Magical. Memorable. Marvellous. Those are three of the best descriptions I can offer after spending a day off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island with David and Maureen Towers, who have operated Seasmoke Whale Watching for 27 years out of the remote community of Alert Bay, BC.
Whale watching is one of those iconic adventures that many visitors to Vancouver Island put on their ‘must do’ list, and there are certainly many offerings of such experiences, from the southern tip of the Island to the north, and on both east and west coasts. We settled on a trip with Seasmoke for a number of reasons, among them the attraction of going out on a sailboat with a smaller number of guests. We also liked the idea of travelling near the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve area, a secluded ecological preserve for orca whales (more commonly known as killer whales) that spans 1,248 hectares (3,100 acres). The thought of seeing whales and other sea life in their pristine natural surroundings rather than in an area crowded with other marine traffic appealed immensely. It was a good decision for us – the stunning natural beauty of the northeast coast and the peaceful setting were well worth the extra bit of trouble and time it took to get to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, just a short ferry ride from Port McNeill.
The day’s outing on SV Tuan began with the amazing sight of dozens of sea birds, including juvenile and adult bald eagles, swooping and diving as they fed on a herring ball that had been herded together by a group of ducks. After picking up the remainder of our travelling contingent at Alder Bay, which is actually on Vancouver Island we headed for the Blackney Pass/Cracroft Island area escorted part way by a group of playful Dall’s porpoises. We spent the rest of the trip in awe, observing and listening via hydrophone to a group of orcas and three enormous humpback whales. Maureen’s insights on and familiarity with the various creatures we were observing added to our enjoyment and appreciation, and made it clear to all of us that even after all these years she and David continue to harbour a passion for this amazing part of the world, and for the living things that inhabit it. For them, these trips are so clearly much more than a way to earn a living. For us, that passion enhanced our trip immeasurably.
As if the natural beauty and wildlife weren’t enough value for our dollar, all eight guests were also treated to hot beverages and warm-from-the-oven muffins on the trip down, and to Maureen’s ‘Kiwi-style Devonshire Tea’ featuring freshly-baked scones and all the fixings on the way home. It was a lovely and most appreciated added touch that enhanced an already-spectacular day. It’s no great surprise that folks who made this trip with David and Maureen many years ago now return with their children and grandchildren to introduce them to the magic that a day on the water with Seasmoke promises. One day we’ll be back there too.
Whale watching in Alert Bay