Shall I do it? Is it worth it? The orca season was really over and yet I heard a girl say she saw them only a week before. I’ve done whale watching before and I know it’s not always what you expect it to be. When you see a fin somewhere in the distance, that counts as a sighting. But, hey, I did say I wanted to not worry about money and do whatever my heart desired on this holiday. And so I decided last minute to go on a whale watching adventure in Victoria, BC. Since it was the off season the trip was still not confirmed on the morning of departure. A couple of hours later I got the call to show up in the afternoon. Yes!
I was already bundled up and squeezed myself into a big orange suit. It reminded me of a sumo wrestler, or a jailed Michelin man. But it kept me warm and if I somehow ended up in the water it would give me lots of buoyancy. Ten people climbed into the zodiac with the captain to start our adventure. Our guide and captain Mick explained again that we would be dealing with nature and that nature is unpredictable. He couldn’t say what we would see and if we would see anything and we had to be open to the unexpected.
As soon as we left the harbour we were going on super speed. We made it all the way into American waters, around the San Juan islands. The downside of the off season is that we were the only boat out there and thus had no messages about sightings from other groups. Somehow Mick managed to get some information on the radio anyway. There was a long way ahead of us, so Mick starts the ultra speed. We bounce over the water, landing with big bangs and sometimes suddenly braking to brace for impact. Then I see a whale spouting. Shit! We are too late. By the time we make it to the spot, the humpback whale has submerged again.
As we continue we all scan the horizon for more whales, but I only see the ocean, that keeps getting wilder. The adrenaline builds in my body, but after a while I start giving up. Mick heard the orcas are on the other side of the island, moving north. He decides to move south, because otherwise we would miss them anyway. After a long time going around the island, we suddenly see some boats. Mick gets out his binoculars. “These are research boats! This is good news!” Soon he’s talking to the researchers on the radio. They spotted killer whales. The men on the boats take photos and identify them. When they resurface, we make our way over. We stop the engine of the boat and let nature take us. The orcas are coming our way. Such beautiful animals! So graceful! We are all mesmerized. All apart from the 12 year-old boy, who chose this exact moment to pee and miss the animals.
When the whales dive again, we pay a visit to the local sea lions. The fat animals lie on a big rock, accompanied by loads of birds. The make so much noise it makes us all laugh. Occasionally one slides into the water and even when we take off, the manage to provide entertainment by following us. But the orcas await. We race back. Finding them is tricky because of the rough waters, but it doesn’t take us long. First you see the water spout and then a black fin sticks out. Then, slowly, a big black and white body appears and slides through the water. Every time one of the four whales goes under, it’s a guess where and when they’ll resurface.
After circling the whales for a while, it is time to go home. We say our goodbyes and set course for Victoria. The water splashes in our face and at times we are showered in buckets of salty water. It doesn’t matter. It’s hilarious! It’s exciting! I saw orcas! And then… “Guys, do you see that? There! On that rock! Its a coastal wolf! You hardly ever see him!” This wolf is the only one living on the island. Researchers think he swam to it from the mainland. It’s the cherry on the pie.
In Victoria I need to defrost. I didn’t feel cold because of all the excitement, but now I’m frozen. My feet are soaking wet. My hair is so messed up that I have to cut out a piece that won’t untangle. The orcas we saw live somewhere between California and Alaska throughout the year. They are where the food is, the seals. We were lucky to see these transient animals. I’m so happy with my decision to go. Whales will always be exciting!