Expedition Notes: Gulf Islands Autumn aboard Maple Leaf, October 22-27, 2019

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Maple Leaf has now started her winter maintenance program, but not before finishing her season with a short and sweet trip in the abundant Gulf Islands. Expedition notes by naturalist Matt Burnaby. Photos by mate, Grace Gladstone.

We are greeted every day by exceptional wildlife sightings each day at sea and while exploring the historic and ecologic reserves of the Southern Gulf Islands. Not to mention an incredible sampling of all of BCs weather, as if the four seasons had decided to introduce our visitors with their own personal touch on each moment of our experience. We set sail in glassy water and the warmth of the sun pushing through the brisk fall air. Seals and seabirds breaking the surface tension and leaving swirling trails for us to follow as we cruise by in our Zodiac en route to the beach. Exploring beaches, islets, kelp beds and forests we learn about the ancient history of our First Nations people and the animals they share their home with. Old douglas firs stand stoically above us while fiery red arbutus twist and dance their way into the sun. Sitting quietly overlooking the water and contemplating the beauty of nature while listening to the cries of Eagles and disgruntled squawks of Herons passing by.
At the end of each day we set anchor, we are overawed by the crimson gold sunsets seemingly changing hues every few minutes. Only to be lured into the dining room by sweet and savoury aromas rising from the galley. The following morning we explored a Steller sea lion haulout and we were certainly greeted by less savoury aromas while we watched these noisy beasts full of character and expression. They certainly seemed to show equal interest in us as they followed our zodiac around the reef. Afterwards, we found ourselves in the abandoned, overgrown orchards of Tumbo island witnessing nature’s slow reclamation as trees grew through the hills of old rowboats and mushrooms sprouted from the walls of an old barn. It was here that we were treated to many coveted birds sightings including Eagles, Ravens, Herons and Barred Owls.It was moments after setting sail that we became aware of a very large group of orca spread all around us. With just enough time to fetch our cameras, the entire pod began to swim alongside us. It was the Southern Resident Killer Whales, about 35 of them comprised of the families Jpod and Kpod. They clearly were happy to be together as they breached, socialized and spy hopped all around us.The following day we had strong winds and decided to raise the sails and shut off the engine. We tacked & jibed miles through turbulent waters with howling winds and broken blue skies above us. Amidst the wind and waves, we spotted a mother and calf humpback whale travelling close to shore under the abrupt cliff faces of monarch head. We later found ourselves climbing the backside of these cliffs to an incredible viewpoint looking out over Boundary Passage as we watched eagles soar by and the humpback pair swim below us.


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