‘They decided to come say hello’: Saanich boater gets surprise orca visit

'They decided to come say hello': Saanich boater gets surprise orca visit
Photo: Mosiah Flores
A boater had a surprise orca encounter in the Saanich Inlet on Thursday, May 11, 2023.

It was a boat trip Mosiah Flores will never forget, and one that people flock from all over in hopes of experiencing for themselves.

Around 10 a.m. Thursday, Flores took his vessel out on the Saanich Inlet between Patricia Bay and Mill Bay — and when he got back to shore, he could only marvel at the videos he captured of several orcas swimming past him.

“I thought they were going to pass me, but then they decided to come say hello,” Flores told CHEK News in an interview.

“They were very graceful,” he recalled. “They covered a lot of space quite quickly, a lot of distance quite quickly. They were out there, and within 10, 15 seconds, they were right by the boat.”

As soon as Flores spotted the sea-dwelling wildlife coming in his direction, he turned off his boat’s engine and basked in the surprise encounter.

“I was freaking out. It’s an open bow boat, so there’s nowhere to go,” he said.


Under the Fisheries Act, people must keep away from killer whales in B.C. waters year-round. But in uncontrollable circumstances, vessel operators are asked to turn their engines to neutral idle, if safe to do so, when an orca is within 400 metres, or one kilometre for Southern Resident killer whales.

“I didn’t know that they were going to be coming that close,” said Flores.

“They were in the distance, and when they resurfaced, they were in formation and heading toward the boat. Four of them.”

According to the Centre for Whale Research (CWR), data from its July 1, 2022, census found that the killer whale population was comprised of 73 individuals — one less than the year before. 

The population includes a trio of pods — L, K and J pods, and Washington state-based CWR regularly posts whale sightings to its website, including on May 6 when a group of Bigg’s transients were spotted off Oak Bay.

Yet, for Flores, it was an up-close encounter that, while some only read about, he got to experience firsthand during a solo voyage that made a big splash.

“People from all over come and visit in hopes of seeing that.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada encourages people, even well-intended watchers, to be “whale wise” by never feeding or interacting with marine mammals, among other tips listed on its website.


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Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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