A local kayaker who had a close encounter with a pod of orca whales off West Vancouver’s Eagle Island recently described the experience as a “once in a lifetime” thrill.
Ali Shuparski was out for a quiet winter kayak with her mom, Lesley Shuparski, and was about 400 metres from shore when a pod of about six whales – including a calf – swam directly towards them.
“On our way back to the harbour, we were paddling and just kind of chatting and looking up at Cypress, and the orcas appeared,” said Shuparski.
“They probably got within 15 metres when they turned direction all of a sudden. So it was quite the adrenaline rush,” she added.
Shuparski said the whales got close enough for her to see the pinkish colour of the calf (Orca calves are born a peachy orange and black colour. Most turn black and white before they are a year old.)
Shuparski said she was able to grab her phone and capture some video of the whales breaching and “hopping” vertically out of the water. “That might have been because they were looking at my mom and I, or they could have just been checking something else out,” she said.
Photographer Stephanie La Porta, who lives on Eagle Island, also managed to capture the show the whales put on.
When she saw the whales come in close to the kayakers, “I grabbed my camera and I got a nice long lens,” she said. “I couldn't believe how long they were out there. A good 15 to 20 minutes.”
La Porta said she often sees whales going by Eagle Island but there are usually only three or four at most. “I’ve never seen six together,” she said. “That was pretty cool.”
Shuparski said the experience is definitely the closest she’s ever been to a group of whales, despite spending considerable time on the water in her kayak and seeing orcas frequently from the beaches of West Vancouver.
A number of other people reported similar sightings of a pod of orcas around the South Coast last week, including a friend of Shuparski’s on the Sunshine Coast, so it’s possible these were the same whales, she said.
Usually, she said she tries to keep a respectful distance away. But this time the orcas had other ideas. “It was absolutely awe inspiring,” she said. “It was definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve had.”