Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Whale watching with Orca Spirit Adventures in Victoria, B.C.

By Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather on the outer deck checking for whales
      On Monday, May 23 we decided to join Orca Spirit Adventures for a 3 hour whale watching tour. We boarded the Pacific Explorer in Victoria’s Harbour for their 10:00 am sailing and Emilie Haynes, our naturalist did a fine job of explaining the various whales we might see. “Our most common whales are humpbacks and orcas but we can see grey and minke whales. “she told us. “We’ve been seeing quite a few humpbacks lately and transient orcas have been moving through the area”. After steaming for about 45 minutes out into Juan de Fuca Strait the engines slowed and we were told to head up to the upper deck to check out the humpback action that was going on just ahead. A humpback whale that Emilie says is known as “Split Fin” was busy slapping its pectoral fin in the water. It was almost like it was performing for the whale watching boats but what Emilie said was unusual was how long Split Fin continued to slap its fin. “Usually these whales are all business at this time of year since they want to eat as much as they can-not simply slap their pectoral fins in the water for 15 minutes or so”. 

The outer decks provided a good viewing platform for whales, sea lions and seals

  From there we moved on to Race Rocks where we saw the second oldest lighthouse along the B.C. coast built in 1860. But the main reason for visiting this area was to see the seals, sea lions, and sea birds in the area. We even saw an elephant seal on the rocky island and a sea otter lying on its back in the shallow water just offshore. Sea otters were found in large numbers along this coast at one time but due to severe over hunting their numbers dropped dramatically and they are now an endangered species. Emilie told us that sea otters are a keystone species since they keep kelp forest ecosystems healthy by eating sea urchins.
A humpback named Split Fin put on quite a show
  Our last destination was along the shore further east where we looked for transient orcas that had been seen in the area on previous sailings. Our trip didn’t turn up any orcas but we did see some harbour seals hauled out on a small island. Then all too soon it was time to head back to port. We were very impressed with the quality of the information provided as well as the effort the crew made to check in on their passengers throughout the trip.  Check out Orca Spirit Adventures (https://orcaspirit.com/) if you are planning a whale watching trip in Victoria.
Sea Lions were hauled up on the rocks at Race Rocks-Lighthouse buildings are behind

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