Be A Tourist in Your Own Hometown

Victorians are well aware that we live in a little slice of paradise. We inhabit the tropics of Canada. Our mild climate is regulated by the ocean, we sit in multiple rain shadows (that afford us about half the rainfall of Seattle or Vancouver!), and we are sheltered from both the metropolis that shares the name of spectacular island, as well as the rough waters of the open Pacific, by Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait, respectively.

We see millions of salmon and birds, and hundreds of whales flock to this area in the spring, summer, and fall, plus tons of seals, sea lions, and porpoise year-round. With one of the densest collections of marine mammals in the world, and some of the best weather in Canada, you’d think Victoria locals would be whale watching aficionados! Yet more often than not, it takes a family member from out of town or an international visitor for Victorians to get out and explore the ocean in their backyard.

Well no more!

From February 23rd to 26th we are participating in one of our favourite events of the year: Be A Tourist in Your Own Hometown.

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Southern Resident Orca Population at its Lowest in Decades

So, the season is winding down, and people are preparing for their winter migration or hibernation; this is normally the time of year when I would write a summary of the summer’s activities and sightings, as well as a prediction for what next year will look like.

But this year I am forced to write something different.

My main job at Prince of Whales is being a naturalist on the boat. That’s right, I’m one of those obnoxiously enthusiastic people spewing an absurd amount of whale facts in-between cheesy porpoise puns and subtle jokes about dolphins’ reproductive tendency towards promiscuity.

But like I do, once a trip, every trip, I must get serious. We have to talk about not only about the grave challenges facing our most perilously endangered species, the southern resident orca, but what you (YES YOU!) can do to help them.

Nothing emphasizes the jeopardy that resident orca are in more than the death of a young reproductive female and her calf. Unfortunately, we had to realize this exact tragedy last month.

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Ocean Magic Wildlife Adventure June 17 3:30

As the tug boat with its load left the harbour, and the cruise ships headed into Victoria, the 3.30pm Ocean Magic 2 vessel turned east on route to find the Transient killer whales that had been seen on an earlier trip. We were traveling north up Haro Strait when word came in that many Orca were heading in from the west. Capt Gord, and crew members Mika, and Dan turned the boat around and we headed south to try to find the Southern Residents. We came across them, porpoising and traveling fast on the incoming tide. Whitecaps were beginning to form with the strong westerly wind which made for a thrilling ride while watching these magnificent whales plying the waves. Members of all three pods, J, K , L were identified as they swam by. Two of the oldest females in J Pod were seen, J 2, Granny, and J 8 Spieden as well as other members of K Pod, Raggedy, K 40, and K 21 Cappuccino. There is nothing so exciting as seeing these charismatic marine mammals all heading our way in what we call a Superpod! What a special trip this afternoon provided for our guests and we even had glimpses of a Harbour Porpoise.

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Ocean Magic Wildlife Adventure June 17 12:15

It was a beautiful afternoon shaping up for the 12.15pm Ocean Magic 2 vessel as we left the harbour with Capt. Gord in the wheelhouse. Biologist Mika, and Naturalists Dan and Brandon gave an expert presentation of our safety procedures and discussed the possible wildlife to be found in these nutrient rich waters. There were many sail boats, with sails flying high, participating in the Vanisle 360 race. We turned east and then north up Haro Strait to find the 5 Transient Killer whales reported just off Sidney. On the way we saw a Bald Eagle take down a gull. We did find the apex hunters, 5 whales, the T10’s and T26’s close to the township of Sidney . They appeared to be in traveling mode. These killer whales are the marine mammal hunters, preferring seals, sea lions, porpoise and dolphins and even small whales. Our guests on board were thrilled with this encounter and were all smiles when we disembarked at the dock in Victoria. Another great trip with Prince of Whales!
Marie, Orca-Magic

Most of the images on the blog are shot with a 400 mm telephoto lens. Because of our restrictions around wildlife (100+ meters),

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Ocean Magic Wildlife Adventure May 29

Capt. Scott took the Ocean Magic from Victoria picturesque inner harbour out past the breakwater at Ogden Point and headed us west. We went past Race Rocks Ecological Reserve and along the west side of Vancouver Island. We reached Beecher Bay, here we caught up with T20 and T21. These Transient Killer Whales were deep in the bay, working the rugged shore line for their favorite food, Harbour Seals. With a large group of gulls following their every move it was soon apparent that they were feeding. Our Capt. Scott held the Ocean magic in the strong winds and kept us in perfect position to view these Orca. We then took a tour of the coast line, stopping to view Bald Eagles, Eagles nests and a trip through Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Here we saw Seal Lions, Seals, Cormorants, Oyster Catchers and Race Rocks Light House. Once again our passengers were all smiles as we docked back in Victoria’s Inner Harbour!
Clint “Orcawizard”

