A humpback makes an appearance near Cortes Island during a whale watching tour with Aboriginal Journeys June 18, 2021. Photo by Terry Farrell

A humpback makes an appearance near Cortes Island during a whale watching tour with Aboriginal Journeys June 18, 2021. Photo by Terry Farrell

PHOTOS: Humpbacks put on a show for visitors to Vancouver Island

Whale watching tour leaves participants in awe

(Editor’s note: Photos were taken from several hundred metres away, using a zoom lens.)

Mary-Noreen and Paul Hyland weren’t sure what to expect when they climbed aboard Garry Henkel’s Aboriginal Journeys vessel for a whale watching tour.

The couple from Calgary knew at worst, it would be a beautiful scenic day on the ocean. At best, it would be a spectacular showing of wildlife in its natural setting.

It turned out to be the latter.

READ MORE: Whale Trail helps a Prairie girl spot whales from shore

Henkel does not guarantee whale sightings on his tours, but if there are any to be seen, he’s among the best at finding them.

With over 40 years’ experience working and travelling on the waters of the Salish Sea, he is as good as it gets.

The tours themselves are a spectacle. Henkel’s informative story-telling of his lifetime on the water adds to the experience.

Another humpback ‘going down.’ Photo by Terry Farrell

Another humpback ‘going down.’ Photo by Terry Farrell

The Hylands joined relatives from Courtenay, and another family from Comox, with relatives from Kelowna and Timmins, Ont. for an excursion none of them will forget any time soon.

Henkel loaded the party of nine onto his boat in Campbell River for an afternoon tour on June 18, and nature did the rest.

After a quick stop at Mitlenatch Island to see a massive herd of sea lions, it was on to the back end of Quadra Island, towards Read and Cortes islands.

A large sea lion is surrounded by a herd on Mitlenatch Island. Photo by Terry Farrell

A large sea lion is surrounded by a herd on Mitlenatch Island. Photo by Terry Farrell

It wasn’t long before the humpbacks made an appearance.

First, a group of three. Then, another couple. From there, a solo humpback offered multiple breaches while playing in an area by itself.

Blows were spotted in nearly every direction.

Henkel estimated there were 12 different humpbacks spotted on the four-hour tour.

It left the Hylands in awe.

One final big splash before his show ends. Photo by Terry Farrell

One final big splash before his show ends. Photo by Terry Farrell

“The whole experience, from start to finish was more than we could have hoped for,” said Mary-Noreen.

“Our guide Garry was extremely knowledgeable, friendly and animated. I was impressed by the collaborative way he and the other whale guides were constantly sharing information about sightings.

“We saw an abundance of sea lions, and had so many more humpback sightings than expected… but the real treat was seeing the humpbacks breaching.

“A trip to remember for years to come!”

Henkel smiled and humbly shrugged his shoulders at the end of the day.

“Today was a good day,” he said, as the tour ended.

A humpback whale splashes around as a sailboat floats by. Photo by Terry Farrell

A humpback whale splashes around as a sailboat floats by. Photo by Terry Farrell

READ MORE: Royal BC Museum exhibit dives into the world of orcas

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The tail flip tells us this humpback is going for a dive. Photo by Terry Farrell

The tail flip tells us this humpback is going for a dive. Photo by Terry Farrell

Even when the whales and other wildlife weren’t visible, the scenery was spectacular. Photo by Terry Farrell

Even when the whales and other wildlife weren’t visible, the scenery was spectacular. Photo by Terry Farrell