By Pru Clearwater - Photo credit - Pru Clearwater.
As a visitor to the area, despite inclement weather, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying photographing the stunning natural wonders of the Peninsula. When Wednesday dawned clear, sunny and warm, I knew it was the perfect time to get out on the water to see the unique coastline. A delightful stroll along the harbour foreshore watching morning gatherings of birds stepping lightly through the tidal shallows, and passing glistening dewy-lawned gardens – nature was out in force. Little did I realise what was to come.
The helpful staff at the iSite Visitor Information Centre showed me several tours to choose from and I picked the earliest one that day. Heading to the wharf via Bay Bakery for their delicious Vege pie and a Chai, I arrived to meet up with Ken Hindmarsh from Cathedral Cove Cruises. Hopping on board their ex-coastguard vessel, there was a sense of anticipation in the air with the word passing around of “big black and white fish” out in the bay.
What luck! Is this for real?
Admittedly, when I booked the tour, I hadn’t even thought of the possibility of seeing larger sea-life other than a snoozing seal or possibly a passing dolphin. As we seized the opportunity and sped out into the Bay to the position of the last known sighting. Reports over the radio that more than one had been sighted. Would they still be there when we arrived? Were they moving north or south? Would they be interested in our boat or busy catching breakfast?
We arrived at the location where another boat was drifting easily on the clear, calm water.
What a perfect morning - the sun twinkling and blinking on the bay. Everyone on lookout – eyes and ears. Then through the quiet we heard it. The unmistakable sound of a great exhale. There! In the distance, the most remarkable sight! An orca!
Nothing can prepare you for your first sighting of that massive, tall dorsal fin, swimming along on the surface, leisurely taking several deep breaths, readying to dive again. Then gone. Leaving behind the “footprint” from its vertical wake - a smooth glassy patch on the water, reflecting the perfect blue sky.
Did I actually see what I saw? Did I merely imagine it was there?
To see such wonder with my own eyes or to see it through the viewfinder? The photographer’s dilemma. My camera resting idly in my hand. I was too thrilled to even attempt to use it. Too swept up in the moment to even bother attempting to focus and zoom, lest the experience of actually seeing such a wonderful encounter slip away. My mind quickly decided. There are plenty of other photos of orca by better photographers than me. This is an encounter to be enjoyed in the moment. Our luck continued as, with patience, we were fortunate to have them (most probably a male and female according to Ken) resurface a few more times. I managed to roughly aim the camera in their direction and quickly snap several images if only to prove that it actually happened. What magnificent creatures!
Overjoyed already, we resumed the tour schedule which was a marvellous way to see all the geological sights and learn everything we could from Ken who is an encyclopedia of knowledge about the area. A photographer himself, Ken also shared his own tips and techniques for the best way to capture this unique environment.
I could tell you what those tips are but I think it’s best for you to join a Cathedral Cove Scenic Tour and discover it for yourself first-hand! (PS. On returning to my accommodation I noticed on the company’s pamphlet an orca right there in the company’s logo – what a wonderful synchronicity!).