I’ve explored all over Coastal British Columbia and I mean all over! I’ve never seen an Orca, ever! Not until July 24th and 25th and I didn’t have to go very far either!
The name of the Orca is T073B – a lone and very large male transient Orca. Reports of his visit to the Comox Valley first started coming in around July 23rd.
I loaded up my kayak on the cart and walked it down to the Courtenay estuary launch in the sweltering heat on the morning of the 24th and paddled out to hopefully get my chance to finally see an Orca.
Research suggests that Bigg’s Killer Whales (Transient Orca) have been genetically separated from all other Orca for about 750,000 years. Adult males may reach overall lengths of 8-9 meters and can weigh up to 10,000 lbs.
“Loose hips, save ships.” A quote from Frank Witter, expert Sea Kayak Guide and Owner / Operator at Hello Nature Adventure Tours – hellonature.ca Frank of course was referring to remaining flexible and not becoming tense when encountering unfavorable conditions while sea kayaking. Expert advice, no doubt.
On July 18th, I had the distinct honor and privilege to be invited by Kevin Bradshaw from Hello Nature Adventure Tours to spend the day with a group of paddlers, exploring the Broken Group Islands near Ucluelet.
This company, it’s owners and employees embody the West Coast Spirit. Their level of friendliness and professionalism is unsurpassed. On the day of my tour, both Norm (our Water Taxi driver) and Frank were patient, helpful, fun, laid back and extremely knowledgeable throughout the day. I’ve paddled in the Broken Group Islands before, on unguided extended trips but I learned many new things, about the area, inter tidal life and Sea Kayaking. It was a fantastic experience and this should be the tour company of choice should you be travelling to the area. Safety is a key focus while on the water, as are the comfort levels for all guests. This allowed for a calm and enjoyable outing.
I arrived at the Ucluelet Dock and point of departure shortly after 7:30 am. I was greeted by both Frank and Norm who were busy preparing for the day. Soon after I arrived, four other guests also arrived and we were all set to leave by 8:00 am as scheduled. The crossing and open water conditions between Ucluelet and the Broken Group Islands makes the use of a Water Taxi much more suitable. It was about a 45 minute ride to the southwest side of Dodd Island where we would stage and prepare for our day of exploration.
Arrival at Dodd Island and Safety Orientation:
“The SHIT KIT” was definitely a hit!
Dodd Island departure and paddle to Dempster Island:
Arrival at Dempster Island:
After leisurely paddling through a vast maze of islands and islets, we arrived at Dempster Island just after 12:00 for lunch. The timing was perfect, the fog had lifted and the sun was shining bright. Frank got busy preparing lunch for us, we had all built up an appetite. Lunch, all food items bought locally consisted of sliced bread, pepperoni, cheese, pickles, olives, sliced pear and apple, cookies for dessert and water, tea and hot chocolate to drink. It was fantastic and a great lunch location in a sheltered lagoon.
Paddle to Nettle Island:
After finishing lunch and getting suited back up and into our kayaks, we crossed over to Gibraltar Island and then headed a little north to explore a lagoon. We saw two resident Deer and even a Raccoon. Even though this is a well traveled area, fortunately the wildlife seemed intolerant of human activity. Both the Deer and Raccoon dashed into the forest before anyone could get pictures.
Pickup at Nettle Island:
Norm was waiting for us as we arrived on a small pocket beach on Nettle Island. We got our kayaks and gear loaded up and made our way back to Ucluelet. The afternoon winds had picked up and the water was rough during the crossing. It made for an adventurous ride back.
Hello Nature exceeds low impact environmental standards. I applaud their efforts. We all have our part to play in protecting our fragile coastal ecosystems. Find out more about their best practices here – hellonature.ca/…s/environmental-practices
I’ll be “on assignment” later this month for the day with Hello Nature Adventure Tours. Ucluelet, Tofino, Broken Group Islands, Barkley and Clayoquot Sounds are amazing and some of my favorite places ever! I’m excited to create some awesome images for this company. https://hellonature.ca/
The Mountain Lion Foundation has launched a short, but important public service announcement in New York City’s Times Square Plaza. This PSA will run through mid-July and shines a light on one of the biggest issues that America’s lion is facing today: trophy hunting. If you’re in the area, stop by the jumbotron at 1500 Broadway in Times Square NY and check it out! Our PSA is on the upper screen to the left of the Nasdaq screen.
Help support efforts to protect these amazing animals here: mountainlion.org/contributejoinus.asp
Thank you to local Comox Valley resident and my friend Tanja Kerr – flickr.com/photos/84125642@N07
Eagles tend to congregate from time to time in front of Tanja’s home and when they do, she lets me know! My very own “Eagle Hotline.”
I got some good shots today and finally two or more in one frame while in flight, though they’re not as tack sharp as I would like. I’ll keep working on it.
The second image is impressive and I don’t think could ever be replicated no matter how many times one tried. It looks like smoke is behind the Eagles wings, but it’s actually a dark cloud.
Bald Eagles are scavengers and will take advantage of carrion – dead and decaying flesh, giving it a poor image. As a result, some people even dislike Eagles. Other people do not care for powerful and aggressive birds; while some object merely on the grounds that it is a bird of prey which kills other animals for food.
What do you think?
Cliff hazards exist adjacent to hiking trails throughout the park. For your own safety and for the conservation of delicate ecosystems; please stay on marked trails and stay well back from cliff edges.
Helliwell Provincial Park sits on a rocky headland forested with a beautiful stand of old-growth Douglas fir. Located on St. John’s Point on Hornby Island, the park was a gift to the people of British Columbia from John Helliwell. The stunning Helliwell bluffs guard the northern entrance to Tribune Bay.
Spectacular views of marine life, the Salish Sea and the Coast Mountains can be had from any point along the bluffs. As you explore the park’s meandering hiking and walking trails, you will find weather-beaten old-growth Douglas firs and gnarled Garry oaks, as well as flora and fauna which may seem more at home in a desert than in a Northwest Rainforest. The best times to visit are in late April and early May, when colorful wildflowers carpet the hillside along the cliffs. Please stay on designated trails to protect the fragile areas.
Bryce is a former Conservation Officer who made international headlines when he refused orders to kill two healthy Bear cubs. Educating residents on safely co-existing with wildlife remains a passion of his, as he writes for his own blog and as is frequently contacted by media to serve as an expert source. He joined Defender Radio to discuss who Cougars are, how to distinguish between sensationalism and fact, and what we can all do to promote co-existence with Cougars and other wildlife across Canada.
Click here to listen: thefurbearers.com/…/bryce-casavant-co-existing-cougars-530
…My goal today was to photograph two or more mature Bald Eagles fighting, either on the ground, partially or in full flight. I didn’t quite get that but I still had fun!