Our Blog

Eagle Wing Whale Watch – A Great Experience

Eagle Wing Whale Watch – A Great Experience

  • Posted: Aug 03, 2017
  • By:
  • Comments: 0

Today I was lucky enough to get aboard the Eagle Wing’s Whale Watching Catamaran named 4 Ever Wild. Old friend and former member of the Victoria Guest Services Network, Nathan Bird, Director of Operations knew that I was really keen on trying out one of their catamarans. I was just leaving downtown when he called me to advise that an opening just came up about 2 hours before the trip. I burned one of those Hollywood-style U-turns and headed back downtown.

I arrived about one hour early and signed in. To kill time I decided I need to catch up on my quota of fish and chips and went to one of my favourite outlets, the Fish Store on the dock at Fisherman’s Wharf.  When I placed my order, the order clerk noticed the Eagle Wing pass around my neck and immediately gave me a discount on my meal! I didn’t even have to ask! As usual it was delicious.

Fish and Chips at The Fish Store

Fish and Chips at The Fish Store

The Eagle Wing tour starts with an introduction given by Derek today. With some necessary information and a few corny jokes, we were off to the boat.

Everyone congregated on the dock and we were given further instructions just before boarding. Well organized for sure. The staff was introduced, our captain was Rod King, and the naturalists were Sidney McCabe, Corinne McKay and Derek Sterling.

4 Ever Wild is a large and very fast catamaran and 50 people seemed to quickly disappear, most going to the bow seating. I staked out a spot on the outer deck at the back of the boat. I have issues from time to time with my lower back and all boats move the least at the back just ahead of the power source. When there was activity in the water, there was rarely more than 6-8 people on the back of the boat. The skilled captain makes sure that everyone, no matter where they are on the boat gets a chance to see any wildlife that comes in view.

Searching on-line it is apparent that Trip Advisor rates Eagle Wing as the number one Whale Watching tour company in our region. That primarily occurs because people who use their service are happy enough that they comment back on Trip Advisor. However, I generally go into the company’s web site to learn more about them. Eagle Wing is an outstanding company. For example they are carbon neutral. In addition they donate 1% of their revenues to support groups devoted to promote sustainability and environmental protection and that is just for starters. I urge you to go to their web site to read more about their efforts. They are truly leaders in their efforts to make this planet better! Check out how they contribute to conservation and sustainable tourism.

Throughout the trip the naturalists were always on the lookout for whales and anything else of interest. When we did find whales they were quickly into the reference materials to determine if these were resident whales or transients. They provided additional information to passengers throughout the trip and were always very helpful and attentive. They seemed keen to watch for opportunities to help which was very refreshing. Corinne and Sydney were nearby me and they were most helpful and seemed very knowledgeable. Good job ladies!

Our first stop was Race Rocks, an ecological reserve about 10 miles West of Victoria. Most of the operators who travel west from Victoria go here because it is such a unique experience. Race Rocks is a group of small islands in an area where Juan de Fuca strait shallows up. This causes the currents to become fairly strong. Underwater has an abundance of sea life due to the constant flow of food. Filter feeders open and close often because there is so much food in the water. The rocks around the light station are full of harbour seals, northern sea lions, California sea lions, Alaska Fur seals, river otters and sea otters. Below the surface there is sufficient fish population to feed these visitors. At the peak of their migration, there can be as many as 800 sea lions at Race Rocks. I have been scuba diving there at least 100 times and to me it looks like Butchart Gardens under the sea!

Race Rocks Light Station

Race Rocks Light Station

Our Captain maneuvered the large Catamaran around the rocks so that we all got great views of the large sea lions basking in the sun. Our resident Orca population only eat salmon, however the transient orcas eat just about anything they can catch. So Race Rocks is a great spot for lunch for the transients.

There are also large populations of sea birds on these islands. Since the light station no longer has staff on site, the houses and other buildings are showing signs of neglect. I noticed the roofs were covered in bird poo!

After we left Race Rocks we went looking for Humpback whales. The whale watching tour groups have quite a communication network that helps them find whales, so I assume they were directed to a certain location. After a thorough search of the location our captain decided to move on. The humpback did not show!

