30 killer whales in Monterey Bay give boaters thrill of a lifetime: Video

A group of killer whales gave boat riders the thrill of a lifetime last weekend in the Monterey Bay.

Passengers and crew from the Monterey Bay Whale Watch witnessed over 30 orcas breaching Sunday morning, in what was described as the most memorable killer whale encounter in the company’s history. 

They leaped into the air, spewed water from their blowholes, slapped the ocean with their tails, and dipped back to do it again. Drone footage was captured by Evan Brodsky.

KTVU spoke with Morgan Quimby of Monterey Bay Whale Watch who described the extraordinary encounter. She said the playful activity was likely because the animals were very well-fed and excited.

"We heard they had a sea lion earlier in the morning," Quimby said. "It was pure energy and celebration. The little calves were rubbing up against each other--we call those 'cuddle puddles.'"

Quimby said they work with the California Killer Whale Project to comb through thousands of images to figure out where the whales came from, and so far they believe they descended from 11 different families in California and Canada. 

Nancy Black, marine biologist and owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch has over 35 years of whale watching experience and said this was the most spectacular she has ever seen.

Killer whales breaching in the Monterey Bay June 11, 2023. Photo taken by Evan Brodsky

Packs of orcas usually travel to the bay in April and May to hunt gray whale calves. For them to be hanging out in such large numbers in June, was particularly magical. 

It has been an active year for orcas in Central California.

Last week, an orca family traveled from Canada to the Monterey Bay to feast on sea lions. The four were captured hunting a sea lion and then celebrating afterward. And in May, a few dozen orcas danced and played near the Farallon Islands.

Warning of graphic content in video below:

One possible explanation for all the recent orca activity is that the population from California to Alaska has grown to roughly 350. This could be the result of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, designed not only to protect them, but also their prey.

Quimby said they were getting ready to go out again Wednesday morning with another group of passengers anxious to see if they will get a similar show.

"I’m still smiling from the magic of this day," wrote one passenger about Sunday's sighting, adding the trip will be remembered for years to come.