I’ve only been whale watching one other time in my life. I went on a boating trip to visit Kekerten Territorial Park(which is a historical Scottish/American Whaling Station from 1857) that is in Cumberland Sound. This post about my first experience boating in Nunavut won a 2009 Nunie Award for Best Post!
I decided it might be really fun to head out to go whale watching. There are tons of different companies that do whale watching tours out of Victoria. I ended up going with Prince of Whales. I did a 3 hour Whale Watching Tour then was dropped off at Butchart Gardens (will do a separate blog post about this part of the trip) and had a Bus shuttle me back to downtown Victoria. It was a great package-deal!
After getting on board the boat, while going ‘slow’ until we were out of the inner harbour area… Gavin, the First Mate, went over safety procedures… and demonstrated how to put on a life-vest! Then I took some shots of the inner harbour, and some of the boats I saw!
We headed over to the Race Rocks…and were rewarded by seeing some sealions (didn’t get a good photo-but we were down wind of them!)… there were also some harbour seals. Did I mention how many BIRDS were on the island?
Yup, all those ‘white’ spots in the photo above were sea gulls! The whole time I saw them…I had “Mine! Mine! Mine!” in my brain. Maybe I’ve watched too much “Finding Nemo!” Now, the guides told me that these were harbour seals…but now I’m second guessing myself… are there sea lions? hmmm I’m not really sure, how does one tell the difference?
It was a gorgeous, clear day… Here Mount Baker is in the background! It is actually located in Washington State…it also is an ‘active’ volcano.
At this point in the tour Gavin and Hannah (the Wildlife Naturalist) had let us know that the J Pod. (Resident Orcas in this area that eat salmon… were far away (about 4 hours by boat) close to Washington.) There might still be a chance to see ‘Transient’ Orcas… these Orcas do eat more than just salmon…and are part of the reason that Orcas recieved their names as ‘Killer Whales’.
We stopped the boat to just look, and watch this HUGE group of birds that had gathered on the surface of the water. (There were lots of other whale watching boats in the area too!)
Gavin explained that when birds gather like that… something is happening under the surface. Often when a whale is feeding on fish… the birds gather to see if they can get any left overs! I was rewarded to seeing a Minke Whale pop up… I discovered that it is VERY tricky to get photos of whales in action. However, did manage to get this bit of the Minke Whale. (I didn’t realize that I had gotten this shot until I went back through my photos via editing…in taking the photo…I missed seeing it, but I suppose my camera didn’t lie!)
Here’s a zodiac just waiting to see what they can see!
Sadly our time was almost up…and despite seeing a minke whale, we didn’t get to see any Orcas! The boat had to keep moving to get to our next part of the tour.
Thanks to Fly, Hannah and Gavin for an awesome 3 hour tour! I really enjoyed myself… Because I didn’t see any Orcas and I lived so far away. Fly the skipper suggested I call back into the office and see if I could head out again the following day because I hadn’t seen any Orcas. He said it was highly unlikely to miss seeing them 2 days in a row.
I got up early the next morning… and headed down to wait to see if I would make a “walk-on” on the next tour. There were only 50 people on that boat… and guess who got #50 as a ticket. Yup, ME!
Here I am, a bit sun-burnt… (forgot sunscreen the day before…that was an unfortunate situation!) I took this at the end of the 2nd 3 hour tour… you can see even with sunscreen on the 2nd day… I have a bit of a tomato face!
Here are some house boats along one of the shores of the inner harbour… that must be a fun place to live, waking up so close to the water every day!
We sailed past ‘beacon’s park’...part of my walk the other day was from on the other side of the buildings along the coast…and then up the hill to the large pole!
We hugged the coast line as we went along…we passed many houses, they must have spectator views!
We stopped to see some seals… they were hanging out on a small island! From a distance, they totally looked like logs lying along the water…
BUT…I was so thankful for having my 50-500 lens! Because then I could actually see them!
We headed between towards Griffin Bay and the San Juan Channel… I was so hoping the Orcas has moved closer…but I didn’t know! I was excited to see the scenery though…and it was another beautiful sunny day! As we came through the last channel… we saw a few harbour porpoises… They are very shy–and I managed to get a shot of one just before it dove under. At this point in the tour…we were just over our 1/2 way time out on the water… and I had started to give up hope I would see any Orcas again.
So after giving up any hope of a sighting… our boat ended up going around the top end of Stuart Island.. and what do you think we found? It was J Pod… the Orcas were out to play.
I quickly discovered… that getting a photo of an Orca might take some work. I still am baffled how so many awesome shots of Orcas ‘breaching’ (they jump out of the water) are taken. The majority of my photos I took ended up looking like the one below. I suppose it takes practice, and maybe there are other ‘tricks’… perhaps I’ll get another chance at it another time! The difficulty was you didn’t know when or where an Orca would surface… it just was luck of the draw, if you had your camera in the right spot…and were holding yourself steady on a moving boat… oh and trying to get a ‘spot’ amongst 49 other whale watchers!
I did manage to get the following shots… I’m pretty happy with them. The one following is one of my FAVOURITE shots from the entire trip!
There were lots of other boats around… trying to get the best position, and follow the J Pod as they moved around!
Here’s the rest of my Orca photos… (I honestly couldn’t figure out which ones I liked better… so you get to see all of them!)
Here’s a shot of the first mate of my tour. (I can’t remember his name…) he was so helpful, and had heaps of knowledge to share about Orcas, Seals… you name it! He shared a bit about this whale below… he’s one of the males in J Pod. His finn is close to 6 feet tall! Kind of hard to put into perspective eh?
I was THRILLED with the experience from Prince of Whales. I totally would go out with them again in a heart beat. The people aboard their boats are knowledgable, friendly and funny! Thanks again for an awesome experience. If you get to Victoria and are looking to head out on a whaling adventure… I’d check them out!
(FYI: Prince of Whales didn’t pay me anything for this endorsement…it’s just based on my experience!)