Unfortunately, it already has been quite a while since we returned home after our flight from Vancouver to Amsterdam.
We have had a blast touring, enjoying and experiencing Canada, and more specifically BC and Alberta and all the good things this country and it’s provinces have to offer.
We would definately like to see more, but our time was limited and all spent.
After arriving in Victoria yesterday we decided that we needed a day without too many activities, a day of relaxing and taking it easy. And so we did.
After a breakfast at the hotel we started walking to downtown Victoria. As it was only a few blocks away we didn’t bother to take the car, as it would just be a hassle to park. Furthermore, the weather was lovely, so an easy stroll it was.
Walking to the city took us straight through Chinatown, the biggest in Canada, according to the leaflets. Its entrance marked by a huge gate, it stretches a few blocks in all directions and is as busy as you’d expect.
Walking further we encountered the old city with the harbour and the British Columbia Houses of Parliament with the official provincial Christmas Tree right in front of it. All built in the traditional Canadian style (of which I don’t know the name right now)
After taking it easy in the city and just sightseeing down there we were in the mood for a little action and drove to Victoria Butterfly Gardens to put the newly acquired 105mm macro to work. A great idea!
Home to about 6000 butterflies and a wealth of animals, it is a great place to just hang around. Which we did, obviously. 😉
Tomorrow the trip and flight home, tonight some ingenious packing to get everything in the correct bag!
Today had quite a long drive on our schedule, driving all the way east and south from Tofino to Victoria.
Our first stop of the day was (well, after breakfast of course) a trip down a piece of old growth temperate rainforest. It is called, not surprisingly, the Rainforest Trail and consists of 2 loops, each 1km long. Loop B is closed due to storm damage, but loop A is fully accessible. The entire trail is raised off the ground by a boardwalk which makes an easy stroll and a very low impact on the surrounding forest.
It is plain awesome!
The forest looks pristine, yet very cluttered and unordered, but that is just the way such a forest should look like. If a tree toppled over, it just lays there and becomes ground for the other plants and trees to grow on. Really fascinating stuff to see, and awe inspiring due to the where height of the giant cedars and the wealth of growth in the forest.
After that we drove straight to Victoria and did an evening stroll to see downtown Victoria by night. It is such a lovely city! Very picturesk.
Other people might say we are nuts, I’d say we went out and made the most of it. Today was filled with water time, in total 3 hours looking at bears and over 6 hours looking for whales and such!
And oh my, we have seen the lot. From amazing birds like the Tufted Puffins and Bald Eagles to marine mammals like Sea Otters, Grey Whales, Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Harbour Porpoises, Harbour seals, Steller Sealions, River Otters, and the likes to obvious land dwellers like the infamous Black Bear and wolves.
It has truly been the most amazing say of our trip, and are pretty exhausted now. And maybe a little sunburnt from all this being outdoors…
Tomorrow a trip to Victoria, to our final hotel. Tofino, we are going to miss you!
This morning has to be the most easy morning we had in quite a while. We started off by sleeping in, and around 9 we had an excellent breakfast in the restaurant next door. Compare this with our usual hours and you know why our spirits were up as the rain poured down quite heavily!
We were scheduled for yet another trip on a boat to see whales, this time from Tofino and to see Grey Whales and Humpbacks. Our trip was scheduled for 3 in the afternoon, but seeing the weather forecasts (heavy showers between 3 and 5) we really didn’t feel like it and asked the friendly people over at Jamies to reschedule our tour to the one before that. Luckily, this was possible and we embarked at 12:30.
Fully litter and suited up in our padded floatation suit, we stepped into the Blue Thunder, a rigid hulled zodiac. We were promised an exciting ride, and that is exactly what it was. Completely exposed to the weather, we were quite lucky for the showers to have lifted and to have made way for very light drizzle which even did not last long.
The trip down Clayoquot sound is great, fast, windy as the twin engines roar and definitely not as wet as you’d expect. The first Grey Whales were found very quickly, and after gazing at them for some while we went on to find our humpbacks. We eventually spotted them breaching!
Unfortunately this was the only breach we saw, but it was awesome!
The ride on the zodiac was great, but not good for taking photographs at all as it is way too bouncy. Tomorrow a bigger boat, I guess!
Starting off in Campbell River we headed out to the other side of Vancouver Island, to Tofino. This is quite a long drive straight through the rugged terrain that is the island’s inland.
The terrain includes steep mountains, lakes, the obvious pine forests and some pretty amazing stuff: rainforests!
Right after starting on the island highway, we encountered Miracle Beach, which is rumoured to be a really pretty and just beach. Unfortunately, it was neither. Completely empty, smelly and quite small we quickly left to get on with our trip.
We did run into a nice deer who was kind enough to pay attention to us but not flee. Long enough for us to get close enough for some nice closeup shots!
The real highlight of the day were Qualicum Falls. There actually are two falls there, we started off with the lower and proceeded to the upper falls. That is the right way! The lower falls are pretty dull, but the upper falls are very picturesk! We have seen quite a lot of falls recently, but these are pretty nice.
Further en route to Tofino we had to go through Pacific Rim National Park and we stopped in quite a few places to check out the scenery and see what this park had to offer. Mostly beaches and coastal environment.
Pretty neat stuff! Take into account there is still some temperate rainforest in this area, and you can imagine the unique make of these surroundings.
Tomorrow, we’ll be doing some local hiking before checking in with Jamie’s to go on a boat. Again!
No, you are not reading a recycled post, this is just the second time we go on this trip. 😉
As we enjoyed the first time around on the whale watching trip as much as we did on the day before yesterday, we booked a second time (today) straight after returning.
So, today, a third day in a row, we travelled to Telegraph Cove to get on a boat. And for the third time, it was cold. Very cold.
