Pre Semester Trip: Vancouver Island and Victoria

Before the excitement of university and glorious hours of fun in the library started I decided upon a trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island.

I was visiting Rachel, a friend who was studying in Glasgow last year on exchange and was a great opportunity to visit other places in British Columbia since I would be based in Vancouver. When I think of an island I usually picture the islands off the coast of Scotland. Small, remote and wild. Vancouver island definitely is not small. Nothing in Canada is. Distances here are mind blowing and I often find myself looking at a map to plan a weekend trip to only then realise the driving involved will take me the full weekend alone. Vancouver Island is so massive that it is rivalling the size of the Scottish mainland and hosts it’s own cities.

So after another long but much more pleasant journey on a ferry (if you are lucky you can spot humpback whales and Orca’s) I arrived in Victoria! My friend picked me up in an old North American Chevrolet from a Dairy Queen I had ended up inside after losing my way.

Me: ‘I’m in a little cafe, it’s called Dairy Queen, do you know it?’
Rachel: ‘John Dairy Queen is a huge franchise, there are probably 10 in Victoria alone…’

She eventually worked out where I ended up. It was fantastic to see a friend after such a long time and was a great introduction to Canadian hospitality whilst staying in her apartment in Downtown Victoria. Her apartment faced onto a Medical Marijuana Dispensary… Yup

.

These shop are everywhere to help with health problems people are facing. Very serious health problems. Very very bad health problems that are life threatening like having a sore elbow last week. I personally don’t have a problem with it as it cuts out a huge amount of crime related to Cannabis and I can imagine many western societies adopting this in years to come.

Don’t do drugs.

Victoria itself is a beautiful city in equally beautiful surroundings. Strangely they have London buses driving around the waterfront area as the city is supposed to resemble a slice of the UK. It doesn’t. The harbour area offers spectacular vistas across into the U.S. and Olympic National Park where the mountains soar up from the coastline. There are also museums, whale watching tours, sea plane tours, boat houses selling fresh ice cream, deli’s, restaurants and outdoor bars with local craft beer on tap. Exactly the place I wanted to chill after travelling.

Harbour Taxi

Harbour Taxi

Waterfront hotel covered in Ivy

Waterfront hotel covered in Ivy

The highlight of my trip in Victoria was whale watching. Many operator’s have a guarantee whale sighting policy or ride again for free. I managed to see 20 or so Orca’s hunting together on salmon, sometimes only 20 metres away from our small speed boat an occasionally breaching the water.

Orca's hunting for Salmon between Vancouver Island and the U.S.

Orca’s hunting for Salmon between Vancouver Island and the U.S.

Afterwards we caught a glimpse of a colony of Sea-lions sunbathing in the midday heat. I had my heart set on seeing a Humpback Whale although our tour operator said that it was unlikely that we would see one of that day. However whilst speeding back to the harbour, from 15 metres to the right of our boat… THERE SHE BLOWS! A humpback surfaced for air!

DSC02575

Humpback Whale surfacing for air

Our engine immediately turned off we sat watching a listening to the whale for several minutes before it dived back down to feed on krill and herring. Never have I been so taken back by another animal in my life. I will not give the experience any justice by describing it to you. I guess you have to apply to study in Vancouver to experience it for yourself… and no Seaworld is not the same.

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