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Orca Sightings: Can You See Killer Whales Off The Coast Of San Diego?

a pod of orcas with a baby

If you are a San Diego resident or visiting, you may be wondering if orca sightings are possible today. The good news is that you may spot these marine mammals, also known as killer whales, off the coast of this fabulous city.

Orca Sightings in San Diego

San Diego is a popular place for whale watching. Spotting a whale at any time of the year is possible, as the warm waters provide food and the perfect environment for giving birth. Migration patterns vary depending on the type of whale. For example, winter is excellent for gray whale sightings, while summer is the blue whale season.

Orca sightings, however, are more rare. Although there is a large population of orcas, they are spread out in all the various oceans. They tend to enter the waters off the coast of southern California more frequently during late summer and fall. If you are on a whale-watching adventure during those months, you have a decent chance of spotting these black and white creatures. 

whale breaching

Recent Orca Sightings

Even though the fall is an excellent time to spot orcas, recent orca sightings have occurred in the past few months. Pods of orcas were seen off the coast of San Diego at the beginning of January and again towards the end of January. Some say there have been more sightings in 2024, just in the first four weeks, than in the entire year of 2023.

One theory for these ample sightings is El Nino and the warm waters and consistent food that result. Not only will you be able to spot the mighty gray whales during these months, but you may also catch a glimpse of a pod of orcas. 

family of orcas with a calf

Protecting Orcas 2024

Although killer whale sightings are possible off the coast of San Diego, they are protected under Federal law. Many think orcas are all one species, but there are various ecotypes or populations of orcas. The endangered ones include the AT1 transient group and the southern resident population.

Some threats to orca populations include chemical pollution, depletion of food, noise pollution, capturing, and hunting. Some of the things being done to protect orcas include:

  • Designating specific habitats
  • Preventing chemical spills and runoff
  • Creating laws to protect orcas
  • Cleaning up ocean pollution

Some things regular people can do include throwing trash away responsibly, reducing plastic use, and supporting sustainable fishing. 

Fun Facts About Orcas

On a whale-watching tour, you may hear some interesting things about orcas.

They are Technically Dolphins

Although nicknamed killer whales, they are not a part of the whale family. They are part of the Delphinidae family and are extremely intelligent.

Their Coloring Helps Camouflage Them

Their striking black-and-white coloring is beneficial. It helps cover up their shape in the water, making it more difficult for other creatures to see.

They Live in Pods

Orcas travel with other orcas; a pod typically consists of five to 30. Different pods will sometimes also travel with each other.

They are the Highest on the Food Chain

They are called killer whales for a reason. They have no predators, meaning they are the only species not hunted. They are fierce predators; some of their prey even include whales and great white sharks. They are fast swimmers who work together to take down prey, especially the larger species. They, however, are not known to harm humans.

At Next Level Sailing, our experienced team of sailors do whatever they can to have passengers witness a killer whale sighting in San Diego. Even if there aren’t any roaming around during your trip, our sailors ensure you will at least spot one whale. If you don’t, we promise to take you out on another whale watching trip free of charge until you do. We focus on the best experience possible for our passengers and pride ourselves on having an extremely stable boat to avoid sea sickness and a ruined trip out on the water. We are so confident in our abilities that we will even offer a free meal at a nearby restaurant if you do fall victim to motion sickness. Sign up to work with the best at Next Level Sailing!