Boaters off the Baja California city of Loreto on Friday were treated to a very rare and magical sight: large killer whales playfully riding in the wakes created by a 70-foot yacht they were riding aboard. Surprisingly, this same event occurred in June and involved the same yacht, which runs from Cast N’ Reel Charters. The first two images are from Friday, amid a tropical storm, and the bottom two are from a sunnier day in June.

This type of behavior is common among some species of dolphins, and technically killer whales, or orcas, are dolphins. But killer whales, as a rule, do not bow-ride and wake-ride.

“It’s extremely unusual to see something like this,” said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, an American Cetacean Society killer whale researcher.
Ashley Ross, owner-operator of Cast N’ Reel, said her father, Robert Ross, snapped the images, which have become incredibly popular on the company Facebook page. Ashley said the company has the area’s only large charter yacht and that the images were captured beyond the islands outside Loreto.

“Before this, Loreto was mostly known for panga fishing [aboard skiffs],” she said. “We’re the only company to offer yachts so we can travel out farther than the islands.”

The company logs orca sightings three to four times a year, usually in late summer and fall, Ashley Ross said, but these sightings were the most incredible to date.

It remains unclear exactly what type of killer whales these are, Schulman-Janiger said. But they could be those loosely classified as Eastern Tropical Pacific killer whales.

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