And again, the Johnston Straight delivered! After going out to a matriline of resident orca we found they were too far away, and still getting further out. We stopped pursueing them and went back to the Humpback whales we ignored on our way out. The biologist on duty (Jackie, a former dutch resident teaching biology in Rotterdam) is studying them and got really excited after discovering one if ‘her’ whales had a calf, and must therefore be female!
Leaving them, and with Jackie in desperation, we headed out for our true goal: orca.
And did we find them!
Eventually, the captain of our ship maneuvered us quite a long distance from a group of orca, feeding along the coast of Knight’s Inlet. As they were getting closer and closer to pass on the right, more matrilines appeared on our left and front leaving us surrounded by orca!
One of the families decided they would change their route, which led straight under out boat! I’ve got one amazing shot of an orca, appearing from under the boat and slightly breaching the water. In one word: awesome!
All in all, we saw about 30 killer whales from several families and about 6 humpback whales. A really productive day, mammal-wise!
Finally, we drove from Telegraph Cove to Campbell River, where we are staying one night before going to Tofino. Looking forward to being there!
Starting really early again, we were expected to be present in front of the building of Tide Rip Tours in Telegraph Cove at 06:45 after a one hour drive from Port Hardy. It’s not hard to imagine this would mean a wakeup call around 05:15 to get in the right place on the right time. It did. 😉
We were promptly directed to captain Bill Mahey and his fishing boat as he would ferry us from Telegraph Cove to Glendale Cove, a solid 93 km trip up Knight’s Inlet to the bear-viewing skiffs. We primarily travelled parallel to the inlet as it gets rough when the winds start to pick up, so for about three quarters of the ride it was very smooth sailing. After we reached Glendale Cove for disembarkment and getting onto the skiffs we finally set out to do what we ultimately came for: grizzly bears.
So for, all we heard was that grizzlies are very shy, lived their lives pretty much solitary and are very weary of humans. They often keep back and stay away from activity so getting to see one is very hard.
Right off the bat, our captain told us to go look in some grass about 2km away as there ‘obviously’ was a bear present. We were a party of 4, but even with the help of 4 pairs of binoculars we seemed unable to see what the captain saw.
We started our tour of Clendale Cove off with the guide Dave, leaving Bill and his boat to eventually start preparing lunch, with covering the 2 km to the grassland the bear was feeding on. We were told the grassy stuff was Sedge grass and that the tide was coming in. The tides have a height difference of 3 metres around these days, and can even reach as much as 5.5 metres on special occasions!
Having reached the grassland, we realised it would all be underwater when the tide reached the highest point and that the bear would have to move to avoid getting wet. Around this time we noticed the bear was not alone, but it is accompanied by not one but two cubs! The guides identified her as Bella and the cubs were around 1.5 years old.
As the tide rose, the bears moved to slightly higher grounds but remained perfectly visible! The mother decided it was time to take a nap, and she did just that. Right on front of our eyes, she lay down and took a solid 30 minute map. Can you imagine 15 people on a flat boat with 15 cameras and 14 long lenses taking shots of 3 sleeping bears? I guess it must have been a hilarious sight. We were just co-existing in serenity with the bears. Each of us doing what we do best. The bears slept, and we watched. A very special situation!
By this time, we needed to go back as lunch was being served. What seemed to be very short actually grew into 120 minutes of bear watching!
Right after lunch, we had the opportunity to go back to the bears for a short visit, which we gladly took!
This time around, things got a little hairier as we positioned ourselves by accident between the bear family and the place they wanted to go! The result? One slightly disturbed guide in a hurry to get the boat out of the way, 60 shots on our cameras and 3 bears swimming to get across a few metres of water just 4 metres away from the boat. Wow.
Tomorrow some spare time, which we filled with an impromptu whale watching trip, and off to Campbell River!
Today has been all about whales and trying to find them. And not any regular type whales, we are targeting orca!
First off, we left from the hotel in Port Hardy for a one hour drive to the boat stationed at Telegraph Cove. After a quick an well made coffee (thanks!) We embarked on a 3.5 hour voyage into Johnston Straight to go hunting for the elusive killer whales.
Right after we left the port the captain heard other whaling vessels chatter about a pod of ‘transient’ orcas hanging around quite a distance away. So he gunned it. 2 500 horsepower Caterpillar engines revved up and made us go fast. 😉
There’s actually a lot of non-connected groups and extended families amongst the recognized types of orca (not subspecies!); resident, transient and offshore orca. The first and latter types eat fish, the transient pedal live between the gulleys and the open ocean and feed on marine mammals. Offshore orca very rarely come anywhere near the shores while resident orca live right off the beaches and islands.
To avoid boring everyone with the chase of orca and humpback and the excitement amongst us, here is a list of animals we encountered:
A lot of birds, I don’t know the names of. 🙂
Tomorrow an equally exciting day as we are going on the hunt for grizzly bears!
Auch. We have had some early mornings, but this one takes the cake. Our watches and phones were set to alarm at 04:00 and 04:05 to enable us to stagger to our breakfast at 04:30. Yes, you read that right: breakfast at 04:30.
After gobbling down some toast, a very doughy turnover, my first coffee of many to come this day and some Apple juice we set off to join the line for boarding the BCFerries ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy. This boattrip is called the Inside Passage as it hugs the coastline and travels in between the mainland of Canada and the multitude of islands which are just off the coast. It is said this is one of the best trips on a ferry one can do. I have not been on a lot of ferries, but I really like this one. Even though it is 8 hundred some nautical miles and takes over 15 hours.
The entire trip, there are a few things to look at: the straight the boat travels in, the pine covered islands that surround the straight and the marine life living there.
The journey is very tiresome but very satisfying. Knowing you travelled an entire day with very little effort is really comforting. 😉