Part II: When Orcas Attack

This is Part II of Orcas Versus Gray Whales: Our Once-In-A-Lifetime Whale Watching Experience

After our captain silenced the boat motor, all we could do is wait — with our eyes peeled — and anticipate what we all feared would happen next. We knew the Orcas were nearby since we had just seen them playing on top of the water near our boat.

Our captain made a sudden announcement over the loud speaker.

“It’s surprising that these dolphins are sticking around because they normally hightail it out of the area if they sense a predator. These Orcas must be doing a good job of hiding themselves.”

Watching the pod of Orcas attack the Gray Whales was tough to watch, but I REALLY didn’t want to see a dolphin die today.

After about five minutes of edge-of-your-seat waiting, we heard a splash on the water. The boat filled with screams of surprise and before I even knew what happened, our captain spoke over the loud speaker.

“They may have gotten at least one dolphin. The Orca came up in a full breaching attack and the dolphin flew up in the air. So if they got a good bite or a good hit, that dolphin could be fairly stunned. The Orcas use this technique to break the dolphins back or at least stun them enough to slow them down.”

Now we get to see first hand how fast dolphins can actually swim when they feel threatened. Without hesitation, a stampede of dolphins skim across the water at mock speed — fleeing the area.

To the left of our boat, we then see the fins of all three Orcas and they seem to be circling as if they have prey. One of the Orcas jumps out of the water, giving us a beautiful view of its entire body.

“Are there four of them?” I hear one woman ask.

“Oh no! That’s the dolphin!”

I felt my stomach drop. This was really happening!

An Island Packers crew member continues to narrate the scene.

“It looks like they have one dolphin in the mix. All of them are headed this way, towards the bow of the boat. Although . . . it looks like they are no longer in hot pursuit.”

As all four mammals head our way, the Orcas seem to lose interest and let the stunned dolphin go, while they continue to play around our boat.

Now that sunset is upon us, the Island Packers crew is forced to turn us around and head toward the Channel Islands Harbor. I feel a slight pang of sadness as we leave our ocean friends and head for the shore.

On our ten-minute boat ride back, the dolphins join us again — playing in the wake of our boat — and just slightly off in the distance we see the three Gray Whales happily chugging along in the same direction as us.

It was a happy ending on this particular day and definitely one that we will never forget.

A special thanks to the Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau for planning our tour with Island Packers and making this amazing experience possible.

Christy Woodrow is a travel photographer and professional blogger based in San Diego. She has been traveling around the world with her partner in crime, Scott, since 2006. Join them in their quest to find off-the-beaten-path destinations by signing up for weekly emails and following her on .