Previous Page  50-51 / 76 Next Page
Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 50-51 / 76 Next Page
Page Background

Vacations® •

Fall 2017 • 51

50 • Vacations

®

Fall 2017

Tourists wouldn’t know it from the number of whale

emblazoned t-shirts and knickknacks for sale on the

shores of Campbell River or the small towns further

north including Telegraph Cove and Port McNeill, but

there was a time when whales weren’t adored here.

The massive humpback and agile orca whales that once

heavily populated these coastal waters were nearly

driven to extinction thanks to a healthy Canadian whaling

industry and a healthier dose of unfounded fear, says

Marine Education and Research Society (MERS)

co-founder Jackie Hildering.

The society, founded in 2010, changed that by continuing

and expanding the work started by Canadian marine

biologist Dr. Michael Bigg. Bigg established the way

orca whales are identified, counted and perceived

globally - efforts that brought an end to their killing and

accepted captivity.

Hildering – a scientist and teacher – and her team are now

doing the same for the humpbacks. “It was unacceptable

to me to simply look at them and go ‘it’s a humpback’,”

says Hildering, “so, we started taking ID photos. This led

to the founding of the Marine Education and Research

Society in 2010.“

Today the whales have names, are identified by the unique

fingerprint-like shape and pattern of their tails and dorsal fins,

and have become one of the main tourist draws to the area.

The humpback fandom has caught on and MERS-educated

boat captains and snap-happy tourists are adding to the

collection of information about the whales in the water.

It’s obvious that conservation efforts are working. “I started

in 2004 and in the whole year, there were seven individual

humpbacks. Last year, we counted 90,” says Hildering.

HEADING TO NORTH VANCOUVER

ISLAND FOR WHALE-WATCHING?

HERE’S WHEN TO GO, WHAT TO LOOK

FOR AND HOW TO FIND THE GENTLE

GIANTS ONCE YOU ARRIVE.

ORCAS VS. HUMPBACKS

The orcas (the black and white creatures you’ve likely

referred to as “killer whales”) and the giant greyish

humpbacks are the two big draws to the area. Orcas

are the largest of the dolphin family and much of

their behaviours are similar – they travel in pods,

use echolocation and move in predictable patterns.

Humpbacks are different. The 52-foot long, 50-tonne

creatures can dive up to 700 feet and disappear below water

for up to 30 minutes before breaching without warning.

WHEN TO VISIT

Lucky visitors may spot a whale in the late spring but best

opportunities happen during the summer months when

humpbacks make their way through the plankton and

krill-filled waters for feeding. Most of the outfitters in the

area are seasonal (May – October) with a peak in July and

August.

GET CLOSE

Many of the area’s outfitters work hand-in-hand with MERS

to make sure tours meet the guidelines that best protect

the animals and passengers. The outfitters’ knowledge

means tours can be selected to match the transportation

personality of the guest without risking the chance of

a great experience.

KAYAK

Solo or tandem, guests gently paddle with a

small group and guide across the gentle waters.

With no motor to disturb the animals, seals,

dolphins, porpoises and whales go about their

day without paying much notice. Evening kayak

tours that leave from nearby Quadra Island

offer plenty of other things to behold as well,

including sea urchins, uninhabited islands and

phenomenal sunsets over the water.

COVERED TOUR BOAT

At this higher vantage point, the boat’s captain

will be able to spot those telltale spouts from

further away and get close to them sooner.

Another bonus: Comfort. Soft seats, protection

in case of unexpected rain or wind and a

bathroom on board make this an ideal option

for some customers and families with small

children.

ZODIAC

Teens and thrill-seeking adults will get a kick

out of the speed, high winds and very strong

likelihood of getting wet that the Zodiac tours

offer. In between watching for whales, tours

tend to zip around the local islands and easily

attract the attention of local porpoises who

enjoy playing in the wake.

BEYOND THE WHALES

Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary this

year but the area’s connection to whales goes

back much further. First Nation’s history has the

animals with ancestors who called these islands

home centuries before. Specialty outfitters in

the area can offer a First Nation’s perspective

on the history.

“The humpback

fandom has caught on

and MERS-educated boat

captains and snap-happy

tourists are adding to the

collection of information

about the whales in the

water”

Canada 150

ORCA OR ‘KILLER WHALE’

A FAMILY OF SEALS GREETS US AS WE PASS.

KAYAKING OFFERS PLENTY

TO BEHOLD INCLUDING

SEA URCHINS

COVERED BOAT TOURS GIVES A HIGHER VANTAGE POINT

WHALE WATCHING FROM THE ZODIAC