Humpback Whales, Sea Otter, Seals & Sea Lions
September 29, 2018
Despite the clouds in the sky, we left the harbour optimistic about finding lots of Salish Sea inhabitants! Sun or cloud, rain or shine, wildlife are out and about hunting, traveling, socializing, resting or looking for love! We found such a creature near Race Rocks Lighthouse – the biggest creature in the Salish Sea – a humpback!
Humpbacks have become a regular sighting in our waters over the past three years. Once just visitors mostly seen in September and October, we now see humpbacks starting in March multiple times a week until the end of October. The bounty of food in the area may be the reason we are seeing such a huge increase in the number of majestic baleen giants. No complaints here though- humpbacks are graceful, powerful and mysterious creatures. Once on the brink of extinction, under protection, they have made a huge comeback and we are now very privileged to see them on many of our trips.
We not only got to see the huge flukes and blow holes of the humpbacks, we also got to see seals, sea lions, and the most famous of the furballs – Ollie, our one and only sea otter! Race Rocks Lighthouse is home to two species of sea lions- the giant Steller sea lions and the comical, barking California sea lions. The lower profile harbour seals quietly rest near the waterline on many of the islets.
BUT Ollie tends to be everyone’s favourite! He is a lone sea otter than has lived at Race Rocks for 4 years now. He loves to nap and ride the swells wrapped up in the Bull kelp. He is most adorable when he covrs his ears with his paws, which he often does when he is napping. With loads of pictures in our cameras and smiles on our faces, we cruised back towards the Capital City, grateful for another wonderful morning on the water.
This afternoon we traveled west into the Juan de Fuca Strait, eyes peeled looking for blows, splashes and fins. We didn’t end up that far from Victoria, about 9 nautical miles from the city, and we found several humpbacks! It has been a season where herring and krill have flourished in the Salish Sea, helping the humpbacks fatten up for their long migration south where they will mate and give birth to their young.
Humpbacks need to gain about 17 tonnes of fat throughout spring, summer and fall to make sure they can live off those fat stores while they are in warmer waters for winter where food is not present. Their giant tails power them deep into the Strait to gulp down nutritious food. Their tall exhales can be heard from far away – one of the best sounds in the world if you ask a fellow whale watcher!
We also spent some time at the black and white lighthouse we call Race Rocks. This is the second oldest lighthouse on the Canadian Pacific, which will turn 158 on December 26th! Race Rocks Lighthouse is a Christmas baby! It is also home to the chocolate-brown California sea lions and the up to 2500 pound Steller sea lions. They love to rest on the stairs and ramp leading up to the boat house on the island. The harbour seals are a bit more shy that the sea lions, preferring to lie low on the islets, ready to slide into the water at a moments notice.
We even got a glimpse of Ollie the sea otter enjoying the afternoon in the kelp beds. The snowcaps in the Olympic Mountains made for a lovely background to our trip. Soon the rains of winter in our area will bring snow to the mountains, always something the locals look forward to and guests love to see. Whether it is the beautiful mountains or the amazing wildlife, the Salish Sea will take your breath away.