Our next location was at the mouth of Puget Sound. From Race Rocks that was quite a healthy distance. I found out from a previous trip with Eagle Wing that they often go above and beyond to ensure that their guests get the best experience they can provide. This often includes extending the 3 hour session to 4 hours. This was the case on this day as well. The result was that we found a good sized group of Orcas. There were two groups in that area and they were on both sides of the boat, so everyone got a really good look. They seemed to be on the move so we didn’t get to see some of the more exciting behaviors like spy hoping and breaching. However we did get some excellent looks at these magnificent animals! After about 30 minutes with the Orcas we had to head back to Victoria.orcas

The Province of BC has been inundated with forest fires. For the past few days the smoke has moved out to Vancouver Island. I think this is the first time this has happened in Victoria since I moved here 34 years ago. Long distance visibility has gone away so I have included a couple of photos of the Olympic Mountains that are normally seen while looking for whales in beautiful Juan de Fuca Strait. None of these views were available on this trip. The visibility however was good enough to see anything that was around us in the water with good clarity.

I would like to thank owner Brett Soberg and his wonderful staff for yet another great whale watching experience and I heartily recommend this business to my guests and all visitors to Victoria. It is no wonder that the Eagle Wing catamarans are in high demand. They are fast, smooth riding, spacious and have two washrooms aboard that function like normal toilets. They are definitely a service oriented company. Well done!

Port Victoria

Port Victoria

  • Posted: Aug 25, 2016
  • By:
  • Comments: 0

The Ogden Point Breakwater and Deep Water Cruise Ship Port Victoria

Port Victoria

Port Victoria

Victoria’s Ogden Point terminal is currently the busiest cruise ship port-of-call in Canada.

All facilities are modern, with paved parking, passenger transport and cargo storage areas. Services available for passengers at dockside include gift shops, foreign currency exchange and pay telephones.

Tour and shuttle buses, taxis, bicycles for rent, kabuki cabs and other forms of transportation are readily available for passenger excursions to the city centre and major tour attractions. More information on the extensive and varied selection of shore excursions can be found at Tourism Victoria and on visiting cruise ships. There is a portside café, the Breakwater Café and Bistro sits at the entrance to a ½ mile long Breakwater that extends to protect the 4 deepwater port berths. Take an enjoyable walk out into our ocean, the sights can be amazing!

Under GVHA’s (Harbour Authority) stewardship, cruise tourism at Ogden Point has grown from 110 ship calls carrying 161,000 passengers in 2002 to a record number of 227 cruise ships and 533,000 passengers welcomed during the 2015 season. This year likely these numbers will be higher.

The Breakwater

The Breakwater

Many visitors find the 15-20 minute walk to downtown easy and enjoyable. If you take Montreal Street or Oswego St. they are a direct route to the Inner Harbour where many services and attractions are close by. If you want to explore follow Dallas Road to Beacon Hill Park, the jewel of Victoria!

james bay map

james bay map

If you get a small group together you can save a bunch of money taking a cab or a limo to your chosen destination and you will not have to wait for a bus to load. Go online and make a reservation for when you arrive.

Harbour Ferry Ballet

Harbour Ferry Ballet

  • Posted: Aug 22, 2016
  • By:
  • Comments: 0

Harbour Ferry Ballet – Something Unique and Special to Victoria– Don’t miss it!

For over 25 years, Victoria Harbour Ferry has been performing a very entertaining 12 minute Water Ballet for tourists and locals around Victoria’s Inner Harbour.  The show is at 10:45 in Sundays from May to September and a second show is on Saturdays at 10:45 during the peak tourist season (July and August). There are also special extra shows on the statutory holidays (Victoria Day, Canada Day, BC Day and Labour Day).

Watch as the skilled Captains work these cute ,functional boats to their limits, twisting and turning five of the Ferry boats through the water choreographed to music. To date there have been hundreds of performances to the enjoyment of tourists and locals alike. When the ballet is done head down to the Causeway Marina (the Dock in front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel) following each performance. The Captains will be wearing special red shirts and would be thrilled to meet with you!

These performances have been documented in news articles, magazine stories, and TV shows around the world. Needless to say, photos and video’s of these performances have been taken home by visitors from around the world and shared with friends and families. There are numerous videos on YouTube as well.

 Harbour Ferry Tour Photos

Harbour Ferry Tour Photos

Ferry 2

For more information about the Harbour Ferries and Taxis, visit their web site. Their harbour tours are great as is their water taxi service around the Inner Harbour and Gorge Waterway! Check them out and don’t miss using their services. You will be glad you did!

Ferry4

The Inner Harbour Tour circles the harbour and also goes up the Gorge Waterway to the Tillicum Bridge. Some of the highlights are Fisherman’s wharf, the float homes in the harbour, West Bay, seeing the Cruise Ships, getting water views of the Fairmont Empress and the Provincial Legislative Buildings, seeing the working businesses on the harbour, seeing sea planes land and take off, the amazing variety of marine traffic in the harbour, large yachts, and so much more. The Captains provide a running commentary throughout the tour. You can also get a hop on, hop off tour and visit places like Fisherman’s Wharf and Point Ellice House. This is a great informative tour. Enjoy the pictures we took on our tours of the harbour!

