The Highlights of Late Summer
off Northern Vancouver Island

Orcas surfacing. PhotoL Vdeeke
"The world feels very strange for most of us as we adjust to a new normal with altered routines and a different way of living.  So it’s reassuring to know that some traditions continue to the beat of more ancient, natural rhythms.

Northern resdient orcas socializing. Photo: Rob LottLate summer off Northern Vancouver Island can be a truly magical time to visit. These world famous sheltered, emerald waters provide a unique opportunity to witness charismatic megafauna such as the orcas, humpbacks, dolphins and bears who call this region home. Northern Resident orcas have been here since early summer, timing their arrival with the migration of the largest of the Pacific salmon species – the fat, energy-rich Chinook. But their presence here is not just about finding prey, it’s an opportunity for the matriarchal pods to come together to socialize, rest and play. 

Breaching Humpback whale. Photo: G MacHutchonIn these same cool Pacific waters, humpback whales continue to forage through Blackney Pass and the familiar fins and distinctive tails (of regulars such as Guardian, Argonaut and Inukshuk) allow researchers to painstakingly piece together the jigsaw puzzle of their lives. As familiar as these individuals are to the people who study them, many aspects of a humpback whale’s life remain a mystery. We still don’t really know for sure how these leviathans find their food or what the significance is of the haunting song humpbacks are famed for. These whales aren’t bothered that these questions still elude us and they will soon head for warmer waters and start their migration to Mexico and Hawaii where they wisely spend their winters. 

From mid-September, the mighty Steller sea lions begin their haul-out on some prime ‘waterfront’ real estate on the shores of Hanson Island - a stunning ‘island in the stream’ nestled between Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound. This noisy autumnal congregation is here to fish, socialize and generally chill out. As the days grow shorter, grizzly bears become more concentrated in the creeks and estuaries, and pods of Pacific white-sided dolphins now stretch into the many hundreds. Soon, the outrageously beautiful Harlequin ducks will start to gather along the rocky shores for winter.

Grizzly bear mum and her 3 cubs of the year. Photo: D Boyle

As you step out onto the Island Odyssey's foredeck of  in the morning, look up at the wisps of clouds clinging to the treetops of the steep, deeply forested islands and you’ll be aware of a subtle change in the wind direction. Things feel fresher as the seasons transition."

Written by Bluewater Adventures naturalist Rob Lott: Whale and Dolphin Conservation

Inquire here  for opportunities to explore Northern Vancouver Island.

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