July 22, 2017 – Humpback Whales, Seals & Sea Lions
July 22, 2017
Flat seas greeted our vessels as we headed out onto the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Smooth waters make spotting the blow of a whale easy, and that is exactly what happened! We slowly approached the area where puffs of mist had been spotted. We were greeted by the sound of humpbacks whales exhaling! They were enormous and beautiful as they surfaced to take big breaths. A mother and calf kept close and the young one impressed us all as he or she laid belly up and began slapping the surface with it’s giant tail! We could easily see the white patches this baby had on the underside of it’s flukes!
After a wonderful visit with humpbacks, we made our way over to the historical lighthouse called Race Rocks, that has been guiding ships into the Strait since 1860. It was easy enough to spot the giant male elephant seals lying in the shallows beside the staircase! These boys are huge, weighing in at over 3,000 pounds!
We also enjoyed seeing the first of the male Steller sea lions back home after almost 2 months away charming the ladies up North. As they have lots of space, they were not fighting but just enjoying the warm day. A bald eagle stood watch on one of the islands, sure to pounce on a good opportunity to snag a fish! And last but not least, we spotted both a harbour seal and our one and only sea otter, buried amongst all the floating bull kelp. Lots of harbour seals were resting on the islets, but this one was swimming in the kelp, paying no attention to his furry neighbor. It was a morning FULL of marine wildlife indeed!
It was an amazing afternoon on the calm waters surrounding the Capital City. We set course southwest of Victoria where we spotted the heart-bounding sights of a baleen giant- the humpback! They were graceful and beautiful despite their gargantuan size! We even got to see one breach! They cruised along the surface and did not go on any long dives, so cameras snapped away the whole trip!
Race Rocks was close by so we headed there for a wondrous time with so many different types of wildlife. A regal bald eagle kept watch on one of the islets while our single sea otter was enjoying the comforts of his kelp bed. We had giant Steller sea lions on helicopter rock, while a lone California sea lion was on the same island as the lighthouse, dwarfing the tiny harbour seal mother and pup lining just next to him. The most fun was the yoga-posing male elephant seal near the stairwell! This guy would arch his head back with his flippers curled forward at the other end. I think we have a new pose to practice- The Arching Elephant Seal!
The Salish Sea is home to so many wonderful types of wildlife that we are so fortunate to visit on our tours. Every trip reveals something and somewhere different, making every day an unpredictable adventure on the water.
It was a cloudy but warm Saturday evening, with the clouds breaking up enough to give us a great sunset behind the hills of Vancouver Island. We cruised west in the Strait of Juan de Fuca where whale activity was high all day. We were excited to see the dark backs of humpbacks rolling out of the deep blue waters! Humpbacks never used to be a species that we could see in July, but in the past two years, they have become a frequent visitor to our local waters. It is amazing to see the transformation of a population- humpbacks were hunted to near extinction in the Pacific. Now we get to see them in our ‘backyard’ for 7-9 months of the year! We will miss our gently giants once they leave for their migration in late October or early November, but we will be happily awaiting their return in spring!
We ended our tour by visiting Race Rocks Lighthouse which has been present since 1860! Here we found Steller sea lions and harbour seals settling in for the night. The black and white tower always looks so beautiful in the sunset, with it’s light starting to swivel across the Strait.