Ferry 3

 

Ferry 5

 

Butterfly Gardens: A World Class Attraction

Butterfly Gardens: A World Class Attraction

  • Posted: Jul 09, 2016
  • By:
  • Comments: 0

Butterfly Gardens is on of a handful of World Class Attractions in Greater Victoria

Victoria Butterfly Garden’s 12,000 square feet of a tropical jungle-like eco-system awaits you. There is bound to be something that will astound you at every turn, so take your time and look closely so you don’t miss anything. The gardens are filled with lush tropical plants home to ducks, flamingos, rare tropical birds, poison dart frogs, tortoises, turtles, giant koi and thousands of free flying butterflies. Some may even land on you for a short time! Among the tropical plants you will find vanilla beans growing on the vine, papaya trees, pineapple, coffee beans, and ginger. Staff is always available to answer questions about the feeding butterflies, the amazing blooms and the rare and carnivorous plants growing in the gardens.

Butterfly Gardens

Butterfly Gardens

This is a great place to have a mini tropical vacation during you stay on our lovely island. Here you will find something for every one of all ages. It is near the world famous Butchart Gardens so you can easily visit both attractions in one day and have time for other activities. Be sure to bring your camera as the garden is full of great photo opportunities.

If we were publishing a list of the top 10 things to do while in Greater Victoria, this would be high on the list. Don’t miss it! Be sure to take home a memento from their well stocked gift shop.

Whale Watching With Orca Spirit

Whale Watching With Orca Spirit

  • Posted: Jun 28, 2016
  • By:
  • Comments: 0

Hunting Killer Whales (Orcas) in Juan de Fuca Strait

Transient Orcas in Juan de Fuca Strait

Transient Orcas in Juan de Fuca Strait

Everyday you get to spend on the water is one of life’s bonuses! When you see whales in their natural environment, consider that a big bonus. Wild whales cannot be trained to be in a certain spot at a certain time, so there is always the chance they may not appear. For us they did!
Now these whales can put on a three act play or just show us their dorsal fins. Today, we just got to see their fins. It was either three or four times that we had interactions with this group of transient whales. They were on the hunt for food, so they would dive and then not come up for 5 to 10 minutes. They also turned around and disappeared on us, but we did find them later on our return trip down Juan de Fuca Strait thanks to the skill of the crew on our boat the Orca Spirit I. They are diligently on watch with binoculars and in constant contact with other boats in the vicinity. If whales are around, they will find them. They also have tons of whale info on the boat and the staff are all very knowledgeable  with lots of facts about the whales, the other critters you will see and the area in general. Don’g be afraid to ask them questions, it will enhance your tour!

Wildlife in Juan de Fuca Strait

Wildlife in Juan de Fuca Strait


In one of my pictures, you will see a whale about 2 feet away from another whale watching boat and a dozen or so people in awe of this close encounter of the very best kind. Lucky people!
All whale watching boats are required to stay 100 meters away from the whales, but the whales have no such rules!
I have included a photo from my last trip with Orca Spirit to show you one of my lucky days with a close encounter iof the very best kind. It is the luck of the draw. You just never know!

One thing I would recommend when you are on one of these excursions, spend as much time as you can on deck. There is so much to see. The amazing scenery, the variety of marine traffic, the wild life and more.

Always something to see as you tour Juan de Fuca Strait

Always something to see as you tour Juan de Fuca Strait

Enjoy my pics! Here are two photos, both close encounters of the amazing kind. The tail of the humpback was on another tour! The more you spend time on the water, the more you are likely to see. So come back to Victoria and always go out whale watching!

Up-close Encounters of the Best Kind

Up-close Encounters of the Best Kind

The Sea Cider Farm and Cider House

The Sea Cider Farm and Cider House

  • Posted: May 20, 2016
  • By:
  • Comments: 0
sea cider

sea cider

Last week my son Robb and I had the opportunity to stop at the Sea Cidery on the way to Victoria International Airport. My son has Celiac disease, and so was disappointed not to be able to check out the many craft breweries in our region. However, cider is on his list as being gluten-free, so we planned to go for a tasting. We arrived on a sunny May morning promptly at opening time and were surprised to find other guests out that early in the day, on the same mission as us! After a short but informative tour of the cidery, my son chose our samples from a list of available ciders. Some ciders are seasonal, and so not available year round. While waiting to be served, we perused the items for sale, cider of course and other items such as honey. Honey was available for sampling that day too.

