Joining an orca watching tour in Victoria harbour on the southern tip of Vancouver Island is much easier than up island but the experience may be far less rewarding. With luck you may see a few orcas but chances are you'll only encounter seals and sea lions or a few small pods of porpoises or the occasional minke or Gray whale. With a company like Seacoast Expeditions from May 15 to September 15 it is possible to participate in a Guaranteed Killer Whale Sighting program. For an extra $5 participants who are available for more than one day are alerted when contact with orcas has been made. They must then scramble down to the dock to meet their tour boat and are then whisked off to sea. Chances are you'll then see a transient or two but not large feeding pods as on the north island tours.

If seeing orcas is your main objective, go north. If however you look on the tours out of Victoria as just an adventure and seeing orcas as a bonus then these tours are great value for the money [See below.] You'll be screaming over the ocean on small, open but very sea-worthy seven metre zodiacs with just 11 other passengers. In two or three hours you'll see excellent examples of west coast scenery, spot seals, sea lions and proud bald eagles. Dolphins and porpoises are likely to be encountered, minke and Gray whales are a possibility and orcas, well, they're a bonus.

The End


Salal

Salal

Though not a popular trail-side snack in modern times, salal berries are not only edible, they are quite tasty. Perhaps the "hairiness" of the berries or the grainy texture imparted by their many, tiny seeds is a turnoff to jaded modern palettes. Being plentiful throughout the coast, salal berries were an important component of pre-European diets hereabouts. Aboriginal groups generally consumed salal berries directly from the bush or processed them into a kind of fruit leather for storage. These cakes were then reconstituted with water and served mixed with the omnipresent oolichan grease. An acquired taste, no doubt. The deep purple colouring of the berries found use in dying baskets. Salal berries are presently used primarily in jams and pies. The bright, leathery foliage is commercially harvested for use in floral displays world-wide.

Illustration by Manami Kimura