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Killer Whales Hunting a Sea-Lion

Posted by on May 5, 2013
Press Trip



We saw the sea lions first.

Lazily lounging on a rock outcropping in the Strait of Georgia which is a part of the Salish Sea running through British Columbia, they were enjoying the warm, spring sun and seemed to have not a care in the world. Many were sound asleep. Those that were awake had their heads thrown back, making the distinctive sea-lion yodel which reverberated across the water to our yacht. We were cruising the Salish Sea on the supremely comfortable Safari Quest yacht, part of the Un-Cruise Adventures fleet.

We had seen sea lions, harbor seals, river otters and plenty of birds on our cruise which had wound its way through the Gulf and Harmony Islands as well as the incomparably beautiful Princess Louisa Inlet,  but this was the closest we had been to wildlife so far.

Sea Lions


We left the sea lions behind as we cruised along the open water, dark green in the sunlight with snow-topped mountains soaring in the distance.

It was an idyllic scene.

And then we saw it.

A magnificent killer whale.

Killer Whale

Killer Whale

Our resident naturalist/biologist, Bethany, had told us earlier that she had been informed there were killer whales in the vicinity so we had all hoped we might see one. The huge, black and white creature was truly magnificent. Then we realized there was more than one. There were actually three. A mother, a baby and a big brother according to Bethany. We were all awed and amazed.

Three Killer Whales

Three Killer Whales

Then we noticed something else in the water with the killer whales. It was a lone sea-lion. Apparently, he had ventured a little too far from the colony we had seen a few miles back and been trapped by these predators. In this photo, you can see his brown fin sticking out of the water.

Killer Whales and the sea lion

Killer Whales and the sea-lion

The killer whales began to play a deadly game with the sea-lion. Every time he tried to escape, they would circle around and pen him in. They could have killed him in an instant but they played a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse, more than likely teaching the young whale about hunting.

Circling around

Circling around

Keeping the sea lion trapped

Keeping the sea-lion trapped

For the next half hour or so, the three killer whales circled the sea-lion, driving him back to the middle when he tried to escape and even brushing up against him as they cavorted around him.




After circling him for quite a while, the killer whales seemed to tire of that game and began to smash down on the sea-lion, crushing him down under the water again and again with their tails and their huge bodies. This is how killer whales feed, by pummeling and crushing their prey until they are unconscious, then tearing them to pieces underwater.




Each time the sea-lion appeared, he seemed to be more and more exhausted. He just floated on the water, his flippers trailing as the killers toyed with him. We were all equally horrified and mesmerized by the spectacle. By this time, everyone on board including most of the crew was on the deck with binoculars and cameras.


Finally, there was huge splash as the largest predator came down on top of the sea-lion and bore him down underwater.


For a few minutes, there was complete silence. From the calm appearance of the water and the sun shining out of a cloudless blue sky, you would never have known that deep under the water, the sea-lion was dying.

Finally, the killer whales appeared once more.

This time with the dead sea-lion in pieces in their jaws.



Finally, they swam away from the ship and disappeared underwater.


It was the most amazing, terrifying, incredible spectacle I have ever seen. The beauty, and the awesome power of the those huge creatures was almost poetic.

I will never forget it.

I don’t think anyone who witnessed it will ever forget it either.

Full disclosure: Un-Cruise Adventures provided us with the cruise,  but as always, I will share my honest opinion about any travel experiences I have.

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