VIDEO: Breaches, belly-flops and a close encounter with humpback whales

A wildlife tour of a lifetime for some visitors to Vancouver Island

When Erica Farrell booked a wildlife/adventure tour for her family, visiting from England, she was ever hopeful.

A whale, maybe… perhaps a small pod.

What they got was more than anyone could have expected. Even the tour guide was beaming at day’s end.

The six-hour tour produced a family of orcas, a shoreline of sea lions, and a dozen humpback whales breaching, belly-flopping, and swimming right up to the boat.

“Since I’ve been doing these tours, 20 years, that was probably one of my top 10 of all time,” said Garry Henkel, owner/operator of Aboriginal Journeys. “I’ve done more than 3,000 tours, but today was a special day. Some days you just see humpbacks. Some days you just see orcas. Some days, you just see spouts. But today was special. I don’t get to do this often.”

Orcas at play in Desolation Sound. (Terry Farrell/Comox Valley Record)

The British contingent was awed.

“Almost speechless with admiration for the beauty, the wildlife,” said Erica’s mother, Brenda Nevard, who was visiting Vancouver Island for the first time. “Difficult to put into words. A once in a lifetime experience.”

Brenda’s son, Phil Nevard, and his wife, Lythan, were equally impressed, not only with the wildlife experience, but with Henkel’s expertise as well.

“It was great to have such a knowledgeable guide with a First Nations’ respect for nature and the sea,” said Phil.

“It was one of the best days of my life and to be out with someone who respects the animals and is as excited to see them as we are was amazing,” added Lythan.

A humpback goes for a deep dive.(Photo by Erica Farrell)

Henkel said the re-emergence of humpback whales to the area has made the adventure tour experience that much better.

“We never used to see any humpbacks here until probably the last four or five years,” said Henkel. “Many, many years ago, they were hunted, back in the 1800s, early 1900s… almost hunted to extinction. I think they are making a comeback now finally because there’s less pressure on them, and because there’s a lot of krill.

“It’s great, because we used to just look for orcas and dolphins and stuff, but now we have the humpbacks as well so it really adds to the experience.”

Erica’s son, Ian Bowen of Grande Prairie, Alta., was also on the boat.

“We’re very lucky as Canadians to have this in our backyard,” he said.

Henkel concurred.

“There’s not many places in the world you can see that – orcas and humpbacks,” said Henkel. “In our area, in September, now you can sometimes see orcas, humpbacks, grizzly bears, black bears and sometimes dolphins, all in one day.”

For more information on adventure tours, visit http://www.aboriginaljourneys.com/

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