Sunday 21 August 2022 – Unusually, for us on holiday, we had a relaxed start to the day, as our main activity was set for the afternoon. We had an outline plan in our minds that the morning could be spent going for a walk before brunch before another walk. We were, it turned out, sufficiently leisurely that the initial outline plan of going for a walk before brunch was replaced by simply going to brunch.
We were thus slightly startled, sitting in our hotel room, to hear the faint strains of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” from somewhere outside. Jane looked out of the window to see what we could see and, to our delight, it was a dance of the cute little water taxis that ply their trade across Victoria Harbour, over a background of classical music. Our view was somewhat obscured, and you can’t hear the music, but the dance is undeniably charming – apparently they do this every Saturday and Sunday.
For brunch, we returned to Milestones and once again had a short wait before being led to our table, despite turning up bang on time for the reservation we had carefully made. As ever, short staffing was the main reason. Our waitress (am I even allowed to use that description any more?) explained that Victoria has the highest number of restaurants per unit of population in the whole of North America; and eating out is practically the norm, so there’s a huge competition among restaurants for serving staff.
Anyway, we had our brunch, which was sufficiently leisurely that the rest of the morning plan went by the board and we simply returned to the hotel to get ourselves ready for the afternoon’s activity – whale watching. We’d already (you’ll remember, since you’ve been following in detail, haven’t you?) had a go with some success in Juneau; but this time, instead of being on a reasonably large boat (such as the one we saw departing whilst we brunched),
we were to be on a Zodiac RIB with a maximum of 12 passengers in total. Thus we needed to be dressed reasonably robustly and I needed to take along a waterproof bag for my camera, in case the conditions got wet.
Our whale watching was courtesy of Orca Spirit Adventures, whose offices are just by the seaplane departure point (which we get to use in a couple of days). We got there promptly, as we had been directed, for 1.30 – and then hung about waiting for 20 minutes for something to happen. Eventually a chap called Mick came out and got us all kitted up in our flotation suits and climbing on board the RIB.
Mick explained that the RIB had a 500 horsepower engine and would go pretty fast, so even though the sun was out, it would be cold. Bundling up in the suits was a good idea even if you didn’t end up in the water.
We covered a total of 48½ miles, going out and back broadly WSW of Victoria Harbour. For the first while or so, Mick explained some things about Orcas (Killer Whales) and said he was sanguine about seeing one, but couldn’t guarantee it; one had been spotted several miles off the coast, heading away from Victoria, so he wanted to head it off at the pass so we could maybe catch a glimpse. So, once out of the harbour, Mick let loose the horses,
and even though there was no big swell, the ride was, how shall I say?, exhilarating.
The top line was our speed, the bottom my heart rate. There wasn’t much breeze, but what there was came from the south-west, so the journey out was not particularly rewarding. I had made the mistake of wearing a Tilley hat with a brim, and so I had to clutch on it for dear life; if I’d let go, the neck cord would have decapitated me.
After 45 minutes of this, Mick suddenly slowed down because he’d seen an Orca. Then everyone else spotted it. Then even I could see it.
Just. It reminded me that there’s a great deal of luck involved in whale watching, and one spends a lot of time taking photos which are basically worthless, every time something exciting happens, such as when the whale takes a breath.
I think God for digital; I took 400 photos of this whale and its companions (there were about five in total)
and only about three are any good, and that’s because we got lucky and the Orcas turned in our direction
Mick then suggested we’d done enough Orca chasing and that we go and look elsewhere. Luckily we found a humpback whale, which toyed with us for a bit, merely coming up a few times to blow raspberries at us.
However, eventually the whale took pity on us and came over for a closer look
and then obligingly did the tail fluke thing before buggering off entirely.
All in all, then, a very satisfactory whale watching experience, consisting as it did of both watching and whales. Mick then said he’d find us some other wildlife, and so headed over to the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, where we saw a Steller sealion, who really didn’t think much of us as a group,
a Californian sealion, who lolled over to give us a sleepy once-over,
a seal, who posed for us
and a colony of sealions who were so busy arguing amongst themselves that they paid us no attention whatsoever.
Mick had one more treat for us. Among the kelp that litters the area, he spotted a Sea Otter, apparently the only one in this area, doing its otter thang.
Ollie the Sea Otter. He looks cute, but apparently can be really vicious towards other otters.
And that was it; our time was over so we had to head back to Victoria. This was a slightly less challenging ride since the wind was behind us, but it was still pretty bumpy at times. Thus ended a very interesting session, which was surprisingly tiring, given that I’d only sat down for three hours, occasionally standing up to get a better angle. Anyway, we were really glad that we’d done it and got so close to some whales and other sea life.
On getting ashore, we headed back to the hotel and managed to persuade them to serve us some food and drink, which were quite welcome by this stage. To round off the day, we went for a stroll up into the Chinatown area of Victoria, the oldest Chinatown in Canada.
before walking back along beside the water to the hotel
and retiring for the night.
Having ticked one standard tourist box in whale watching, tomorrow sees us tick another – a visit to Butchart Gardens. The weather forecast is propitious and I hear good things about it. I hope to be able to present you with some great photos of flowers and that, should you come back to the blog tomorrow. See you then!