Between August 17th – 29th, I travelled to the Cook Islands – Rarotonga and Aitutaki via Vancouver, Los Angeles, Auckland, New Zealand and then to my final destination. Including layovers, this encompassed about 45 hours of travel time. I can’t say enough about the comfort and hospitality offered by Air New Zealand. The fact that they are regarded as the number one airline in the World was evident. I have always dreamed about visiting “The Cooks.”
The Cook Islands are in the South Pacific Ocean, Northeast of New Zealand, between American Samoa and French Polynesia.There are 15 major islands spread over 2,200,000 km2 of ocean, divided into two distinct groups: the Southern Cook Islands and the Northern Cook Islands.
The people are warm and friendly, the food delicious and every service is available. During my stay, the weather was moderate and there were only a couple days that it was a bit “too hot.” On day 2, I got to experience a “tropical storm.”
A very special thanks goes out to Sonny and staff at Aroko Bunglaows. If you visit Rarotonga, I highly recommend you stay here. I extend my heartfelt appreciation to Arerau Rino Maao for sharing the beauty of his island, Aitutaki with me on the 25th. I also highly recommend the Aitutaki day tour offered by Air Rarotonga. Thank you to Mia at Island Car & Bike Hire for setting me up with “wheels.” Lastly, thank you to Walker, Tatiana and Marie at Te Vara Nui Village for being excellent hosts during the cultural performance and dinner I attended on the 20th.
Between July 15th and 19th, I had the honor and privilege to paddle and camp with BC Marine Trails President, Paul Grey. We explored a stretch of coastline east of Telegraph Cove, all the way down to the boundary of Robson Bight. We also crossed the strait and spent a morning out at the Sophia Islands which was truly an idyllic location and one that I definitely recommend visiting. The weather and on water conditions were generally favorable except for the paddle back in the wind on the 19th.
Without a doubt, the highlight of our trip was the fact that we had 7 different encounters with Orca. On 3 separate occasions they came and rubbed on our camping beach including once where the entire pod of 12 animals came right in. It was incredible. Scientists believe that Orcas beach rub to maintain strong social bonds within their family groups. In other words, it is an activity, which helps to establish relationships within the pod.
Humpback flukes can be up to 18 feet wide, with a serrated “trailing edge” (the end of the flukes at the farthest end of the whale), and pointed tips.
One of the best things about wildlife photography, is setting out with a plan, but ending up with something completely different. One May 25th, we were hoping to find Orca, we didn’t have any luck but we found some Eagles that were fishing up by Sonora Island. Thank you again to Nick Templeman and Yukon, #chiefwhalespotter for another great day filled with adventure. Be sure to visit Nick’s website to find out how you can book your trip – https://campbellriverwhaleandbearexcursions.com/
Vargas Island has always been one of my favorite places. This was my 7th visit but not since 2018, so I’ve definitely missed this spectacular area. The only part of the island that I haven’t paddled to or camped on is “Dick and Jane Beach” but I’ll save that adventure for another time. I did get to add Milties Beach to my list though.
On the morning on March 28th, just as I was paddling past Opisat, the clouds and fog started to break and I was offered spectacular views of Lone Cone Mountain and then the Catface range. It was awesome! Taking my time, I arrived at Milties Beach in just a little under 2 hours, hugging the east side of Vargas Island. Many Sea Otters greeted me as I paddled along. I landed on the east side of the beach in direct proximity to a forested campsite, food cache and green throne toilet. These conveniences are maintained by local operators such as Tofino Sea Kayaking. Wolf tracks were apparent on the beach but unlike my visit to Rassier Point in April, 2018, I didn’t get to see ay Wolves this time.
Milties Beach can experience some surf in certain conditions, the surf does tend to be lighter in the center of the beach and heaviest on the west side. I recommend exploring by kayak or canoe, the little bay just east of the beach at 49.20872, -125.96198. It’s a sheltered, very picturesque and tranquil area.
On both the 28th and 29th, my friend “Tofino Sam” visited me, as he lives close by. It was great to see and catch up with him. Thank you for your friendship Sam.
More information about Milties Beach and Vargas Island along with a whole lot more can be found on the BC Marine Trails Website. If you’re not already a BC Marine Trails member, consider joining and supporting the important work this association is doing.
I spent the last few days of October exploring Highway 13 and surrounding areas in Southern Saskatchewan. This is known as “The Ghost Town Trail.” This was my second time visiting Saskatchewan but I didn’t get this far South when I visited in 2015. So, I’ve been wanting to get back.
Saskatchewan is undoubtedly one of Canada’s most beautiful and underrated provinces. There’s big prairie skies, long dirt roads and wide open spaces. The sunrises are magical and some of the best I’ve ever seen.
It was a successful trip, I only got chased off by one property owner and I saw Wolves on 3 separate occasions. The Wolves were quite skittish and I didn’t have my telephoto lenses with me. I wasn’t expecting to see Wolves.
