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Kayaking With Killer Whales

Gauri Waikar
You don't have to be Jesse from the movie 'Free Willy' in order to experience the magic of killer whales. If you want to spend time with them in their natural habitat, then kayaking with them is the best thing to do.
Killer whales are the largest species of dolphins. They are commonly known as orca. They are found in all oceans, and are of 3 types.
Resident: These are the most commonly sighted types of killer whales. They move around in groups called pods. A pod consists of a mother and her children. They feed on fish and squid.

Transient: These whales travel in smaller groups, consisting of 2-6 animals. They are different from the other orcas, they do not eat fish, but feed mostly on marine mammals.
Offshore: This type makes up a third of the killer whale population. They mostly venture in the open oceans. They primarily feed on schooling fish, and travel in larger groups of 20-75 animals.
Killer whales, like the other dolphin species, are friendly creatures, and do not pose a threat to humans. Most of them do not shy away from humans. Kayaking is the most natural way to observe these magnificent mammals.
Kayaks are silent and do not pollute the waters, as compared to boats. You can even watch the orcas very closely, without disturbing them. Kayaking with killer whales can be a lifetime experience. Imagine, they are so close that you can even hear the sounds they make.

Places Where You Can Kayak with Killer Whales

British Columbia: This is a province in Canada. You can kayak with the orcas in Johnstone Strait and Vancouver Islands. These are very famous tourist attractions. Most of the orcas found here are resident orcas. Some transient orcas are also seen in the month of July.
Apart from the orcas, you will also get to see minke whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, and grizzly bears. Many travel companies offer various kayaking packages. The best time to visit these places is during the months of June and July.
San Juan Islands: These islands are located along the Washington-Canada border. The orca is the state marine mammal of Washington. You will find a dense population of resident killer whales here.
There are also many bald eagles, harbor seals, and salmon (orcas' favorite food) here. The orcas in this region are among the most extensively researched. The best time to visit these places is between late May and early June.
Glacier Bay National Park: In southern Alaska, the Glacier Bay National Park, and surrounding Icy Straits are very famous for kayaking with the orcas. This area is quite remote, so most of the people opt for a travel guide. The orcas here are mostly transient orcas.
When kayaking with killer whales, you need to keep in mind that these are wild creatures, and not pet animals. It is very rare that an orca will ever harm a human; but if you provoke them, they are bound to harm you.

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You are supposed to watch them from a safe distance (usually 100 yards). Don't get your kayak in their way. Don't try to stop them, or feed them. If you are a beginner, it is advisable that you hire a professional guide.