It was such a nice morning that we sat outside on the deck, with views across the apple orchard to James Island and Cordova Channel in the Haro Strait, also known as the Salish Sea. Naturally, bees buzzed around us, and let us be (get the pun?!!). Then our samples arrived, 9 pours in glasses designed to enhance the aroma and flavor of the cider. Being the driver, I only took small sips to savor and left the rest for Robb. We were given a checklist to record our favorites, and of course I had to buy a bottle of my favorite cider before we left.

Sea Cider is a family run operation on the Sannich Peninsula. They grow their own apples, and in fact grow their own trees from seeds. The cider is made on site and sold there, as well as in many liquor stores. In addition to their tasting room and outdoor deck, they hold special events in a large tent adjacent to the main building. Check out their website at http://seacider.ca/ Cheers!

sea cider ciderhouse

sea cider ciderhouse

Linda

Island Moment – Ladysmith

Island Moment – Ladysmith

  • Posted: Apr 28, 2016
  • By:
  • Comments: 0

Amazing Rhododendron – Over 100 years old!

We recently paid a visit to Abkhazi Garden in Victoria where some 100 year old rhododendrons growing. Then we heard about the amazing  Rhododendron Tree in Ladysmith. So Linda stopped in and had another one of our amazing island moments. Spectacular hardly explains this amazing sight! So when you are driving through Ladysmith watch for the Subway restaurant on the Island Highway. If you are heading north you must turn on Buller before you get to the Subway and then go up to 3rd avenue and turn right and go to Kitchner. If you are going south, turn right on Buller after you pass the Subway restaurant. Be prepared for an amazing sight, one that is hard to replicate. Enjoy! Things like this are all over Vancouver Island. There is a yard in Tofino with an amazing rhododendron display.

Ladysmith Rhododendron

Ladysmith Rhododendron

 

Island Moments: Esquimalt Lagoon

Island Moments: Esquimalt Lagoon

  • Posted: Apr 17, 2016
  • By:
  • Comments: 0

Esquimalt Lagoon: A Special Island Moment

Esquimalt Lagoon is one of my favourite places to enjoy nature in Greater Victoria. The lagoon is a large migratory bird sanctuary that is used as a rest stop and feeding area for birds moving between North and South America. It appears that some of the birds (swans and ducks) seem to home there as well.

It is a popular spot for people to walk their dogs. Many dogs are off-leash, however the only place where this is permitted is southwest of the public washrooms in an area away from the lagoon. The beach goes on for a long way after you enter from the bridge on Ocean Boulevard.

The beach is very popular at Esquimalt Lagoon. The views of Juan de Fuca Strait are spectacular and this is a great place to go in the summer to cool down when the weather gets really hot. Beach fires have been banned from this beach for years, so don’t expect to cook your hot dogs at the beach.

Esquimalt Lagoon Beach

Esquimalt Lagoon Beach

Continue reading

Tags: ,
Abkhazi Gardens

Abkhazi Gardens

  • Posted: Apr 13, 2016
  • By:
  • Comments: 0

Abkhazi Gardens – A Gem Worth A Visit!

Abkhazi Garden, located at 1964 Fairfield Road in Victoria BC, is a wonderland oasis in the middle of a quiet residential area; the creation of Peggy and Nicolas Abkhazi.  Peggy has an intriguing history, related in her memoir “A Curious Cage”.  She met Nicolas Abkhazi, a Georgian Prince, in Paris and eventually married him; making their home on this property that she purchased after WWII.  Read her book to understand how the orphaned child of parents living in Shanghai China ended up in Victoria!

Abkhazi Gardens & Tea Room

Abkhazi Gardens & Tea Room

Princess Peggy Abkhazi’s Garden

Continue reading

Scenic Marine Drive

Scenic Marine Drive

  • Posted: Apr 07, 2016
  • By:
  • Comments: 0

Why do we call it Scenic Marine Drive?

Scenic Mount Baker

Scenic Mount Baker

How is that for starters?

If you come to Victoria and do not take the scenic marine drive on a nice sunny day, either by car, bicycle, running, or tour bus, then you have missed Victoria! Find out why Conde Nast Travel Magazine readers voted Victoria number one for environmental ambiance.

GONZALES BAY

GONZALES BAY -Stop in for a picnic or relax on the beach.

 

TRIAL ISLAND Light Station

Trial Island Light Station

Victoria Waterfront

Victoria Waterfront

Victoria's WESTSHORE

Victoria’s WESTSHORE

For more photos of our scenic marine drive, please click on our facebook page symbol.

Enjoy.

Page 1 of 712345...Last »