Are you a holder of the International Student Identity Card (ISIC)? Our ISIC Manager, Ashley, visited one of our new discount providers in Victoria and went on the boat ride of a lifetime with SpringTide Whale Tours & Charters.
Victoria, British Columbia – a microcosm of a city made up of West Coast charm, a beautiful inner harbour, and a climate that is even milder than Vancouver’s (I’ve been told many times that it never snows there). Even in winter the weather is beautiful and spring-like, allowing visitors to shed their winter coats and enjoy the city in outerwear suitable for spring temperatures.
During a trip to Vancouver this past February, I took a quick break from the bustle of the big city to visit Victoria and to meet one of our new ISIC Partners, SpringTide Whale Tours & Charters. Although it was off-season for whales, I was going to be joining SpringTide for a wildlife tour and to take in Victoria and its surroundings from the water.
From downtown Vancouver I hopped on the SkyTrain, transferred to a public bus, and made my way to the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen. The ferry ride is an experience in itself as you get to sail across the Strait of Georgia and take in the sights of the Gulf Islands along the way.
I had heard from various people that it’s possible to spot resident whales from aboard the ferry. Lo’ and behold, within the first thirty minutes of being on board our Captain took over the intercom to announce that there was a pair of orcas trailing behind the ferry on the starboard side. They were keeping some distance between us and them, but you could still see the two dorsal fins breaking the water. Having never seen whales before, either in the wild or captivity, it was definitely a moment to savour.
The next day I made my way over to SpringTide’s office, conveniently located across the street from Victoria’s Inner Harbour. The other passengers and I were warmly welcomed by the staff and were given a brief introduction to what the day had in store for us. Once we were all checked-in, the group made its way over to the docks to get suited up and to disembark.
SpringTide has two options of vessel types for their Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours – a luxury yacht available in high season, for those who want to sail in absolute comfort; or a fleet of Zodiacs for the adventurous type that is available year-round. As we were there in the off-season we were all booked on an orange and black Zodiac for the day. What better way to see the coast than by speedboat, let alone one named Fastide?
SpringTide equips each Zodiac passenger with a full-body floatation suit, a hat and mitts. You may feel like a kid in a one-piece snowsuit when you have it on, but it’s a lifesaver once you’re out on the open water with the salt water mist and strong winds produced by the boat’s speed.
Leaving Victoria’s Inner Harbour behind, our packed vessel made its way out onto the Georgia Strait and into open waters. We cruised by a small island where we saw a bald eagle; we discovered a herd of seals basking on the rocks and playing amongst the kelp; and we were even taken by Spieden Island, a privately owned island belonging to American territory with a colourful history.
It’s only inhabitants are its animal population, made up largely of exotic animals brought to the island in the 1970s by none other than John Wayne, the island’s former owner. With the intention of it being a gaming reserve, Wayne imported Mouflon sheep from Corsica, fallow deer from Europe and Sika deer from Asia. The actual act of gaming on the island was quickly shut down for fear of stray bullets making their way across the water to the surrounding islands. However, the animals remained and have made Spieden their home ever since. It was quite surreal to approach the island and see herds of sheep and deer mingling together on its grassy hills. We even spotted a lone big-horned male on the beach, making his way up from the water’s edge. It was definitely something I wasn’t expecting to witness on the tour.
After a few hours on the water we made our way back to Victoria. The waves were high and the ride was exhilarating. The best way to explain the feeling you get from being on a Zodiac at high-speed is to compare it to a mixture of riding a rollercoaster and a mechanical bull. You definitely get a leg work-out from those waves!
Once we were back on solid ground, a few of us decided to grab a much-needed pint and look for a place to dry off. We made our way to Darcy’s Pub, located right beside SpringTide’s office, and while we shared stories about the boat ride and let our adrenaline levels come back down to normal, we enjoyed the scene of Victoria’s Inner Harbour as our backdrop.
Are you an ISIC holder? Planning on visiting Victoria this year? Book a Whale Watching or Wildlife Tour with your ISIC at SpringTide Whale Tours & Charters and save $20! The whales are making their way back for the season, so don’t miss your chance to see these spectacular animals up close!
Not a holder of the International Student Identity Card (ISIC)? Click here to find out how you can apply.