Orcas, or killer whales, are not actually whales at all but rather the largest of the dolphins. They have been found in every ocean around the globe, and are one of the world’s most powerful predators. Although they are currently listed as a single species, scientists have recognized at least 10 different types of Orcas! Each different kind of Orca (or what scientists call ‘ecotypes’) has their own type of diet, their own ways of hunting, even their own language.
There are three different ecotypes you might encounter while aboard the Sea Spirit. The Transient Orcas are mammal hunters, feeding on seals, sea lions, dolphins, and even small whales. Offshore Orcas are much more rare, and not much is known about them. We do know that their diet includes sharks. Very rarely we see Southern Resident Orcas from Washington state and British Columbia. These are salmon eaters.
They are extraordinarily intelligent animals, using group hunting strategies to bring down prey much larger than they are. Additionally they are exceedingly swift swimmers, clocked at speeds of up to 34 MPH or 54 kph! A pod of Orcas can cover around 100 miles or 160 kilometers in a day, while traversing and mingling. Orcas can grow to lengths of 23-32 feet long or 6.5-9.5 meters long.