7 september through 12 september
After we arrive at the airport we collect our rental car. It appears to be a huge Dodge Durango. We almost need stairs to get in. We drive to the Travelodge Vancouver Airport. Despite our jetlag we decide to eat something anyway and drive around de neighborhood. We are astonished over the amount of Chinese people we see. This is not Chinatown, this is China! There are even restaurants with only Chinese customers and a menu in Chinese language. We don not venture on that.
We are no city folk so we don't stay long in Vancouver. The next day we go to see the totem poles in Stanley Park before taking the ferry at Horseshoe Bay. After a nice passage in beautiful weather we drive to Ucluelet where we will stay for two nights at the Wild Pacific Bed & Breakfast. It lies close to the Pacific Rim National Park. It has some temperate rainforest. But last year we visited Costa Rica and we compare it automatically. And than Costa Rica wins. But what we like very much here are the tidal pools that show up at low tide. We see all kinds of anemones and star fish. Amazing! It seems like scuba diving on land.
In Tofino we go searching for gray whales with Jamie's Whaling Station. Unfortunately we see none. The meager result consists of one humpback and some sea lions. But what's worse: the waves are so high that a lot of people on that boat get sea sick. And the only thing that I can think of is: "Skip the whales and please return to shore as fast as possible."
After a couple of days it is time to view the other side of Vancouver Island. While we cross the island towards Port McNeill we come across a male black bear and a mother black bear with two cubs. They all just stand next to the road. Despite the warnings we jump from the car out of enthusiasm to take pictures. Nothing happens and we can observe them very well.
Our new super tele lens comes in very handy now. Because we obviously don not come that close to bears. The weather has changed and from now on it's raining cats and dogs. But at this moment we don't even feel that. In Port McNeill we stay in the C-Shasta Bed & Breakfast. It has a lot of space with three rooms in the basement. The owner is very nice and has decorated it with overwhelming flowers, puppets , scrolls and flourishes. But if it is to our liking?
It is in fact much cheaper than accommodation in Telegraph Cove. But this means that we have to drive some more the next days. Because for the next two days we have booked trips from Telegraph Cove. We start with a whale watching trip with Stubbs Island.
A biologist joins the tour and she explains a lot about the orcas and related things. They also let us hear underwater sounds. It is a very good tour but of course they also depend on the circumstances. The weather is not so good and the orcas are "traveling". This means that they swim along the boat at a distance. Therefore we can watch them for a long time but not from close. And also not jumping or spy-hopping. Further we see a humpback that indeed shows its best side. But all in all it's very worth while and very interesting.
The next day we go with Tide Rip Tours to the Knight Inlet to watch grizzly bears. We are very lucky that it is warm and clear today on this quit expensive (but worth while) trip. At first we sail about one and a half hour to the Knight Inlet. There we transfer to some kind of "armored" bus that will take us to the viewing stands. Here we will stay for two hours. At forehand they told us that this will be the shortest two hours of our lives and they were right. Time flies. We see at least fifteen grizzly bears of which two are very close. We see them catch salmon and sniff at each other.
They rip of the skin of living salmon, right before our eyes. Nature is cruel and fascinating.
And if this all is not enough, on the way back to Telegraph Cove we are surrounded by orcas. They jump and whirl, dash towards the boat and almost swim against it. They're everywhere around us. Everybody on the boat, including the crew gets mad. This is much and much more spectacular than our trips with Stubbs and Jamie's together.
But Tide Rip is not allowed to do whale watching. Both tour companies from Telegraph Cove made an agreement not to thwart each other. So they cannot stop the boat. But because of regulations they are also not allowed to approach the orcas too close. Dilemma! This situation is unique and they decide to go very very slow. It is a marvelous end to our visit to Vancouver Island.
We have already seen everything that we went to Canada for: black bears, grizzly bears, orcas, whales and bald eagles. We can now go home, but we still have about three weeks of vacation. Our trip is successful already.
Next: Inside Passage