Spotting orcas in the distance
Spotting orcas in the distance Mark Gardener

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are a fascinating, social creatures that inhabit all the world’s oceans.

Killer whales are the largest of the dolphin family, reaching a body length of 30 feet, and weighing about 9 tons. Males live to be 50-60 years old, and females as much as 90 years.

Our local, or resident, orca whales are known as the Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW). They are comprised of three pods, or families, named J, K and L pods. At the time of this writing, there are 81 whales in this resident community. The SRKW are considered an endangered species.

Orcas are categorized into three types – resident, transient and offshore. Some exclusively eat fish, while others eat other marine mammals. Our resident orcas eat fish, preferring Chinook salmon above all else.

The SRKW are here in the San Juan Islands traditionally from mid-April to about first part of October. They spend their time along the Pacific coast during the winter – from Southern California to Southeast Alaska – when the salmon in their native Salish Sea are scarce. 

Reserve Your Tour Now

To learn more about our Resident whales and the guidelines San Juan Safaris follow when viewing them, continue reading: