Yep I like to call it a “whale watching” tour. The company that runs it calls it a “wildlife” tour since it’s winter and not the best time of year to see whales. They don’t want you to get your hopes up too much!
It was a bit of a late decision but I made it to fisherman’s wharf in Victoria right on time. Brett, our cheery tour guide, said “it’s about a 50/50 chance we’ll see a whale.” I was feeling lucky.
Weather was heavily overcast (no rain luckily) and 8 degrees. Wind chill at 50km/hr on the water makes it waayyyy colder though so thankfully he gave out big, dorky looking jackets, pants, beanies, and mits.
The twelve of us hit the Canadian waters of Juan de Fuca Strait at 1pm in search of “30 foot high sprays of water.” The air was unbelievably clear – the snow-capped Olympic mountains were far away but appeared in full HD display. Almost touchable.
Today we were the only whale watching boat out (20-30 in summer) so it felt pretty special.
Brett got a call from one of his U.S. mates who’s friend had spotted a humpback 28 nautical miles away in U.S. waters. We decided to go for it.
It was now that I fully appreciated the intricate art of driving a speed boat fast through choppy water. On the gas – back off – bang – ON THE GAS – OFF THE GAS – BANG – BANG.
We stopped by Race Rocks to the definite smell, sound, and sight of steller sea lions. “Grizzly bears with flippers,” Brett called them.
Also on the rocks were elephant seals and harbour seals. Quite stunning. These harbour seals have lived their whole life at Race Rocks, 80% of the time just laying on the rocks. In fact, only when the tide comes in and literally lifts them off the rocks do they bother moving.
Anyway, an hour later we arrived where the humpback was sighted earlier – Spieden Island (owned by the owner of Oakley as a random fact).
We looked and looked, but nowhere to be seen – the Americans just couldn’t deliver. Bit of a shame but hey the wildlife we did see here was well worth it. Bald eagles, brown pelicans, and hundreds of other birds. Plus big-horned sheep (who would have thought), and Dall’s porpoise came swimming alongside us jumping the bow waves.
So all in all a really enjoyable, educational and freezing day out. But yep they got me. I think I’ll call it a “wildlife” tour after all.