Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Stubbs Island Whale Watching in Telegraph Cove is a must do

 by Keith and Heather Nicol

    On Wednesday ,  June 15 we took the 1:00 pm Stubbs Island Whale Watching Tour aboard the “Lukwa”  which is a sleek 49 passenger aluminum tour boat geared for whale watching. It turns out that this company was B.C.'s first whale watching company and began operating in 1980. Since then they have been actively involved in promoting responsible wildlife viewing and helped create the Ecological Reserve in Robson Bight which is critical habitat for orcas also known as killer whales.
Watching for whales aboard the Lukwa
The tour started with an introduction by Captain Wayne Garton and biologist Jackie Hildering. This was followed by a quick quizzing of the 25 or so passengers. Interestingly most were from Europe, especially Germany and Switzerland and they were typical of their usual clients. "We usually get 70-80% Europeans traveling with us. It seems we are better known there than on Vancouver Island" Wayne told us. 
We saw many seals hauled out on rocks
Jackie reported that we were a bit early for orcas but that they had seen one a couple of days ago. "But you will see humpbacks as well as seals, eagles and a variety of other birds" she told us. The weather was our best day yet in Telegraph Cove and the sun was out for most of our trip. We headed across Johnstone Strait and wove through channels in the Plumper Islands before turning east into Blackfish Sound. The scenery was stellar with ever changing views of islands, ocean and tall snow capped mountains in the distance.
We saw humpbacks in scenic Blackfish Sound
About an hour into the tour we heard Jackie say that she had sited our first whales. We could see the blow of a distant humpback and as we neared the captain cut the engines so that we wouldn't disturb the whale as it was feeding. "At this time of year the whales are busy feeding and we think the main food source is small herring" said Jackie. It wasn’t long before we saw another humpback and then another way in the distance. By looking at photos that Jackie and others were taking she thought she could identify these whales as “Quartz” and “Ripple”.  Jackie was busy dashing between decks so that she could point out characteristics of each whale and had a binder of photos of all of the humpbacks they had seen in these waters. If that wasn’t enough at one point a couple of Dall porpoises circled around our boat with their high speed antics. But just try to get a photo of these animals which can swim at up to 55 km per hour.
The humpbacks would feed at the surface and then dive periodically
We spent about 90 minutes in this area watching the whales and at times the captain would reposition the tour boat to give a better view of what was going on. Then we headed around a flat rock covered with seals, then sailed through a narrow passage back into Johnstone Strait and began to make our way back to Telegraph Cove. We stopped in the sheltered waters of Bauze Cove  so that Jackie could sum up what we had seen that day and gave an impassioned  talk about general trends in whale populations and attitudes toward whales. "Do you realize that not long ago (in the 1960's) whales were hunted and killed by the thousands along the coast of B.C.  Also the levels of toxins today in the orcas that surround Vancouver Island is considerable.  We need to be very aware of what goes into our ocean ecosystem if these animals you are seeing today are going to survive.”  Stubbs Island Whale Watching puts on a great tour and we want to sail with them again to see orcas. For more information see:

Jackie did a end of trip talk at the front of the boat

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