main thing that attracted me to go to Vancouver Island
was the fact that it was a great place from which
to view Orca whales. And what better way to see them
than to take one of the many Zodiac tours that leave
from the harbour area in the city of Victoria. Well
I could think of a better way, but that would involve
a yacht, a bottle of Champagne and bowl of Caviar,
and a lot more money than my meagre budget would allow.
So I took the cheaper option and paid $45, after which
I was forced to put on a horrible bright red waterproof
bodysuit. But first I had to read and sign a liability
waiver form that basically covered everything from
getting salt water in your eyes to falling out of
the boat and getting spliced up by the propellers.
At first view the form could quite easily scare the
hell out of you, but it's just designed to cover the
company from being sued if anything goes wrong. I'm
always impressed by these forms because they seem
to cover accidents that I would never dream of happening.
It's almost as if they have brought in the script
writers from the Friday the 13th movies to think them
up. As I sat there reading through this form, the
previous group returned from their trip completely
soaked, with stories of how rough it had been out
there. It seemed that these horrible red suits weren't
so waterproof after all.
Zodiac was possibly the most intense boat ride I had
ever been on. Once we cleared the harbour area, the
driver let rip and we skimmed along the ocean surface
at speeds nearing 40 mph. I clung to the bar in front
for dear life as the cold wind whipped my face. The
sea had obviously calmed down a bit since the last
group went out and we got away with being splashed
for quite a while. That is until the driver took his
eyes off for a moment to check his position. The boat
went down into the trough of a large wave, resulting
in the rest of it flying all over us. He was alright
because he was at the back. But we got soaked. None
of us cared though. In fact we quite enjoyed it and
wanted him to do it again.
the San Juan Islands of the USA we spotted a pod of
about fifty whales. We were just below the US border,
and I hadn't brought my passport! I suspected that
the actual border was the point where we got splashed
by the wave. It was just the sort of welcome I would
have expected from the US immigration. The driver
said that two people could come to the back for a
better view. I was there. It was much better because
I was higher up and got an all round view. You need
eyes in the back of your head to spot the whales because
they pop up everywhere. The driver certainly had his
work cut out trying to predict where they would go
next. At one point he predicted very well and one
breached right off the side of the boat. It was magnificent.
I attempted to take some pictures, but it was too
difficult due to the motion of the boat and my camera
lens kept getting splashed. The other problem was
that I had to make sure I didn't fall off in the process.
I managed to hook my arm through a bar by the driver's
section, leaving my hands relatively free for using
the camera. But in the end I gave up, as you need
lightening reflexes to catch them in action. They
were crafty these whales, and led us into a very rough
section of water, making it difficult for the guy
to manoeuvre the boat to get to them. He said that
the whales were used to the boats and that he was
sure they played games like this with them.
had a good hour and a half out there before starting
back. The driver pulled down two flip-up seats either
side of him and allowed me and another the privilege
of riding at the back. This was the best position
to be in, as you felt the full force of the speed
we travelled at. As we sped across the waves, the
map that was fixed to the driver's panel became dislodged
and flew into the water. With lightening response
he slammed on the brakes, pulled the boat into a high-speed
U-turn and zoomed back, coming to rest right next
to the floating map. He then leapt to the front of
the boat and retrieved it. As he described: "That
was a very well executed man overboard drill!"
I couldn't argue with that. If it had been one of
us, then we would have been plucked out in no time.
I was impressed. In fact, I wanted him to do it again.
But by the look on the faces of some of the older
people, I didn't think it would be such a good idea.
I suspected that some might be in need of an underwear
change upon return.