Telegraph Cove, Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Many whales, no orcas

For breakfast we get freshly home-baked whole grain bread. Scrumptious! Then we hurry to Telegraph Cove in the north of the island where we have to be at lunchtime. We’ve booked a whale watching tour there. An experienced captain and a naturalist guide the trip. It is a sunny day with patches of fog. The islands are enchanting, but inaccessible. Steep cliffs surround the wooded islands, just a few beaches invite to land. Small corpulent seals sunbathe at shallower rocky coasts, or they swim around eagerly, raise their round head off the water, peek with their black button-eyes from the water and glance around curiously. The steeper parts are occupied by sea lions that can climb better thanks to their larger front fins. We are watching a colony of males that is pretty loud and odour-intense. The smaller younger males who don’t have a chance yet to conquer a female harem don’t even swim to the northern mating areas where they would only be chased away. The ton-heavy pashas with nice rolls of fat reside in the upper circles. They already returned from the mating areas, the females with the calves will follow soon.

We are very lucky today with the humpback whales. We see many of them. Spout, back fin, back fin, back fin, tail fin, gone. See you next time. The naturalist can identify all of them on the basis of the individual marks on their tail fins. Sometimes we know exactly where the next whale will ascend. Waterfowls developed their own fishing techniques. When discovering a shoal of fish like herring, the swimming birds like seagulls pounce on the prey from above, during diving birds like cormorants attack from underneath. The swarm of fishes is caught between two layers of birds. Then the whale comes, opens its mouth and clears everything. This announces itself with the swimming birds’ taking off. Then we know in a few seconds the whale will surface to breathe. The whale has to take care that it does not accidentally get a diving bird in its mouth. Its palate is just as wide as a hand. Since it couldn’t swallow the bird it would have to set the whole load of fish free. A couple of dolphins ride on our bow wave, and we watch one couple of white-headed bald eagles that stay together lifelong and eye us up sceptically to angrily. Bald eagles are good swimmers; even their technique wouldn’t win a prize in free section. If they grab a fish under the surface that’s too heavy to take off with it, but they don’t want to let it go, they paddle with their wings in the water and drag the fish in their claws behind them. They pull it to the shore or on a stone where they dissect it.

We are so lucky with the whales today, but the orcas don’t show up. Well, there is another point left on our wish list for South America.

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