Orca in view!
Today was just fantastic! We got up early, had breakfast, and walked over to the boat docks to catch our whale tour boat! Along with 47 other people, we boarded the Ocean Magic boat of the Prince of Whales company and headed out to sea. Our Marine Naturalist, Nicolette, briefed us on safety as we slowly left the Inner Harbor. Once out on the open water, we sped up to 25-30 knots and headed towarded the island dotted waters between Vancouver Island
and the Canadian mainland. Along the way, we spotted little black porpoises gliding along the waves and passed by the Royal Victoria
Golf Club (a peninsular green!).
In about 45 minutes, we slowed to a crawl, then the engines stopped and we floated along. Within a half-mile of our boat, were several other whale-watching boats -- they all cooperate to get the best chance to view whales. As we scanned the ocean, "Oh, the joy! Whales in view!" Moving down the water from north to south, a pod of whales approached, surfacing for air, slapping the water with their fins, blowing out as they breathed in. Soon our boat was surrounded by the great killer whales, orcas. Several orca obligingly surfaced very near us, our naturalist was as excited as we, calling out the identification of each whale as it surfaced. The Whale Reasearch Organization has named each pod (we saw the K and L pods) as well as each whale (K-1, L-19, etc.
). The pod continued to move south past our boat until they were barely in view. When the pod had sufficiently left the area, our captain re-started the engines and we swung around to the south to get ahead of the pod. We approached San Juan Island and headed toward a lighthouse at one promontory. This area has been designated a marine park due to the crossing tide action and abundance of fish (food) as well as whales; our boat stayed 1/2 mile from the boundaries. Whales continued to surface and fish in this area, just offshore from the lighthouse as we oohhed and ahhed at their activities. We moved our boat further south to where several whales had been spotted and were delighted to watch many orcas pass very near us, surfacing for air, and looking toward us in a friendly manner -- our naturalist had told us that orca are naturally out-going and seem to enjoy the contact with humans! All too soon, our 3 hours were upon us and we turned our boat west toward Victoria.
Now we saw little (100 pound) porpoise that resembled small orca skimming along the waves in the ocean.....they were very shy and would not come near the boats! The finale of our excursion was a brief glimpse of the Canadian Air Force Drill Team, the Snowbirds, practicing over Victoria for their holdiay show this weekend.........
After lunch at an Irish pub near the harbor, we walked back to our hotel, picked up our car, and drove 25 mintues north to Butchart Gardens. This site is the former residence of the Butchart family, a concrete mogul and his wife and children; over the years, Mrs. Butchart reclaimed a limestone quarry next to their property and turned it into a fabulous world-class garden. Strolling along the paths, we enjoyed colors and plantings and beautiful vistas peeking out toward the nearby sound.
Butchart Gardens dahlia as big as Barry's hand!
This is the season for dahlias, many blooms were bigger than Barry's hand! As we approached the main house we met and spoke with the head chef, Travis Hansen, who recommened the lamb, prawn, salmon or halibut for dinner! We were seated at a table on the porch of the house overlooking the rose gardens and took Travis' advise and ordered the salmon and the prawn/scallop dinners. Travis prepared a gift for us of seared halibut served on a bed of polenta with truffle oil as an appetizer -- oh, so good! Our dinners were excellent and we finished them off with a dessert of brulleed peaches served with blueberries and lemon gelato, followed by a spot of tea! Now we were off to the concert lawn of the gardens to enjoy a delightful group, the Cottlars (sp?) a 17 & 16 year old brother-sister group joined by a 16-year-old fiddler and a guitarist who was all their ages added together (!) to sing and entertain in the Cape Breton style (sort of an Irish folk band).
Dahlia attracting 2 bees!
It was a delightful concert on the lawn, mixed with jokes from the brother of the group.......afterward we strolled through the gardens, again, this time to enjoy the beautiful illuminations........then back to our hotel for sweet dreams under the down comforters.........oh the joy!