As we entered 2020 Five Star Whale Watching had big plans to celebrate our 35th anniversary. These plans had to be put on hold due to COVID-19. Like many, this Pandemic has presented many challenges in 2020. However, early on we decided to make the best of a bad situation.
On March 20th we suspended all tours to follow local health authority COVID-19 instructions. During the downtime we worked on our vessels and a strategy for when we would be allowed to reopen. Five Star was involved in the process with Transport Canada and WorkSafeBC on formula to create a comprehensive COVID-19 Safety Protocol. On June 20th we conducted our first tour since ceasing operations and encountered Orcas off Victoria, amazing!
During our tours this shortened season we were on the water when both new Jpod babies were discovered, though we kept out distance out of respect for the new born Calf and the researchers. On both encounters with these babies we could hear the excitement over the radio as the news of these precious births spread 🙂
On a number of tours this season we encountered 50-60 Humpback Whales in the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Seeing the blows on a calm summers day of so many Humpback Whales was always breathtaking. In the early fall we often encountered 20 Humpbacks lunge feeding around Constance Bank and Race Rocks. Sometimes we would see several Humpbacks working the same large bait balls, a fantastic sight.
During several encounters in 2020 we spent time with T46B1B “Tl’uk” or the Ghost Whale as this young Bigg’s Killer Whale is affectionately known due to his pale pigmentation. This rambunctious young Orca was always a hit with our guests. His colour would change depending on the light but we had one particular encounter west of Sheringham lighthouse where the sun shone brightly and T46B1B really did look like a Ghost Whale!
Our most memorable encounter of 2020 was when T10C “Bone”s punted a Harbor Seal at least 40-50 feet in the air during a hunt with his Mom, T10. Images from this encounter were seen across the world as far away as New Zealand. It was an intense encounter.
Following on from becoming Victoria’s first WCA Certified Responsible Whale Watching operator in 2019, which we are very proud, in 2020 we received further awards. We received A Whale Reporter Recognition Certificate by Ocean Wise. This certificate was awarded to Five Star for achieving “Top Reporter” status in the Ecotourism category as part of the Whale Reporter Recognition Program in 2019. This program is designed to encourage Whale reports sent to Ocean Wise as part of the WRAS system to warn Commercial Vessels that Whales as in the area and to slow down and alter course. This program helps to protect Whales in the Salish Sea.
Other awards include the Tripadvisor Travellers Choice Award for placing in the top 10% of attractions on the world. We are grateful to all our guests for their reviews that lead to this prestigeous award.
Finally, Five Star Whale Watching was one of the first companies in Victoria to achieve the Safe Travels certification awarded by the World Travel & Tourism Council & Destination Greater Victoria. This award recognizes the stringent safety measures and protocols during COVID-19.
So although 2020 has been a challenging year due to COVID-19, we are grateful that we were able to conduct tours, the incredible encounters during the season and the heartwarming support we received from our guests.
Here is to better times in 2021!
Thank you for the brilliant update Five Star Whale Watching!