How Long is an Orca Tour?

How Long is an Orca Tour? Whale Watch Western Australia

How long is an Orca tour? That is a question we have proposed to our research team onboard to self evaluate our time with the magnificent Orca of Bremer Bay before they are disturbed by our presence and what signs do we as an operator look for when monitoring these apex predators?

Bremer Bay Orca are indeed a wonder of the world as we see them on a daily basis but we are very conscious of our presence and what affect we are having on these isolated creatures. Our company moto is to ‘Observe and not Influence’ so our vessel manoeuvring near the Orca is paramount to their (the Orca) experience as well as our customers experience. We maintain that the vessels energy must be below the energy of the Orca at any given time, this is not to say when they are surging at 90% capacity, we match that, we always stay under their energy level so that they control the interaction and not our vessel. The temptation to get close to the Orca is always present but best practise is to always allow them to approach not the other way around, naturally curious creatures will always seek out those who show respect in non threatening or aggressive action in their presence.

We are very fortunate that the Killer Whales of the Bremer Canyon are isolated and welcome our company most days even swimming to the vessel as they did this morning, greeting us before we were at the Patch and then surged westward for an hour before regrouping and heading back to The Patch. They swam in a FLOT line of 11 abreast of our vessel and we had Joined the Pod for the journey back to the Patch as excited guests were in awe of their gladiatorial movements below and above the ocean surface.

Once back at the Patch central, they enjoyed some downtime until the slow forage back to the west began and after another hour we spotted Pilot Whales heading in their direction, at times like this with only one or two pod’s in the area, especially with calves, we knew we had to stay with the Orca, they immediately pushed back hard to the east underwater which is difficult at times to read as they spend many hundreds of meters underwater, out of sight, but with the correct training and expertise given to our team by the Orca we followed them until they heard the Pilot Whales move back to the west.

Our time with the Orca had nearly reached the 4 hour mark, which is our self governed time frame we will spend with any one pod and as El’Nocho’s pod had been so generous with their interactions during the day we slowly moved away from them to allow them time to themselves, this was important as we also had a secondary vessel shadowing us for most of the day which does affect the interaction with the Orca and does add pressure to their environment.

One of our customers commented when do we know then to leave, and it was explained that it was the perfect time to depart as even we could see that the longer downtime and the change of direction is a sign of enough attention for the one Pod. We never spend anymore than 4 hours with any one pod of the Orca and when multiple pods are in the area we also move from one to the other, not only for documentation but as Orca do, to socialise and then leave them to their hunting.

We are currently working with authorities to bring in new guidelines and times around these wonderful creatures as if they were not so isolated their response to vessels would be not what we witness and experience daily, we have also seen terrible operations both privately and commercially around Australia when it comes to interactions with cetaceans and we do not want that behaviour here in Bremer Bay.

Quality time with the Orca should be cherished as it is a gift from them to us as observers and researchers, it should not be about length of time but quality of efficient time, this we have learn’t from spending over 6000 hours over 8 years with the Orca of Bremer Bay.

So when you are wondering how long an Orca Tour goes for remember that there is many factors to that question, and the best answer is … as long as the Orca let you be with them.


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