Title graphic Vancouver webpage
Harbour seals
Whales & dolphins
Brown bears
Other furry critters
Forests & mountains
Cities
In September 2012 I travelled to Vancouver Island, British Columbia - famous for its marine and coastal mammals - to look for whales and bears. Unfortunately I had focussing problems with my SLR camera and also some of the animals were more distant, so I didn't get masses of good photos but here are a few that are decent enough to share (some taken on my trusty compact camera and a waterproof disposable!).
Harbour seals
Our first close encounter with wildlife was snorkelling next to a harbour seal haul-out near Nanaimo. It was great to be able to swim right up to the adult seals, which were not at all concerned by our presence and let me take some photos (with my disposable camera - use in water isn't why the focussing on my SLR failed!). I was also lucky enough to be joined in the water by a pup which hung around in front of me, mouthing a piece of seaweed and weighing me up before deciding I was too clumsy to be much company or good for a game. Unfortunately the water wasn't clear enough for any photos of the pup, but it was a great experience.
On our return to 
Nanaimo harbour, we also got an unexpected treat - a whole family of North American river otters mooching around the jetties looking for fish scraps (no photos of the otters either!).
Harbour seal
Harbour seal Harbour seal
Harbour seal
We also saw harbour seals hauled out on the rocks when we were out whale- and bear-watching. This group was near Tofino.
Harbour seals

Whales and dolphins
The first of two boat trips we went on from Tofino was mostly to look for black bears but, as we returned to harbour, a pair of orcas came cruising through - the photo below is the male.

The next day we headed further out to sea and found a group of three grey whales. There was quite a swell on the ocean, but I managed to snap a nice tail fluke (below right).
Orca Grey whale tail fluke
On another boat trip along Johnstone Strait, we saw some more distant orcas and we were also joined twice by a large group of Pacific white-sided dolphins. This is a particularly energetic species of dolphin which loves to join boats to ride in the wake and the bow wave.
Pacific white-sided dolphins
Pacific white-sided dolphins

Brown bears
To see brown bears or 'grizzlies', we had to make a long boat trip back to mainland British Columbia (there are no brown bears on Vancouver Island), and head for Orford River where the bears sometimes feed on salmon. We were lucky to arrive when a mother grizzly and her cub were foraging in the shallow river, and we watched them for a while before they disappeared into the forest to sleep off their fish dinner.
Brown bear mother & cub
Brown bear mother & cub
Brown bear mother & cub
Brown bear mother & cub
Brown bear mother & cub

Other furry critters
We saw several black bears foraging on the shore on our first boat trip from Tofino but they were quite far away, and it wasn't until our second trip that we encountered this bear close enough for my poorly camera to (almost) focus on. The bears are often accompanied by crows and other birds, looking for leftover scraps.

Squirrels were as reliable as ever - on Vancouver Island we saw North American red squirrels (first photo below), whereas in Vancouver city's Stanley Park the native species is the pine squirrel or Douglas's squirrel (second photo). The North American grey squirrel has also been introduced to Stanley Park, but doesn't seem to have impacted upon the native species so far.

Common raccoons are also found in Stanley Park. They use the drainage pipes that run to the lakes as an underground highway, and I spotted a mother and three kits emerging from a pipe onto the edge of the 'Lost Lagoon'.
Black bear
North American red squirrel
Pine squirrel
Common raccoons
Common raccoon
Forests and mountains
It's difficult to do justice to the forests and mountains of British Columbia without a wide-angle lens, but here are a few photos - and look at those blue skies! 
Maple tree, Cathedral Grove
The obligatory maple tree, Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island
Fallen trees, Cathedral Grove
Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island
Orford River
Orford River
Bute Inlet
Bute Inlet
Kayaking off Quadra Island
Kayaking off Quadra Island
Johnstone Strait
Johnstone Strait
Sunset over Strait of Georgia
Sunset over the Strait of Georgia

Cities
I'm not really a city person, especially on holiday, so not many photos here!
When we had free time in Vancouver I headed straight for Stanley Park
- 1000 acres of huge cedar, hemlock and fir trees with 120 miles of trails. Starting from this fantastic 'Lego' orca at the Convention Centre, you can walk along the Vancouver Harbour waterfront all the way to the Park (seen at the middle right of the picture below).

We also paid a brief visit to Victoria city on Vancouver Island and orcas were everywhere there too, like the topiary mother and calf below.
Lego orca, Vancouver Convention Centre
Vancouver harbour waterfront
Topiary orcas, Victoria city
Website created by Gill Sinclair www.gillsinclair.net
All images on this page © Gill Sinclair 2012.
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Last updated 15 December 2012