Mark Rayor has lived in Baja California's East Cape region for more than 15 years, guiding sportfishing and diving trips.
He has seen plenty. But on Monday morning, Rayor was visited by a pod of cetaceans that he could not positively identify.
They turned out to be false killer whales, which are large toothed whales that generally reside in the open ocean.
The rare sighting was at about 8 a.m. at the northern end of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park.
"We have seen what I thought were false killer whales but they looked different," Rayor said. "At first that is what we thought they were but then we had doubts. They just hung around and played with our panga until we left."
False killer whales were named because they share feeding habits of some killer whales, or orcas--notably because they also attack and kill other cetaceans. (Both are actually dolphins.)
They're smaller than killer whales, however, measuring to about 20 feet (females to about 15 feet) and weighing to about 1,500 pounds.
Like killer whales, false killer whales establish strong social bonds and typically travel in groups of 10 to 20.
“False killer whales are typically found in deep, offshore, tropical to semi-tropical oceans and they feed on large game fish,” said Annie Douglas, a researcher with Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Wash. “However, they occasionally come into more coastal waters or stray into colder climates.
“They are very gregarious and are one of the few cetaceans that share there food with their group, and there have been numerous accounts of individual false killer whales offering food to divers and swimmers as well!”
Falkse killer whales are also known to strand on beaches, sometimes in much larger groups, in some parts of the world.
They're studied extensively in Hawaiian waters, where one of three distinct populations--a tiny population associated with the main islands--was recently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
--Photos of false killer whales are courtesy of Mark Rayor/Jen Wren Sportfishing