A big thanks goes out to Kyla Black from Gathering Dust Photography for tipping me off on some very special locations. Be sure to visit her website to see her amazing work.
October 6th, 2021 – I set out this morning hoping to track a herd of Roosevelt Elk. They can at times be very elusive on Vancouver Island. After some “fence hopping” and bush whacking, I found a herd of 12 animals, being lead by a big bull.
The Roosevelt Elk are native to Vancouver Island and are the purest strain of Roosevelt Elk left in North America. The largest of the Elk species, a mature bull can weigh in excess of 1000 pounds. The Elk are “rutting” right now, so I was very careful to give the bull and herd plenty of space.
My 2022 calendar is ready for purchase. Order here: https://www.zazzle.ca/2022_orca_calendar-158892054682266667100% of proceeds will be going to support OrcaLab and the important work they’re doing.
The lighting couldn’t have possibly been any worse, so these images are by no mens my best but what a performance on October 2nd! Thank you again, Nick Templeman and Yukon, #chiefwhalespotter from Campbell River Whale & Bear Excursions!
Stanley, named after Stanley Park in Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, is a male Killer Whale who was born in 2000. Stanley is the first offspring of Sidney (T123) and has two younger siblings, Lucky (T123C) and Darcy (T123D). Another younger sibling, Thrasher (T123B), has been missing since 2011 and is presumed to have passed away. Stanley received his name after he made a rare visit to Vancouver’s Inner Harbour in May 2011. Later that same year, Stanley and his mother were discovered stranded on a beach near Prince Rupert, British Columbia, but they were able to swim away a few hours later when the tide came up. They have been seen many times since and appear to have suffered no ill-effects from the stranding.
In a matter of less than 3 weeks, I have seen either on or right by my camping beaches, Humpback, Orca and two Black Bears. I guess I shouldn’t forget about the Porpoises, Seals, River Otters, Sea Otters that also visited and certainly not the snakes that my friend Jeff constantly befriended, right beside his tent at Garden Point on Nootka Island.
Garden Point – Nootka Island
Between July 27th and August 2nd, our party of three, Kirsten Hathaway, Jeff Kolebaba and myself paddled out to Garden Point on the north end of Nootka Island. Further information about the camping area can be found here: Garden Point east (bcmarinetrails.org)
The paddling route required us to launch at Little Espinosa Inlet. Little Espinosa Inlet west (bcmarinetrails.org) The launch was easy and as we paddled out of the little inlet, it reminded me of Johnson Lagoon on South Brooks Peninsula. Exploring Johnson Lagoon | Nature Photography by Martin Ryer (mryerblog.com)
As we left Little Espinosa Inlet and entered Espinosa Inlet, we were faced with turbulent waters and high winds coming from the south, very much impeding our progress. We made it 70% of the way down the inlet and to our intended destination before taking a break at a little beach located here: 49.889952, -126.917817. I have dubbed this beach, “Kolebaba Beach” and have recommended it’s use to BC Marine Trails by completing a site assessment report on Knack.
After taking a break on “Kolebaba Beach” our group decided to carry on to Garden Point and cross over Esperenza Inlet, as the winds had diminished. The crossing was enjoyable and we were met with gentle ocean swell breaking through on the northwest side of Center Island. We arrived at mid tide which required long walks up the east end of the point to make camp.
Some notes and considerations if you’re visiting this location:
- High winds can funnel up and down Espinosa Inlet, potentially assisting you on the water or requiring you to get off the water. There’s locations to safely land along the east side of the inlet and wait out the winds but aside from “Kolebaba Beach” they’re not great and wouldn’t make for ideal camping if the winds did not diminish.
- A lot of recreational and commercial fishing boat activity occurs just off Garden Point, disrupting the scenic views and natural surroundings and presenting a serious hazard if one was to attempt crossing in the fog.
- Black Bears are present in the area and there’s been reports of Wolves. The Black Bear we encountered on the beach was respectful of our presence, as we were to his. Hang your food! More information about recreating in Black Bear country can be found here: Staying Safe in Bear Country – BC Parks
- This is a fairly highly used area to access Nuchatlitz Provincial Park – BC Parks, no toilet facilities were observed but the construction of one has been recommended to BC Marine Trails.
- At mid or low tides, the carrying of gear and kayaks is absolutely dreadful on the east side of the point. Admittedly, even with paddling partners to help, it was exhausting. Plan your landing and launches accordingly and if possible, consider making camp on the west side of the beach as there’s both forested and bluff camping opportunities available.
- Brodick Creek intersects the east and west sides of the point and offers clean, fresh drinking water.
- Jeff found a tree stump, filled with water and mud here: 49.845828, -126.899530, if one was interested in having a truly natural “bath.”
- Local recreation fishing boats and their occupants by no means are interested in sharing any of their catch.
ALWAYS REMEMBER THE BC MARINE TRAILS CODE OF CONDUCT