Although potentially dangerous, kayaking with killer whales offers an exciting and unpredictable adventure. It provides a rare opportunity to obtain a relatively close look at orcas in the wild. Kayakers often see several of them at a time. Other types of whales and sea creatures might also surface, adding to the experience. An expedition to kayak with killer whales, however, requires substantial preparation and several important decisions.
Killer whales populate oceans in many parts of the world. Their range includes waters off the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, California and Oregon, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They also appear around Vancouver Island, Prince William Sound, Puget Sound, eastern Russia, Antarctica, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland and Argentina. The most common locations vary by season. Curved triangular fins and underwater calls signal the presence of killer whales. Bring binoculars and a waterproof camera while sea kayaking. Professional guides can help kayakers locate killer whales more easily.
Tour guides direct kayakers to areas where killer whales live, and they use special equipment to help spot the whales. When selecting a guide, thoroughly compare the prices and reviews of different companies operating in the desired area. Ask what safety measures the guide service applies and what methods they use to ensure that kayakers have a high probability of seeing orcas. People can rent sea kayaks or use their own boats while kayaking with killer whales. Renting a kayak might prove more economical when traveling long distances. Some guide services provide kayaks to use.
Kayaking at sea involves a number of serious dangers. Although killer whales have attacked humans in other settings, no credible reports of attacks on kayaks appear to exist. The website of Northern Lights Expeditions indicates it has encountered no information indicating that any such attacks have occurred. But it remains important to avoid kayaking aggressively or getting too close to the killer whales. Closely monitor marine weather forecasts before going out to sea. Guides and kayaking companions in other boats can provide assistance if needed and bring items such as medical kits and emergency radios.
Some countries prohibit kayaks and other boats from approaching killer whales too closely, because of their endangered status. This helps to prevent collisions and stop people from chasing whales out of their feeding areas when sea kayaking. The U.S. government established a law in 2011 for the state of Washington's inland waters, which bars boaters from traveling less than 200 yards from killer whales, according to the NOAA. It also prohibits entering the path of killer whales for 400 yards. Canada.com indicates that the Canadian government prohibits boaters from moving within 328 feet of any whale.
- Northern Lights Expeditions: Whales and Kayaking in British Columbia
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Killer Whale (Orcinus Orca)
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Questions & Answers on the NOAA Fisheries Vessel Regulations for Killer Whales; April 2011
- Canada.com; Whale-Watchers Warned: 200 Yards; "Vancouver Sun"; April 2011
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