Whale watching with First Nation guides in Victoria, BC, Canada

A childhood dream that many share is the chance to see one of the largest mammals to inhabit our Earth in the wild: the whale. In the search for seeing whales in their natural habitat, I travelled to the beautiful seaside town of Victoria, British Columbia.

Located on the southern side of Vancouver Island, Victoria is known for its green wilderness and calm oceans, as well as its British heritage. From the Victorian style buildings to the formal English gardens, afternoon teas and (more blatantly) double-decker buses and horse-drawn carriages, its British history is still vibrant today.

If you’re staying in Vancouver, it only takes a ferry ride or quick single-otter flight to arrive on Vancouver Island in or near Victoria. As my trip to BC started in Vancouver, we left early in the morning, drove to Tsawwassen and parked our car on a large ferry for a relaxing ride across the sea. Arriving on the island in the afternoon allowed us to spend the day visiting Butchart Gardens – a stunning floral display on 55 acres of land – on our way to Victoria before checking into our hotel for some much needed sleep.

Early the next morning I found myself standing on the dock of Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf, coffee in hand, to meet Captain Brett Soberg of Eagle Wing Whale & Wildlife Tours. Brett introduced our small group to Elder Joan Morris “Sellemah” and Garry Sam of the Songhees Nation, as well as Mark Salter who works to educate the public about the nation.

The Songhees Nation (from the Lekwungen Nation) have been a coastal tribe for many years, pre-dating European expansion which unfortunately directly caused the population to dwindle from a healthy 8,500 people in 1859 to only 200 by 1914.

As the Songhees Nation are traditionally story tellers with a strong oral history, our First Nation guides for the day took us out onto the open ocean and told us stories of their nation, of the sea and of the land.

The entire experience was so moving and emotional for me – that I will never forget it. From the calm ocean, to the stories told by Elder Joan Morris, to the moment Garry began to sing the warriors song.

The sun peaked through the clouds at just the right time, and I saw what I had come to see: humpback whales. Many other sea mammals were spotted along the way, all living peacefully together around Vancouver Island.

For more information on the Songhees Nation whale watching trips and dates, visit Eagle Wing Tours: Songhees First Nation.

For more information about the First Nation tribes in British Columbia while you are in Victoria, please visit the Royal British Columbia Museum.

All photos by me, Ashley Grantham. Find more of my photography at www.flickr.com/itsashsmith & www.instagram.com/ash.grantham.outofherbox.

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