Our trip to Canada was always going to end on Vancouver Island, with the promise of Orcas and time on the wild west coast of the island. Driving from Prince Rupert is a feasible, if incredibly long winded way of doing the journey, and would mean retracing some of our steps. Luckily there is an alternative and that is the ferry which runs every 2nd day between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy via what is known as the Inside Passage.
It’s a long trip, over 500 km, departing at 0730 am and not arriving until just before midnight but the ship passes through some stunning coastal scenery and allows the opportunity to view some wildlife on the way. As we left the terminal at Prince Rupert note the huge goods train setting off across Canada from the container port.
The early morning was very misty
But the sun came out and we were treated to a whole day of scenery
Staffing is clearly a problem for the ferry company as the restaurant was closed and the gift shop and cafe had to run shifts in order to provide any sort of service.
Wildlife watching was challenging, even in ideal conditions, as sightings were few and far between. As the afternoon progressed things improved, with a number of dolphin and whale sightings with a couple of orcas and some other unidentified whales. The ferry stops at the town of Bella Bella where the harbour was full of Sockeye salmon waiting to continue upstream to spawn. Another interesting sighting was of a Marbled Murrelet, a seabird which nests in old-growth forests and so which is vulnerable to the extensive logging occurring in BC. A quick overnight stop in an unremarkable motel was only improved by a catch up with Tali, so it was 2am before bed called.
The following morning we drove to Telegraph Cove, a delightful hamlet where one of the many whale-watching companies are based. The whole place is a historical site with interesting information boards, explaining why the houses were on stilts. More interesting though was the young black bear that was rummaging under the houses, unperturbed by the humans clicking away on their cameras. The sea between the mainland and Vancouver Island is a prime whale-watching site, with an emphasis on orcas and humpbacks
The scenery, combined with the shifting fog banks, was stunning
Our first sighting was a colony of sea lions
Then a large pod of white-sided dolphins
And then some quite distant views of Humpback Whales
Sadly, no orcas were to be found.
The next day we took the winding road through the mountains to the trendy pacific resort of Ucluelet on the west coast of the island. Our destination, the Black Rock resort, initially booked 3 years ago and famed for having rooms looking directly onto the Pacific Rim, lived up to expectations.
Ucluelet is located at one end of the Pacific Rim National Park reserve, an area of old-growth temperate rain forest and rich oceans. To access these there are a number of trails leading along the stunning coastline
It was time for yet another whale-watching tour, one which started off very badly as we were enveloped by a bank of fog which persisted on and off for a couple of hours. The route was through an area of islands called the Broken Group Islands. We passed through a small flock of interesting birds with the best name of any Canadian bird so far, the Rhinoceros Auklet
Finally, our luck changed and a humpback put on a bit of a show
The highlight of the trip was actually seeing a sea otter on the way back to base. These were extinct until the 1970s following over-hunting and were reintroduced in order to try and reduce spiny starfish populations which were decimating the kelp beds so important to the biodiversity of the area.
Good food and fabulous scenery made the journey to catch the ferry to Vancouver not so daunting. Our trip across Canada was almost at an end.