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Breaching Humpback "Cirque"

Whale Watching with Wild Waterways Adventures in Campbell River

I have not mentioned it before, but we relocated from White Rock to Courtenay on Vancouver Island, and we have never been so happy about such a big decision. Of the many things we experience living here, one of them has been the various marine animal sightings and seeing these marine animals just off the shoreline that are easily accessible here. But I wanted a closer encounter. I wanted to be able to photograph the various whales that visit the Salish Sea yearly. This is where Wild Waterways Adventures comes into the picture and their whale watching tours.

I forget how I first learned about Wild Waterways Adventures, but it was probably through Instagram. My first trip with Jen (the owner) was on her Biggs Orca & Salish Sea Herring tour. During the herring spawning season in late February, Jen operates out of the Comox Marina, as the herring typically spawns around Hornby and Denman Islands.

Fast forward to Father’s Day (2023), and I booked a ride with Wild Waterways Adventures on their Into the Wild 4-hour tour. The tour ended up being closer to 6 hours because we managed to run into T019C “Galiano” and his pod. We started the day heading across the southern end of Quadra, and northwest along Cortes, eventually settling just off of Jimmy Judd island to watch the “Eagle Show” at the tidal rapids.

After the “Eagle Show” we had lunch at Stuart Island, and as we were about to leave, we heard there were Orca in the area. We could see them from the dock as we returned to the boat. We spent a couple of hours slowly moving south with TC019C “Galiano” and the pod he was with.

My most recent trip was July 16th and was more of a private charter for a bunch of whale enthusiast photographers. We headed north out of Campbell River with Reuben at the helm. He took us along the western shore of Quadra, then east between East Thurlow and Sonora. We saw a humpback with a calf slowly swimming northwards. We swung around the northern tip of Sonora Island, where we came upon a pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins.

The dolphins circled the boat, and we eventually decided to leave them to ensure we got to the tidal rapids in time for the “Eagle Show”.

Reuben suggested we check out a shoreline where he saw bears earlier that week, so we headed off into Bute Inlet, where the water colour changed to a glacier green. We did not find any bears and it was time to head to Stuart Island for lunch. The tidal rapids were slowly beginning as we zoomed across the Arran Rapids (apparently the second-largest tidal rapids in the world). After quick lunch (homemade sandwiches and Jen’s delicious cookies) it was time to get back into the boat and experience the “Eagle Show” again.

This is a highlight for me, and I would go back again and again just to watch the Eagles swoop in and pick off Hake from the water. Watching the tidal rapids in action is also a cool experience. The varying-sized whirlpools area created as the tide rushes between Jimmy Judd and Stuart is mindblowing. Though the “Eagle Show” is time-limited, as eventually the Eagles become full and fly off to wherever Eagles might fly off to, the tidal rapids also start to calm down.

We were not done yet, though. It was time to check out an area where Humpbacks were reported to be in the area of. We found them too. We think there were about 6 of them in Frances Bay.

After being approached closely by one Humpback, we decided to check out another nearby area where some bears were recently seen at Quatam Bay. No bears, so it was time to head back home.

On our way home, we saw a magnificent sight, a breaching Humpback. It was nice enough to breach for us repeatedly before continuing on its way south.

An amazing way to end a great tour out on the water. Being able to watch a Humpback breach but breach multiple times repeatedly was a great experience. Later I got in touch with Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) and learned the ID of the breaching Humpback was “Cirque” (BCY1059), a Female. Now to go ID all the other Humpbacks, we saw that day!

I highly recommend checking out the various tours Jen and Wild Waterways Adventures offer. Great for photographers and non-photographers alike, you won’t be disappointed!

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