Kayaking and whale-watching were today's highlights. We were thrilled to see our first pod of Orcas. More details below.
For more information about this trip and details of our arrival day, click on this link - Day 1.
After a good night's sleep, I was up early and raring to go. I walked around the beach at Orca Dreams camp and took some photos.
This Great Blue Heron was stalking prey in the low tide.
Here's a shot of the sunrise from the rocks on this foggy morning.
Our new French friends, Julien & Fanny, were also up early exploring, taking pictures, and watching for whales.
We were happy to see the fog burning off quickly.
Eventually, we all met at the dining shelter for our blueberry pancakes breakfast.
And then we proceeded down to the beach for lessons on kayaking with the sea kayaks.
There was a mix of experience as Ryan showed us various paddling strokes, how to use the foot pedals and rudder, and most importantly, how to safely get in and out of the kayaks.
Linda & I have done a lot of kayaking, but we've only used sea kayaks a few times. So, we paid close attention to the instructions to refresh our memories.
Soon, everyone was loaded and we were off paddling along the rocky shoreline.
Ryan showed us a starfish, and we saw a few eagles.
But I was primed to kayak with whales or to at least paddle in the narrow passages of the Broughton Archipelago. We saw Humpbacks spouting but made no attempts to get closer to them. At least we had this one decent sighting.
Part of the draw here is to potentially kayak with whales, but it seemed that wasn't part of the agenda - at least not on today's paddle.
It was a beautiful day, and the scenery was nice; however, I was bored with the kayaking and looked forward to being finished so we could take the boat out to look for whales.
We did see a seal and more eagles, and I suppose I should have been more enthusiastic, but I just didn't find that kayaking experience very interesting. It seemed we kayaked just to say we did it.
At that point, I was a little bummed out, but things improved later.
After lunch back at camp, we boarded the Tenzing and set out to look for Orcas. There were reports over the radio of a pod we could get to in the slow-moving boat.
It was exciting to finally see our first Orcas, although they were pretty far away. We could only see them with binoculars or through a long-zoom camera lens.
Now, I had read that whale-watching boats, kayakers, and everyone else had to stay at least 100 meters (a little over the length of a football field) away from the whales. What I didn't know was that new federal regulations went into effect earlier this month that extended the viewing range for Orcas to 200 meters in Canadian waters.
I'm all for protecting the whales, but at 200 meters, you can barely see them. Had those regulations been in effect when I booked this trip, I probably wouldn't have booked it. You can't "experience" the whales from that far away, so the best you can hope for is that the whales pop up near your boat or come to you.
It's a real personal dilemma for me. I certainly don't want several boats crowding the whales, and we have been witness to irresponsible (and illegal) boating activities that lead to such measures. But those that admire and love these magnificent creatures should be able to experience them from a reasonable distance in a responsible manner. There are common sense guidelines that most whale-watching companies that care about whales follow.
Fortunately, Linda & I brought binoculars, but at least half of our group had neither binoculars nor a powerful camera lens.
To the credit of Ryan and Orca Dreams, they were following the new guidelines, but it was frustrating not to be able to get closer.
Then, after watching the pod from the required distance for several minutes, two of the Orcas veered from the path they had been on, and started swimming right toward us.
Ryan had a hydrophone in the water, and we could clearly hear the squeaks and clicks of the whales communicating.
He backed the Tenzing out of their path as he was supposed to do, but they still swam at us and went right under the boat.
In that moment, the frustration disappeared, and we watched them up close. I got one quick photo a little too late.
Those two were quite playful as they went by, and they gave us a bit of a show.
I interpreted this tail as a wave goodbye and as sort of a "There you go, are you happy now?" gesture from the Orcas.
And the answer was "Yes". In those few minutes, the whales lifted my spirits and set the tone for the rest of our time here.
They continued their frisky antics ....
and were eventually joined by others from their pod.
They changed directions and gave great views to this catamaran that was just floating nearby. They splashed and tail-slapped and spy-hopped as they swam near the boat.
It was amazing as we could hear them squeak and click even without the hydrophone in the water. That was "experiencing" the Orcas as I had hoped.
We let the whales continue on their way and returned to camp along the beautiful shoreline.
The Tenzing is not a speed boat by any means and, therefore, it makes for a comfortable, easy ride that allows us to look for wildlife as we move along.
We consistently see Humpback spouts whenever we enter Blackney Pass, and we got a good look at this Bald Eagle on the way back.
Nearing camp, Ryan spotted the buoy for a prawn trap that had been missing. So, we stopped and recovered it. Unfortunately, there were no prawns.
Ryan beached the Tenzing, and we disembarked to get ready for dinner.
Tonight was crab cakes with roasted vegetables and chocolate cake for dessert.
After dinner, Linda sat with the others on the beach, while I sat on the deck of our tent going through photos and watching another cruise ship pass by.
This is such a beautiful place, and though we may not see any more Orcas, I know that there are Humpbacks a short boat ride away, or we can watch them at a distance from our beach or from the viewpoints on the trails.
The seals play and feed in our cove, the blows of the Humpbacks serve as our "white noise" for sleeping, and our alarm clock is the high-pitched whistles and calls of the eagles in the morning light.
J.D. & Kelly have certainly created a wonderful sanctuary here at Orca Dreams, and it will be hard to leave.