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Ocean Magic Wlidlife Adventure May 21 3:30pm

The 3.30pm Ocean Magic with Capt. Scott in the wheel-house, headed us out of the harbour and turned east then north to find those ‘ Orca ‘ again. J Pod had traveled past Friday Harbour, San Juan Island, and were heading further north up San Juan Channel. We had taken a different route this trip to meet up with J Pod. We found the whales hugging the shoreline, traveling slowly. J 2, ‘ Granny ‘ the Matriarch of J Pod, was swimming with her family. It is always special to see members of the Southern Resident pods. We look forward to seeing K and L Pod swimming in these waters again very soon. Our expert crew members, Mika and Liz, gave an informative talk to our guests on board. It was a great trip once again with ‘Prince of Whales’.
Marie, Orca-Magic

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Ocean Magic Wildlife Adventure May 13

It was a picture perfect afternoon as Capt. Gord of the 12.15pm Ocean Magic vessel, headed our boat full of guests out of the harbour and toward a south east direction toward Hein Bank. It was here that reports of Transient killer whales were to be found. Transient ‘Orca ‘ are true apex hunters, feeding on marine mammals. On our way to find these fascinating animals we passed the ‘Pacific Swift’ a Tall Ship of the S.A.L.T. organization as well as a pair of Tufted Puffins in their spectacular breeding plumage. The lack of wind made for calm water with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Baker in Washington State. We found the Transient Orca traveling slowly south west. We observed two big male Orca with their large dorsal fins, as they came to the surface.They were members of the T 75 family group. The research vessel from the ‘Centre for Whale Research’ on San Juan Island was out this afternoon, indentifying the whales. Following our views of the Orca we headed west to visit Race Rocks Ecological Reserve where we saw many Steller and California Sea Lions. Harbour and Elephant seals were also evident. Five different age Bald Eagles in various plumages were seen on a single rock.

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Ocean Magic Adventure May 7

Captain Gord slipped the Ocean Magic from Victoria’s inner harbour and headed us west past Race Rocks and out past Sooke to Otter Point. Here we caught up with T124C a Transient Orca. We watched this solo Killer Whale as it would surface in typical random Transient Orca fashion. The weather closed in on us, but with our large main covered deck we all could still take in this majestic animal. Our trip then took us back to Race Rocks Ecological reserve, where the Light House towers over the Steller and California Sea lions, Elephant and Harbour Seals. Mika, Liz and Dan filled our passengers with information and answered the many questions. As our skipper gently brought the Ocean Magic back to the dock our passengers were all smiles after another great trip with Prince of Whales!
Clint “Orcawizard” , Marie “Orca-Magic”

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Ocean Magic Adventure May 3

We set sail on a windy afternoon with Capt. Gord in the wheelhouse. Our vessel headed east from the harbour and encountered some intrepid souls negotiating the wind and the waves while para-surfing. We soon encountered some Dall’s Porpoise while traveling north up Haro Strait in search of Orca. The wind and waves soon abated and our crew of Naturalists, Mika and Liz announced to the guests on board, that Orca had been reported near Pender Island. We found members of J Pod Orca heading north past Turn Point. ‘ J 2, ‘Granny ‘, J Pod’s oldest female celebrating 100 yrs of age this year, appeared to be in the lead, with J 8 and L 87. J 28 and her youngster J 46 were also seen with other young members of this Pod.J 27, ‘ Blackberry ‘, a 20yr old male showed off his tall straight dorsal fin as he swam by. A pair of Bald Eagles were also seen on a small island. It was a great encounter once again with these magical creatures, the ‘ ORCA’ that ply the waters of the picturesque Pacific Northwest.
Marie, ‘ Orca-Magic. ‘
All these photos are taken with 300mm lens and cropped for best internet viewing.

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Zodiac Wildlife Adventure April 18 2011

Our guests from England, Oklahoma, Ottawa and Victoria were given a glimpse into the best that the west coast has to offer on this sunny afternoon in April. The 2pm zodiac with skipper Mark ‘Mallard ‘at the controls headed us due south east to where Transient Orca were reported. The ocean was flat calm, and the sunshine bathed this picturesque coastal region so we could view the Olympic mountains and the Canadian and USA islands. When conditions are right and the sun shines, all is perfect for spotting wildlife. Our keen eyed skipper soon located the marine mammal eating Killer Whales, ‘Orca ‘ off the south end of Hein Bank. This group consisted of 8-9 whales, the T49’s and the T75’s. They were very active and foraging for their main prey item, the Harbour Seal, which is an abundant species in these waters. There appeared to be two very young baby Orca within this group, as they were still quite peach coloured where it should be white patches on their bodies. We watched these stealth hunters, mothers with their babies, churning the water while chasing their prey. It was an awesome encounter and soon we saw the clean up gulls,

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