Okay so today was an amazing day! I went on a whale watching tour and I thought it would be cool but it was better than that. Our guide, Vanessa, greeted me at the counter and told me I picked the perfect day to go see some whales. I thought this was just a sales line because to them any day is a perfect day to take some money. But she explained the time of year was perfect, there’d already been several reported sightings, and the weather was nice. Even though the weather was nice and I brought a jacket I was still strongly advised to wear the provided jacket for warmth. I also had come prepared by wearing long underwear and my REI shirt with long sleeves and thumb holes and a hood. I am really glad I wore all of those things. Once we were out of the harbor and cleared the breakwater wall we shot through the water at 60 miles per hour. We did slow down along the way to see some harbor seals, some crazy black birds that can dive 200 feet into the ocean, and a kelp forest.
The first sighting of the Orcas, killer whales, was about an hour into the trip or 60 miles away near Pender Island. I was amazed by how they moved and they took my breath away. I was not scared of them at all but was truly awestruck by them. It is so cool the creativity that God has in His creation. The tour guides were calling out names of the whales as they surfaced because they have known and studied the whales for many years, about 21 between them I believe. The Orcas have been identified and named by markings on their dorsal fins and the surrounding area. They each have a scientific name and also a more personal name like Blueberry.
Our guides explained to us that we got extremely lucky today to see what we did. It was a combination of all of the following that made it so amazing. We saw all three pods of Orcas that are resident to the area. Pods are basically family groups and each pod also has smaller groups that hang together. Examples of this would be mothers and their calfs, those mating or courting, or those just playing. There was one Orca we saw today that was born in 1911, that’s right she was 99 years old. How flippin cool is that, a 99 year old granny killer whale still swimming and being active with the pod! As usual the women outlast the men by quite a bit 🙁 In all we saw 87 total Orca today!
Along with seeing so many Orca we also some unusual activity at least as it comes to being able to see it with our own eyes. We saw large groups of Orca swimming and playing together. We saw several full breaches, where the whale basically jumps out of the water, I’m guessing about 15 of them. Those were obviously extremely difficult to capture on camera. I was always a little to slow or didn’t even get the shot off. We also saw some young calfs swimming with their moms. Our Captain also believed we were witnessing the courting of two Orca as we saw them for quite awhile, grown male and grown female swimming alone together. Finally one of the coolest things we saw was when two or three Orca were headed straight at our boat. Seriously it almost looked like a scene from the movies with these fins coming at us. Two of the whales must’ve dove deeper and went under us. The third however unexpectedly came up to us, still under the water, turned his white belly toward us, and “took a look at us” as the captain explained how the whale turned so he’d be able to see us. I was standing ready to snap a picture if he came up next to our boat but he didn’t. However just seeing him that close and turning under the water was exhilarating.
Unfortunately this is where my camera definitely showed it’s lack of features. I did what I could to change certain settings to be able to capture the moments but I won’t know how I really did until I get home. The battery died after about 180 pictures. This might sound like a lot but when it was a moment like this that seemed pretty unacceptable to me. I conserved batteries down the stretch to make sure that if something amazing happened I would be able to capture it. Another problem with the camera is it’s zoom. I just wasn’t able to get in as close to the Orcas as I would have liked. Finally, the camera seemed a little bit “laggy” when both snapping the picture and also in saving the file to disk. I have a high speed card but I still had to wait a couple seconds between shots. Again this probably sounds like nitpicking but during an activity like this you really notice the shortcomings. I am looking forward to being home to see just how things turned out. Maybe I’ll have more positive things to say about the camera after that.
So the whales were obviously the highlight of the day and of the trip so far and I think they will be for the entirety of the trip and for trips to come. However,just being outside, on the ocean, in the sun, speeding along at 60 miles per hour passing islands and wildlife was just so fun! Feeling the breeze in my hair, what’s left of it at least, the sun on my face, and smelling everything was refreshing. I have come to like my sunglasses a lot. I’ve told many people after I bought them how annoyed I was at how they fit after hearing so many good reviews about them. Over the last few months they must have either conformed to my head or I’m just used to them now but I really like them now. They kept the sun at bay from blinding me, kept the wind out of my eyes, and have been with me everywhere I go on this trip. So in a short time in my life now I’ve been: on a couple of the most beautiful beaches in the world in Hawaii and Kitsilano in vancouver, I’ve seen an active volcano through the air and walked on fairly fresh lava rock, I’ve gone snorkeling in one of the most the premium snorkeling areas of the ocean, flown alongside one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, seen the Grand Canyon multiple times, hiked Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, explored a ton of Colorado and it’s mountains, and went to Niagara Falls. This whale watching adventure tops all of them and I would do it again in a heartbeat, even though I’ve already done it.
For dinner I took Vanessa’s advice and headed to Red Fish Blue Fish. It’s a seafood, fish and chips kind of place right on the harbour. It’s in a converted cargo container and lookes very simple. In fact it took me awhile to find it because it was so unassuming. I go two spicy fish tacones. They are fish tacos that are folded like a cone so they are easy to eat and don’t fall apart. They were amazing! I will be going back tomorrow night for sure. Best part was they were $9 plus another $1.50 for a Coke. What a deal.
After dinner I headed into the downtown area and checked out shops. I didn’t get to the bookstores because I want more time in them so I’ll tackle them today. Oh, I forgot to mention that I extended my stay here. This is the first time on this trip I feel truly relaxed. During my hike I felt relaxed but it’s always like I’ve got somewhere else to go. I felt differently right when I got to town. I set about changing my plans and making sure my hotel would be okay the the extension. I head to Nanaimo on Wednesday now. I also booked my first Airbnb reservation at a families home in South Vancouver. They seem nice as I’ve emailed back and forth. I’ll be there on the 3-5th when I leave. The night of the 2nd is still up in the air. I have requested to stay in a home on gabriola island that night but haven’t heard back. The island is a 20 minute ferry ride off Nanaimo so it’s fairly close. It’s supposed to be beautiful and very peaceful which would be nice.
Well I should hit the sack. I want to get breakfast at the place I did today, the Blue Fox. It was recommended by the front desk as a great place locals like. She was right. The french toast was perfect, think baguette style even. I sat next to four young cops. They seriously talked just like in Fargo or Northern Exposure. They sounded so Canadian I was laughing on the inside quite a bit, eh. By the time I left there was a line out the door that could have filled the restaurant at least once over. So by my estimate I better get up early. Peace.