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Photo of the Day: Dec. 10th

My favourite photo from the Monkey Forest, in Ubud, on the Island of Bali, Indonesia.

Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali 041

For more photos from this adventure, please visit the Set on Flickr!

Photo of the Day: Dec. 8th

Kelp bed outside of Cowichn Bay, on Vancouver Island.

Whale Watching 10

For more photos from this adventure, visit the Whale Watching Set on Flickr!

Photo of the Day: December 2nd

Ubud Wanderings: Rice Harvest (Bali, Indonesia)

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Whale Watching with Ocean Ecoventures

For my dad’s birthday this year, rather than have a big party, my dad wanted to spend some quality time with the family. With this request in mind, my mom drove down the beautiful Cowichan Bay, on Vancouver Island and booked a whale watching tour with Ocean Ecoventures.

Whale Watching 1

We arrived at the storefront location, which doubles as an art gallery, and were provided with full-body, wind proof, Helly Hansen flotation suits for the day’s adventure. It was the first really hot day of the summer so the need for the suits didn’t seem to make sense, but once we were out and speeding across the water I was grateful to have it.

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Once suited up, we made our way down to the zodiac was moored and were given a quick but detailed safety lesson for the trip by Simon Pidcock, owner/operator of Ocean Ecoventures. Before taking off, he took this group shot!

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We barely left the harbour when we caught our first glimpse of ocean wildlife. A harbour seal swam by about twenty feet from the boat!

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After about a 45 minute boat ride (with gorgeous B.C. views), we arrived to an area where the orcas tend to hang out and play around. Simon told us of all kinds of interesting facts, behaviours and statistics about the whales. He was very knowledgeable and much of the information was astounding!

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Whales were not the only wildlife we saw on the trip. After watching and following the orcas for a couple of hours, we headed back to Cowichan Bay. He took us into a kelp bed, where he showed us that kelp is amazingly strong, and that it has an unbelievable growth rate, as well as many benefits to the ocean and its’ creatures. We even took a kelp leaf out of the water and ate it. Yep, it’s edible!

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Other creatures we came across were several bald eagles as well as a bald eagle nest, a couple of ospreys and their nest of young, and of course a lot of seals hanging out on the logs.

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All in all we had an AMAZING experience! Unreal photographic opportunities! And we were lucky with phenomenal weather!

If you are planning a trip to Vancouver Island and are looking for a fun adventure in the Cowichan Valley, an Ocean Ecoventures Whale Watching tour with Simon Pidcock should definitely be on your itinerary!

A few tips for your trip:

  • Bring your best camera and best zoom/telephoto lens for the trip. I was afraid my gear would get wet, so I left it behind, but not a drop of water made it inside the boat! (*kicking myself!*)
  • Wear SUNSCREEN! Even on a cloudy day you are susceptible to sunburn.
  • Bring sunglasses and a hat to wear while floating around watching the whales.
  • Wear closed toed shoes.
  • Bring a bottle of water.
  • Ask lots of questions, Simon knows his stuff!

For more information about Ocean Ecoventures, visit their website, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to check out some of Simon’s beautiful whale photography on Flickr.

Ocean Ecoventures Whale Watching is located at:
1721 Cowichan Bay Road, Cowichan Bay
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Local – 250 748 3800
Toll Free – 1 866 748 5333

Have you taken a whale watching tour? Please share your experience in the comments.

Quebec City Ice Hotel

I never thought I would take a winter vacation, being a sun baby and one who is not at all fond of the cold. But with a friend from Montreal, the idea to head out to Quebec City in February 2009 for the annual Carnaval d’Hiver somehow didn’t seem like such a crazy one. It was an incredible 5-day adventure that I will not soon forget!

We decided to spend the first couple of days just outside of Quebec City at Station Touristique Duchesnay, home of Quebec City’s Ice Hotel! We were not able to make a reservation to stay in the ice hotel, but thought we would go anyway and tour the ice structure and stay at L’Auberge Duchesnay, next door. Connected to the hotel is spa, which we took full advantage of with a massage, body scrub, sauna and jacuzzi package. AMAZING!

Ice Hotel Entrance

Ice Hotel (l'Hotel de Glace)

Drinking nook at the ice bar

Ice Hotel (l'Hotel de Glace)

The Ice Chapel

We thought we would check out the bar in the ice hotel for a cocktail one evening, before it was closed off to the public for the hotel guests. Because it’s so cold at the Ice Hotel, they serve only hard liquor, as anything else would freeze due to the icy temperatures. To boot, all cocktails were served in glasses made of ice, eliminating any worry your drink getting warm!

Ice Hotel (l'Hotel de Glace)

Ice Hotel (l'Hotel de Glace)

For entertainment, they held an ice carving competition. I never imagined myself as an ice sculptor, but now was my opportunity to give it a shot. It turned out to be a fun, creative experience! The ice was fairly soft and easy to carve. Between myself and my travel partner, we carved the head of the Bonnehomme d’Hiver, the mascot for the Carnival. I carved the toque, while he carved the face.


Ice Hotel (l'Hotel de Glace)

We had such a great time in the Ice Hotel that evening that we tried our luck with the ice hotel reception desk to see if there happened to be any cancellations that night. We were in luck! We were even able to swing a themed room for the price of a regular room, and ended up with the Cathedral Room.

Again, let me stress to you how much I hate the cold… And I mean HATE THE COLD!!! So I’m really unsure what possessed me to agree to staying in a hotel with walls made of ice, floors of snow, a bed made of ice, and an average temperature of 4 degrees Celsius! I think I may have suffered from some form of temporary insanity at the time… But in the end it was a “cool” experience and I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to do it!

The hotel provided us with North Face sleeping bags and a crash course on how to stay warm for the night. There were  six hot tubs and a sauna at the Ice Hotel, to warm up before turning in to your COLD room for the night. They recommended to dry off COMPLETELY (including all your nooks and crannies) when leaving the changing area, as any moisture at all would be a risk of freezing and making your Ice Hotel experience a very unpleasant one. They provided blow dryers to help with this – not only for your hair, but your entire body!

Once in the room, we unpacked out sleeping bags and crawled in fully clothed, socks, toques and all! The bed frame was made of ice, but the mattress itself was foam covered with animal furs, which made things much more comfortable.

Ice Hotel, cathedral themed room

Ice Hotel (l'Hotel de Glace)

We survived the night right up to the 8am wake up call when they booted us out to prepare the hotel for the daily public tours. I had woken up maybe an hour prior to the wake up call and it was not until then that I started to feel cold and a bit uncomfortable. But I stuck it out, my sleeping bag was still the warmest place to be at that moment!

The best part about the stay at the Quebec City Ice Hotel is that you have the comfort of knowing that you have a room at the nice WARM L’Auberge Duchesnay, just up the hill included with your stay. So just in case you do get too cold and don’t think you will make it through the night at -4 Celsius, you are able to go to a nice warm bed! And after our wake up call, you can bet that I made a beeline for a nice, long, hot shower!

For more photos of the Quebec City Ice Hotel, please visit my Flickr page.