KOTA KINABALU: In what was supposed to be another typical fun dive, a group of 14 divers were treated to an experience of a lifetime when they spotted a pod of orcas in the tropical waters off the east coast of Sabah.
The presence of killer whales near the world-renowed Sipadan Island took them by surprise last Sunday while they were completing their first leisure dive at the South Point diving site.
Faridzul Adzli Mad Adim, 32, said it was about 11am when they resurfaced and the boatman told them to get on the boat.
He was with a Swedish, four Hungarians and four Chinese divers together with three dive masters.
"The boatman signalled us to get out off the water, saying we had to move to the open sea. He sounded excited.
"We were wondering what had happened when he told us that he just saw an orca jumped out of the water," he told New Straits Times when contacted.
The group kept their eyes peeled as the boatman took them further out to the open sea, about 10 minutes away from South Point.
"And then we saw the killer whales and they were jumping out of the water about five metres away from us. Everyone shouted excitedly and we were in awe," added Faridzul.
Although he was unsure, the executive officer with the Sultan of Selangor's Office, said there could have been eight orcas at that time.
He said the group tried to get closer to the pod but each time they did, the orcas moved away.
"Probably they were afraid of the engine's sound so one of the dive masters told the boatman to turn it off.
"We stayed for 30 minutes to enjoy the sight. It was everyone's first encounter with orcas and we were suprised that it appeared in our waters since they are known to live in cold waters," he said, adding that the sea temperature was about 25 degrees Celsius.
This sighting of killer whales or Orcinus orca is believed to be the first in Malaysian waters.
While it carries the name whale, this marine mammal belongs to the dolphin family and it is its largest member.
Although killer whales are often found living in cold ocean waters they can also be found in all of the world's major oceans from the Arctic and Antarctic to various tropical regions located in and around the equator.