticed the orcas swimming towards them.
Hack said the group had already had an eventful day spotting a vast array of wildlife out on the water and were “stoked” to have seen two humpback whales, sea lions, a large school of porpoises and seals.
When the orcas appeared, it was the icing on the cake.
“Right when we were coming back to shore the orcas cut us off,” Hack said.
“We just kind of sat there and watched as they came closer and closer. We were just in awe. It was pretty neat.”
He said the family of about eight orcas swam around the kayaks for two to three minutes.
“I watched as the big male came up against my brother-in-law's kayak a couple of times,” Hack said.
“There was a little bit of nervousness but also just so much excitement. It felt like an eternity in the moment.”
Hack managed to film one orca swim directly by his kayak.
“It’s one thing to see it from a boat but when you’re in a little tub — basically, I could have put my hand under the water and touched it — it was a different feeling,” he described.
The 30-year-old said it was one birthday he'd never forget.
“You really can’t beat it, in my opinion, it's definitely more than I could have asked for," Hack said.
“To me it was the experience of a lifetime."
He said the group was by no means chasing killer whales, but were just in the right place at the right time.
"We were lucky we got to see it," Hack told V.I.A.
"We just live in a super beautiful place. More people should get out and enjoy it and try and see nature but also respect it at the same time."
While the encounter was a magical moment, adventure seekers are advised that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada regulations state a 200 metre distance should be kept for orcas in B.C. and the Pacific Ocean.
“Approaching marine mammals too quickly, coming too close or making too much noise can disturb, stress or even harm these beautiful creatures who call our waters home,” states the DFO.
Find out more about the marine mammal regulations here.
You can follow Hack's many adventures on Instagram @michaelrhack.