We set out mid-afternoon aboard the Barkley Princess on a Wildlife and Whale Watching cruise through Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands. Although the sky was grey, the weather was favourable and the swells were minimal. We saw a lot of different marine life on this trip including sea lions, a Gray whale, harbour seals, and a bald eagle. In this Dock Talk I’m going to tell you about the sea lions.
We moved out of Ucluelet's Inner Boat Basin and into the harbour. I loved seeing the village of Ucluelet from the water, gaining a new perspective on this quaint seaside fishing village. Our guide explained the workings of Ucluelet’s busy harbour as we passed dock after dock, massive steel commercial fishing boats, and working fish plants.
It was on the dock of one of the fish plants that we caught a glimpse of our first sea lions, but it definitely wasn’t the last we’d see of them. These California sea lions were sun bathing on the dock, some barking savagely and diving into the water searching for any fish that might have dropped during the latest commercial fishing boat unloaded.
Our first stop outside of the Ucluelet Harbour was Sea Lion Rock. It obviously got that name for being a popular place for both California and Stellar sea lions.
The rock was completely covered in them! California sea lions are the type you typically see at zoos or aquariums. They look like larger seals with smooth dark grey or brown skin, longer noses and an obvious playfulness. The California sea lions at this rock were flipping around in the water, diving in and waving their fins out of the water. Our guide told us that they often float with their fins out of the water to help keep them warm as the air temperature is often warmer than the water temperature.
Stellar sea lions are often larger than California sea lions. They are lighter in colour, sort of a fuzzy tan-brown with shorter more dog-like snouts and noses. The enormous males were spread out on the rock like a mass of furry fat, occasionally lifting up its upper body, throwing its head in the air and letting out a massive roar! Males are known to establish their territory and on a rock with so many sea lions on it, I can see that being a difficult task!
Our tour took us through the Broken Group Islands, a group of over 100 islands and inlets that are a part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. On our way there we saw a distant Gray whale spouting out of its blow hole and showing off its tail as it dove into the water. In the islands we saw a giant bald eagle’s nest and watched its resident eagle circle the boat, high in the air.
As we returned to the Canadian Princess docks we passed the first sea lions at the fish plant. A California sea lion raised its head into the air and started barking. Maybe he was welcoming us home?
Smooth sailing everyone!