Let’s talk about Orcas’…
When I say “Orca”, what is the picture your mind conjures? If you are a little older, I am sure the movie “Free Willy” immediately jumps to mind! Big beautiful black and white whales…well actually the Orca, more commonly known as the “Killer Whale” is not a whale at all! The Orca is actually the largest member of the dolphin family, which you can kind of see it when you take a look and listen to them. As with dolphins, Orcas’ are very social creatures and swim the oceans of the world in pods of up to 30 strong. They hunt together, using ever evolving methods and team strategies to feed, and sometimes may even hook up with another pod to increase their numbers!
As with dolphins, Orcas’ are highly intelligent, they continually learn better and new ways to feed, hunt and live! Their main food source includes seals, sea lions, fish, whales and sharks! You heard me, SHARKS! Boasting sizes of up to 10 meters in length and 2 meters in height, weighing in at tons not kilograms, it is understandable! Orcas’ enjoy the livers of certain shark species as well, as we have recently seen here in False Bay.
The highly distinctive dorsal fin is about 20% larger in the males than the females. They are predominantly black with a white underbelly and patches of white behind the eyes and with what looks like a white saddle around the famous dorsal fin. The females will carry for between 13 and 16 months, before they give birth to one beautiful bouncing baby weighing in at close to 200kg (450 plus pounds) and anywhere from six and a half to seven feet in length! The baby will stay with its mother for at least two to two and a half years and some may never leave!
Don’t think that because of their size, these animals are slow, lumbering creatures, quite the opposite! Orcas’ have been recorded of reaching speeds of up to 54km plus (34mph +)
The debate comes in now; with their enormous size, speed, strength and intelligence, who is the actual apex predator of the sea? Is it the infamous Great White Shark or the Killer Whale? I can tell you what I have personally experienced in the past two weeks here in Simons Town; with a pod of 5 orcas’ around Seal Island, the Great Whites have fled, giving the Orcas’ all the space and time they need to do their thing, and only once the orcas’ have left, will be able to offer the amazing Great White Cage Diving Trips out of False Bay again. This shouldn’t be much longer now though, as the Orcas’ migrate huge distances in search of food, so leave as quickly as they arrive.
Till we meet again, keep that toothy grin!
By Nadine Bentley