Killer Whales two weeks in a row!Saturday, 7th November 2020
By Jake Keeton
This past Saturday (7 November) we were shocked to once again find a family pod of killer whales in Algoa Bay. We know this pod was not the same one that we saw on Saturday 31st October as the large male's dorsal fin had a unique curved shape to it. It is exciting to know that there are a few different family pods with young calves roaming South African waters.
With perfect conditions we set off on a deep route towards St Croix island. Along the way we were spoilt with three sightings of humpback whales. The most exciting of the three was a group of large males swimming at considerable speed in a line parallel to our boat. All we then needed to round off the tour was a good dolphin sighting. We arrived at St Croix island and with no dolphins in sight our attention quickly shifted onto the hundreds of African penguins positioned on the rocky outcrops of the island. As we rounded the Southern tip of the island I spotted a pod of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins racing towards the island at full speed. The way that the dolphins were porpoising made me think that they could actually be common dolphins, a much faster offshore species. The dolphins reached the island and proceeded to race around to the North-East side of the island. We decided to follow them. When we caught up we found the entire pod circling in a bay sticking close to the rocks and close to each other. Noticing this behavior I jokingly suggested to my crew members that we should keep a lookout for big dorsal fins on the horizon (a tell tale sign of killer whales). My crew responded in saying that it is unlikely that we will see killer whales two weeks in row. Based on our past experience of only seeing killer whales once a year we accepted this fact and started making our way back to port feeling appreciative of the great sightings that we had during the tour.
A few minutes later one of my crew members pointed out what looked like a humpback whale lying on its side with its pectoral fin in the air (something they often do). The second time the fin rose into the air it was accompanied by a tall/thin blow. We looked at each other with expressions of shock and excitement as we had simultaneously realised that it was not a humpback whale but rather a large male Killer Whale. When we got closer we found the male to be accompanied by two adult females and two young calves. One of the females proved to be more interested in us than the others as she circled around and underneath our boat a few times before rejoining the rest of the pod. We spent fifteen minutes with the pod capturing as many pictures as we could before the pod disappeared in the wind chop towards Coega Harbour.
We could not believe our luck. We did not expect to see killer whales again so soon. We suspect that these family pods are remaining in the bay for longer than usual due to the high number of Humpback Whale calves currently passing through the area. It is well known that Humpback calves are a sought after prey for killer whales. Studies in Australia have shown that killer whales have a 60% success rate in hunting Humpback calves. Although sad to think of, these family pods of killer whales could be using the high number of Humpback calves as an opportunity to teach their own calves how to hunt.
We can only hope that we get to see these amazing predators again on one of our next cruises in the bay before they all leave the area.
Killer Whales 7 November 2020