Guide Life - Stories from the water

On the Water Stories – Summer 2016

The whale blows. It exhales a pungent mix of what lies below. Mysterious and ancient, its eye sees through you, casting a spell. You are humbled and entranced. It slowly evaporates into the salty depths with sunlight dancing across its sides until it disappears completely from sight, but the feeling that it leaves lasts much longer. You want to follow. Their world is alive with song. Haunting beats, clicks, squeals…. We may never comprehend the brilliance of such creatures and we feign to protect them. Mostly we ravage their heavenly bodies and watery existence. Hopefully, with education and conservation we can make a better world.
A friend recently shared with me that being anywhere near whales touches his core deeply and how much he would love to hear their thoughts. "Me too" I exclaim and this is true for many people. Even the possibility of seeing a whale is enough to draw the biggest land-lover out to sea. The experience of being on the ocean can be life changing. For many people, the ocean is a place that makes the imagination wild and despite how little we know, we are drawn by her tides and creatures we only hope to encounter. We flank her sides and seize the opportunity to head out exploring and adventuring. The ocean is full of mystery and depths unknown and unexplored.
I make no joke when I say that our guides have the best jobs on the planet. We keep a sightings board in our office. Sea stories about each day's discoveries are always thrilling. Recently, I asked a few of our guides about their favorite day on the water this season, and this is what they shared. Enjoy!
Guide: Kye Peladeau
It definitely was NOT a hot sunny day. The seas were even a little rough. We had been spending time enjoying Gray Whales in protected waters. There was a juvenile Humpback in the area that we guides nicknamed MJ, because he had the moves! I asked my crew, who were quite hearty, if they wanted to venture out to Cleland Island/Sea Otter Rock area in search of this almost famous Humpback. They agreed. About 1/2 way there I checked in with my passengers who were looking a little skeptical. That look when you know someone doesn't believe you and are wondering if you are taking them on a wild goose chase. But, MJ did not disappoint! We started seeing him breach before we were fully on the scene. For a solid half hour, MJ fluked, tail lobbed and flew out of the water, corkscrewing into massive back flops – the best Humpback show of the season! This turned a marginal weather day into pure AWESOME and the guests were ecstatic!

MJ, the famous Tofino humpback having some fun!
A guide with some happy guest on a whale watch in Tofino, BC.

Guide: Ryan Millar
When I start an excursion I tell my passengers that once we cross the threshold from civilization to the wild, anything is possible. One group from Holland came seeking both whales and bears in one trip. We usually find both animals in different parts of Clayoquot Sound making this a challenge… the best adventures always are. After running into a family pod of orcas in the protected inlets on route to bear watching territory, this dream started to become a reality. After an hour of playful whales, we searched the shore for black bears finding a mom and cub. To our great luck, the mother and calf orca followed us and so on either side of our zodiac we had a mother and her baby!!! It is magical moments like this that make Clayoquot so special, unforgettable, and most important to conserve.

Guide: Satchel Robertson
One of my most memorable days this season was in June. I took a lovely couple from New York on a private bear watch aboard the Wildside. It felt odd right off the bat having only two people on this 12 passenger open vessel. We were light, fast and able to cover a lot of ground. We started out up Browning Pass and found a bear wandering the mud flats of Meares Island, not a popular spot for them. The wife spotted our first bear, which caught me off guard and made her husband rather jealous. For the rest of the trip, his eyes were fixated on the shore. After this encounter, we ventured up into Gunner Inlet and found a handful more black bears. We indulged in some heavy topics of conversation as we idled from bay to bay. Despite being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the logging and the presence of fish farms baffled these visitors. None the less, the beauty they were seeing held them in good spirits and we high tailed it to fortune to find some Harbour Seals, as that was the Mrs. last request.

With seals also checked off the list, we pulled a 180 turn towards home hugging the shoreline of Meares Island in the hopes of finding more wildlife. Suddenly, the husband threw his arm towards the shore in a frantic wave. I follow his arm to see two stunning coastal wolves scampering along the shore. BONUS! I back off the throttles and shut down. There, a magnificent black female and a tan colored male made tracks in the sand. The female ventured into the woods for a brief moment to leave the male alone. He paused then started howling. It went on for a good 5 minutes until the female canine rejoined her mate. The guests were in shock, as was I. It turned out to be a four-hour trip, but action packed and very intimate. The couple fell totally in love with Clayoquot Sound, and Mr. couldn't believe he was the one to spot the wolves.

Grey whales in Tofino, BC having some fun!
Lone wolf on the Tofino Coast.

Guide: Travis Stel
July 1st is a day that stands out in my mind from this season. It was a bear watch in the late afternoon and we were fortunate to have had two really large male bears in fortune channel. But it gets better! We then discovered two Gray Whales farther up inside of the inlet, which is not very common. Everyone was pretty excited as we made our way back to the harbour when a call on the radio came in that a large male Orca was making his way towards Tofino. We joined the lineup and after a few breaths, the male breached! Seeing this incredible animal flip onto its back, flippers in the air, hitting the water with a massive splash, has got to be one of my favorite memories of the season. Incredible, bears PLUS whales in 2 hours! Never know what you’ll find!
Check our blog regularly for more interesting stories like these and glimpses into a life on the water!
By: Ocean Simone Shine