Our jaunt to East Point
Seeing as we were on the island we thought it rude not to visit the famous ‘East Point’ – famous whale spotting location and historic land mark for what turned out to be the birth place of whale captivity. East point, however, was approximately 20km walk from the Cetus headquarters (!), and, considering we had limited time on this trip (we had a lot to fit in), I was surprised I didn’t find myself clock-watching. Then again, it’s difficult not to be seduced by Saturna’s quiet roads, wild forest, welcoming residents (of whom there are only 350), and of course the One Species family I had as my travel companions.
We had no idea how long the walk would take, neither did we care 🙂
As you walk out from the tree line towards the tip of East Point, all you can see is green and blue, with just a small white stone hut perched on the end. It was a perfect day for wildlife spotting; the ocean was like a mill pond and there was hardly a cloud in the sky!
We spent a few hours soaking in the views and searching for signs of marine life but, unfortunately, we didn’t spot any dorsal fins. Although, I did manage to spend a good half hour sprawled out on the wet rocks watching two wonderfully inquisitive harbour seals playing just a few metres off shore :D. Whales or no whales, East Point delivered.
The return journey back to Cetus base camp went a little like this – scale the cliffs and rocks around the shoreline rather than walk back along the track like normal people (why walk under the cover of trees with the North Pacific Ocean glinting away at you); play in caves, watch swallows feeding their hatchlings, and jump off rocks along the way; trespass through private properties (we genuinely had ‘ignorant’ tattooed across our faces though!); get lost in the woods looking for the road; and then eventually have a tourist take pity on you and give you a ride back to base. A tourist who emptied the boot of his car, put his child in it, then stuffed us all in and his belongings on top 😛
Three Days in a Kayak
I can’t fault a single second of this trip BUT…we really are on to a good bit. The evening before we’d hitched a lift with Cetus to Pender Island – it’s who you know ;). In order to align with our mission we decided to search for the orcas by kayak. Why? Let’s diverge for a second and talk about whale watching!
Whale watching: a whistle stop overview.
- Resident species (e.g. the SRKW) have fairly specific ranges/ routes.
- As a result, whale watching has become concentrated.
One observation in Haro Strait (through which Cetus patrol) revealed 107 boats following the Residents!!
- Many whale watching companies become competitive, hoping to wow the ‘crowds’.
- They often ‘chase’ the whales (which is a breach of the regulations).
In a 2001 study, Lien revealed that, in Canada, BC had the highest number of commercial whale watching companies on the water.
- Concentrated whale watching affects vital life processes.
- Including foraging, feeding, resting, and social behaviours.
- Aside from negatively impacting animal welfare, this threatens their conservation status.
Remember that only 78 SRKW remain as it is!
- Behavioural changes observed at the surface include alterations to speed, direction, breathing rates, and social behaviours (or even cessation).
Enter Straitwatch! If you would like to learn more about Cetus and their Straitwatch monitoring programme, head to my previous post (part II).
Our kayaking guide, Jay, was AMAZING! A fully grown bundle of excitement (so yea…a big kid). He was enthusiastic but professional, and he just felt like one of the group rather than a stuffy, overbearing tour guide. Although, at times, maybe he needed to put this foot down 😉 it took us hours on the first day to pack our things away and get going.
After cramming all our belongings into the kayaks like a game of tetris, and a game of ‘who can make the biggest chump of themselves warming up for a day of paddling’ (thanks Crossfit!), we finally set off to destination #1….back to Saturna for the island’s annual festival (and Canada day celebrations); the Lamb BBQ. Needless to say, we were chomping at the bit by the time we got there!
Paddling through open water and shipping ways is hard! Kailey was my paddling partner and I’m pretty sure I irritated her a few times as I was desperate to catch everything on camera, leaving her to paddle our two-man kayak alone more than once! We navigated our way out of the bay and across the open water to Saturna, keeping our eyes peeled for any movement in the water.
You would have thought we’d have no trouble with direction, considering we’d all kayaked before. But, at regular intervals either Kailey and I were cut off by Jenna and El 😉 or we were headed straight for the cliff. I was sceptical that maintaining a loose grip on the paddle would enable us to move faster, but it turns out I was wrong. Have you given it a go?
Nonetheless, we took on a few rough currents and won – we came out the other end completely soaked of course. By the second day I was wearing waterpoofs from head to toe; despite the blazing sunshine, once you’re wet in a kayak it gets cold – fast! As exciting as traversing open water was, it didn’t compete with the experience of paddling silently alongside the islands’ cliff edges. The rock faces towered way above, as did the trees, and as we looked up we saw mountain goats, turkey vultures, and bald eagles (everywhere, which was something else!). Did you know that bald eagles’ nests can weigh up to 2,000Ibs!? Jay was really clued up on his local wildlife which I, for one, really appreciated.
Eventually, we reached Cabbage Island for the night (as had a hoard of tourists and locals, much to my dismay – their illegal campfires and rubbish music made for a pretty crap night’s sleep!). Sod’s law that we would choose Canada Day to camp there 😛
Watch out for part IV of our trip for more kayaking, One Species photoshoots, whale spotting, and another ambassador meet up.