Monday, September 19, 2011

Whale of a time in the Pacific

After facing the fury of hurricane IRENE on the Atlantic coast, we had moved to the Pacific coast. The flights across the entire breadth of the country had been fantastic and educative as well. But details of that will have to wait for another day.

We were in Canada for the third time in a month. After Ottawa and Montreal, it was Vancouver this time.  At the end of the trip to Vancouver we have formed a firm impression that Vancouver is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities we have seen. Vancouver is bestowed with lots of water, sea and  rivers, lakes, many islands, forests and hills as well. Lots of greenery, fine parks and well maintained coastal area with many bridges across water bodies enhance the beauty of the city. We just loved our stay in Vancouver.

One of the important attractions in Vancouver is Whale watching. Web sites advertising this describe it as an adventure of a life time. Our host was keen that we should go whale watching. We had a bad experience in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar, when we were taken on a marine life watching in glass bottom boats. The hype created was very high but in the end that glass bottomed boat was a fraud and we were left not high and dry, but low and wet. From Port Blair we were taken in medium sized boats carrying about 50 people and from there in the middle of sea waters were asked to move out to smaller boats accommodating about 10 to 12 persons, with small glass bottoms. It was difficult to get down in to these boats and one could sit in them with great difficulty. The marine life showed lasted for two to three minutes and then we were left in an island  with next to nothing. We were not even permitted to waive the trip of getting in to those small boats.  We were  firmly and rudely told that the vessel has to go back to bring other people and as such we had to get in to those glass bottom boats! In this background, we were rather worried. But our inquiries revealed that we would not be required to change boats in the middle of the ocean. Once we saw the boats we were assured that it would be a enjoyable trip.

The boats for whale watch start from a fishing village called Steveston in the Richmond area, about 35 to 40 minutes drive from downtown Vancouver. The Whale watching companies arrange for a pick up from hotels and other designated points in the city. On the morning of the trip we were informed over phone that the pick up coach was full and could not accommodate us. But we were advised to go over to their place in a taxi and the company would pay the taxi fare. It turned out to be a good offer as our group went in the comfort of a taxi without having to wait for the others at pick up points. We enjoyed the drive to Steveston form our hotel in downtown Burrad Street, which is the central street of downtown Vancouver. There were no discussions or bargaining after reaching the company's place and the company's representative paid off the cab driver.

The whale watching visitors have a choice of two types of vessels. The first is a open vessel in which the passengers are seated in rows. Sea water will be splashing on the watchers and hence the company provides waterproof gear to protect them from water splashing. They would be wet when they reach back the shores and generally require to shower and change clothes. The second type of vessels are covered with glass top  in which there is no need for waterproof gear as there is no water splashing. The view offered is the same in both the boats. There is a higher charge for going in glass covered boats due to added comfort. Fun loving youngsters prefer the open boats whereas the elderly would prefer covered boats. The vessels used are first class vessels meeting strict safety standards. The entire trip takes four to five hours and hence the boats are also provided with washroom facilities. Our host had arranged for the trip in glass covered vessel and there was no need for us to use the water proof gear. Expert guides were available on the boats to explain the geographic details of the area, marine life and related issues of interest.

It was drizzling when we started from the hotel in the morning.  As we moved through the fisherman street to board the vessel it started clearing up. We had to perforce go through the fisherman street where we could see, smell and view sale of several varieties of fish, prawn, crab and other marine items.   Business was brisk and fast.  The vessels we were led to were expedition type Zodiacs specifically designed for marine mammals watching and move on the surface of waves and without ploughing or pounding through the sea waters as other ships do. This provides for increased passenger comfort and reducing sea sickness. As the vessel left the shores, sun came out and the weather changed. Once deep in to the sea, Sun started blazing and the overcoats and sweaters had to be removed. The vessel moved from the point of river Frazer joining the Pacific Ocean and sailed through between many islands - Mayne island, Pendar island and Saturna island being the big ones. After entering the Strait of Georgia, the vessel entered the USA waters and moved in the deep pacific. It was interesting to know that one of these islands has a big hotel for tourists and the only way to reach the hotel is through boats. One other island was used as a Jail several decades ago.

The captain piloted the vessel in the Ocean waters for over four hours. We could see Seals, bald headed Eagles and Sea Lions. In one island we could see many deer grazing and moving freely.  We were told that they are able to swim in the shallow waters and move from one island to another island. In a big rock island in the middle of the ocean we could see many big Sea Lions majestically taking sun baths. The Captain kept continuous contact with other vessels in the area by wireless to spot Whales. This reminded me of the efforts to locate Tigers and Lions in the safaris. After four hours he announced that there was no luck in spotting the Whales and he was heading to the shores.We returned to the port at about 4 PM.

The company provides pictures of Whales to children and they are encouraged to paint them and bring with them to collect a gift when they come for whale watching. Beautiful pictures painted by the children were displayed on the walls. There was also a pin up board displaying the messages of children sent to the company giving feedback after trips on the ocean. There were 13 such messages displayed there and all of them mentioned about sighting of Seals, Eagles and Sea Lions. Strangely none of the messages mentioned about sighting of Whales!

Our host was disappointed about our not being able to see Whales. But life does not always move along expected lines. We have to take unlucky misses just as we enjoy lucky unexpected hits. The company claims 90% success rates in its website. The charges for the trip are quite heavy and what happens if Whales are not sighted? No problems. The company's policy is simple - "If you do not see a Whale you can come again for free until you do - for life, no expiry". There was a gentleman from Florida on the trip with us and complained that he has come from far and was disappointed. What about us who went half way across the globe from Bangalore? In fact, it is exactly half way across the globe, the time difference between Bangalore and Vancouver being exactly 12 1/2 hours. We believe in rebirth, but the offer to return for Whale watch is valid for this life only. I asked the company's official about a chance for revisit in the next birth. She was startled but replied firmly that the offer was for life with no expiry date. Probably she did not understand the question. Or she was confused about reference to rebirth - whether my rebirth or hers or that of the Whales!

We could not blame the Whales. We had gone without an appointment. I have now sent an e-mail to and seeking an appointment to see them next year. because it is probably most used world over. because it is the biggest service provider in Canada. I am waiting for a reply and checking my Inbox twice a day.........

Whales or no Whales. We enjoyed our five hours on the Pacific Ocean. The beautiful sea waters which was black,blue and green at different times and different angles. The merriment of the children when the vessel hit the roughs and waves. The excitement of the elderly when they sighted some animal on the sea or islands. The scorching sun or the cool shades when he went behind the clouds occasionally.  The beautiful jelly fish and marine plants. The wonderful islands, small and big. Those herds of deer looking at us majestically from those islands........

We had a whale of a time on the Pacific, of course, without Whale watching.


  1. You have a wonderful attitude and a good sense of humor. So glad you had a 'whale' of a time in spite of there being no whales.

  2. The rebirth comment is hilarious!

  3. You may remember that in 1996 reliance issued 50 years Yankee Bonds for 50 years. It was oversubscribed. I wonder how many investors were confident of redemption at maturity! Ther is no shortage of mad people in this world.

  4. It later became 100 year bond isue. Any invester should be over 120 years to get maturity value. It can be encashed on rebirth only. Then why not watch whales in next life!

  5. I enjoyed reading your non-sighting whale of a time. your subtle sense of humour makes me go back to reading it again. Thank you

  6. Go back as a Sea Lion and you'll find many whales in search of you!!