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END OF AN ERA...

The end of an era…

Hello fellow paddlers,

We just finished up our 12th season of kayak expeditions and tours in Loreto and what a great season it was! We saw many whales, lots of wildlife, ate some amazing meals on the beach, enjoyed beautiful sunsets, and most importantly, paddled with some really incredible people!

However, after 12 years of offering tours we have decided wrap up our operations in Baja and close our company. All of us have been moving on to other exciting things in our lives.

Hilary and her partner Elisha have started a farm on Gabriola Island growing Hops for craft breweries, as well as veggies, goats, pigs, and chickens. Joel has been busy scuba diving and is looking to move on to new things and a more stable work life. I have been busy captaining tour vessels on the BC and Alaska coast, and instructing maritime courses for the Department of Transport. I’m also thinking about settling down a little. Sarah and I are getting married in September and are looking to start a family in a few years. With all of these positive things going on, none of us really have the time to give Baja Kayak Adventures all of the energy it needs.

It has been such an amazing ride! It’s very bitter-sweet to decide to move on. I have loved every minute I spent paddling with all of you in Baja. I am so grateful to have had such a fun and dedicated group of customers and friends who have decided to spend their vacations and winters paddling the amazing waters of Baja! It really is the end of an era.

I want to thank all of you who have done trips with us over the past 12 years. But first, I want to announce the winners of our coveted Baja Kayak Adventure Tours Customer Appreciation Awards :

Mike Sheehan    

  • Winner of the Golden Tortilla Award for best kayak packing

  • Winner of the Wet Feet Award for the most kayak trips per year done by any guest

Ernie Carson

  • Winner of the Guest of the Decade Award for the most consecutive years of paddling done by any guest

Trevor Warren

  • Winner of the Baja Viking Award for the largest camp breakfast ever cooked by a guest while on trip

Rob Gustke

  • Winner of the Brave Teacher Award for organizing more high school class kayak trips in a foreign country then any rational teacher would ever consider

 

We would also like to specially thank a few of the many people who have helped us over the years:

Peter and Ana Marcus who started Gabriola Cycle and Kayak and got us started on this amazing adventure! Thank you!

Our parents Colin and Pat who helped us, encouraged us, donated generously to the starving kayak guide fund, and Pat (our mom) who managed the booking and office for many years! Thank you both so much! The memories and life skills we gained from this have been unbelievable!

Joel our Mexican Partner who has done so much, not just guiding, but spending so many hours, days, and weeks waiting in lines for the mountain of bureaucratic paperwork and permits needed to operate in Mexico. Muchas Gracias!

Wanda, who so has done such an amazing job this year in taking over our reservations and office from Pat and Hilary!

Rafa Murillo at Dolphin Dive Center; Ubaldo Fernandez at the Giggling Dolphin Restaurant; Rafa & Maria at Vive Loreto Tours; Keirin & Norma at El zopilote Brewing & Hotel 1697; Harry and Lesley Morgan; Don Rhodes; Guillermo and Joan Ewbank; Our Guides: Jesus Marquez, “Tuku” Erick Gonzalez, Rafa Murillo, George Salas, Itza; Our Taxi and Panga Drivers: Pancho, Chuy, Antonio, & Antonto;  Clients: Daphne and “the Duke” Dennis, The Chatwin Family, Marilyn Bamfield, Emily McDonald, Carol Zabin, John and Julie, Gwynn Alexander Barr, Jill Clark, Morely Eldridge, Pierre Ducharme; Gabriola thank-yous: Paula Maddison, Marlana Smith, Jim Demler, Matt Bowes, Jen Smith... and every guest who has ever paddled with us in Baja or BC! It’s because of all of you that we have been able to do this for so long!

I will still be running tours in Haida Gwaii (www.tourhaidagwaii.com) and Alaska/Great Bear Rainforest (www.bluewateradventures.com).

Silva Bay Kayak Adventures, Hilary’s business is changing gears after 10 years in operation out of the Silva Bay Inn on Gabriola Island. Hilary is collaborating with Gabriola Recreation Society and Descanso Bay Regional Park & Campground to offer kayaking 7 days a week in July and August out of Descanso Bay. She is also offering weekend and week-long kayaking and outdoor education retreats at The Haven.   

We would both love to see any of you on one of our future trips!

For anyone interested in doing more trips in Baja, we would like to recommend our good friend Ginni Calahan at Sea Kayak Baja Mexico. They have many similarities in their style of trips and their philosophy. www.seakayakbajamexico.com   

Thank you again for the many years of loyalty and amazing adventures! It has truly been an honor and privilege to paddle with each of you. It was the best job in the world!

Happy Paddling,

The Masson Family

 

Summer 2017

Monday- Carlos Island Picnic- 6:30-9:30 pm -$ 25 (BYO-Picnic Dinner) Paddle out to Carlos Island, off Silva Bay, to have a picnic while the sunsets over Georgia Straight.

Wednesday- Sunset Paddle- 6:30-9:00pm - $25 Fun, social tour exploring the shoreline of the Flat Top Islands while checking out harbor seals, eagles and much more.

Friday- Sunset Paddle- 6:30-9:00pm - $25 Fun, social tour exploring the shoreline of the Flat Top Islands while checking out harbor seals, eagles, and much more.

Saturday- 3-Hour-Tour – 2:30- 5:30 pm - $55 (kids $40) Take the morning to check out the Farmer’s Market, and then come down to Silva Bay for a 3-hour guided kayak tour. Explore the shoreline and head to an island with time to beachcomb or swim, before we paddle back to the dock.

 

Youth Kayaking Adventure Camps (ages 8+) daily 9:30am – 2:30pm www.silvabaykayakadventures.com/tours/youth-adventure-camps

Beginner Kayaking Camps- $275 July 3-7- and- July 17-21 –and- August 7-11

Intermediate Kayaking Camps- $285 July 10-14, -and- July 24-28 and- August 14-18

Advanced Kayaking Camps- $385 (includes 2 day trips, and 2 nights camping) July 31-August 4 –and- August 21-25

Weekly Events for Summer 2016

Summer 2016

 

Weekly Events 2016:

Mondays Paddle & Picnic: 6:30-9pm $20 BYO-picnic! We will paddle out to Carlos Island, one of the Flat Top Islands to have a picnic, everyone can bring their own food or snacks. The sunsets are amazing over Georgia Straight, then we'll paddle back to the dock by 9pm.

Thursdays Sunset Yoga & Kayaking: 6:30-9pm $30  Yoga Instructor and Sea Kayak Guide, Danielle Artuso, will paddle with you out to a beach, where on the smooth sandstone rocks a one-hour yoga class will take place during sunset looking out at the Salish Sea!

Fridays Sunset Paddle: 6:30- 9pm $25

Saturdays 3 Hour Tour: 1:30-4:30pm $55 (Kids $45) Just enough time Saturday morning to check out Gabriola's Farmer's Market then get down to the South End to enjoy an afternoon paddling excursion around Silva Bay, visiting different islands, seeing harbour seals and other wildlife. Head on over to Silva Bay Pub & Restaraunt for Happy Hour discounts from 4:30-5:30 if you've participated in this kayak tour. What a perfect Gabriola Summer day! 

 

Weekly events include your choice of Sea Kayak or Stand Up Paddleboard for these guided tours.

NO RESERVATIONS NECESSARY, drop in 15 min before each event starts. But if you have questions, or a large group call 250-247-8939. 

BYO-Boat = FREE: if you have your own kayak come join our weekly event for a social, fun paddle for FREE!

We accept credit cards, cash, cheque or e-transfer. Tax is included in the price.

 

 

Stand Up Paddleboarding with Killer Whales!

 On one of my Stand Up Paddleboard tours with Silva Bay Kayak Adventures, I was paddling with a friend who had never been on a stand up paddle board before.  She got the hang of it right away, and the conditions were good, so we paddle out to see the harbour seals on the outer islands.  

 

We were paddling along the outer shore of Gaviola and Acorn Islands and saw a group of transient orca whales in the distance. This was exciting, even though we were a long way away! So we continued paddling in the direction the group of 7 or 8 whales were headed, but at this point they were way off on the horizon. With a fleet of whale watching boats following behind them, it was obvious which way they were going. As we paddled, we discussed the difference between resident orcas and transient orcas, and my friend shared her recent whale sighting in early July at the north end of Gabriola. As a naturalist guide, and uber whale geek, I started spouting off facts because I was excited. For me, even seeing whales head off on the horizon, gets me stoked. I love any sighting and am thankful for the oportunity to be in the right place at the right time! It's so fun to be in the same water as large marine mammals, and interacting with them makes you feel alive and connected to the web of life!  As a kayak guide for over 10 years, I have had a lot of whale sightings, it's the perks of working in this industry! I love studying whale's behavioural ecology, thier interactions and social structure is facinating. Orca whales can be found in all corners of the worlds oceans. This is a great poster from noaa. 

I knew that this group of whales were transient orcas because they were hunting seals. Resident orcas, primarily found in large family pods around Juan de Fuca Straight and Johonstone Straight, feed on Spring Salmon, and do not frequent our area of Georga Straight off of Gabriola. So it was an easy assumption that we were looking at a group of Transients, the killer whales. 

As we paddled the shore of acorn island, we observed in the distance that they were circling a rock off of Tugboat Island where a group of seals were. This photo is an arial shot of the Flat Top Islands, off of Silva Bay. The right side of this picture is a reef with a white navigation light, this is where the whales were circling the seals. 

The whales were tail slapping, circling up the seals, breatching; displaying great hunting behaviour! They circled the reef, diving through the ball of seals, each 30 foot adult whale took turns eating. These efficient killers we showing off thier skill and strength. These kind of sightings are amazing, and awe inspiring no matter if you're on the deck of a whale whatching boat, or bare foot on a paddleboard! Then just as fast as it started, the whales were moving on.

We were still a long ways away, enjoying the experience. Quickly analizing the situation I decided that with all the whale watching tour boats lined up along Saturnina Island that if the whales were to move locations they might head towards us. I felt the whales were boxed in by the loud motor boats, and by the shorlines of Tugboat and Sear Islands. This was no good because there was a seal haul out rock that is part of the Brant reefs on our left,  and seals swimming in the water along the shore of Acorn Island to our right. This exact location that we happily stood observing the orcas feed in the distance was turing out to be a risky spot to float.  I knew that we had to get out of there, and going to shore on Acorn Island didin't seem safe with the harbour seals there. So we decided to paddle across Commodore Passage to Tugboat Island and get out of the orca's way.

Half way across the channel on the paddle boards we watched the Orcas split into two groups, the juveniles and females, a group of about five individuals, headed out towards georga straight and the Brant reefs. At this point I got my iphone out of my pocket and snapped a few picture of the group of females and juveniles, as we stood floating in the middle of the channel. These pictures were aweful because the whales were way in the distance, travelling fast. I looked up from my phone and the two large males who had been spy hopping and circling the seal rock, were now starting to travel our way. We sprinted to the rocks! No joke, all the hairs on my body stood up! As I paddled as hard as I could, I told my friend to not worry about beaching the board, just making sure she stepped off onto the rocks safely. This all happened in seconds... we stepped off our board into ankle deep water, barefoot on the sea weed covered rocks. At that moment we were on stable ground, the whales were right beside us! Crusing with precision, the huge male was right  along the rock shelf, in as shallow water as he could manage without actually beaching. He was 10 feet from me the huge 27 foot long male surfaced checking me out slowly! It was amazing! And I was happy to be on shore not on my paddleboard! 

The second I landed I swung around, whipping out my phone to snap these four pictures:

The first photo I took was of this guy just cresting the surface of the water! The speed and strength to come up right next to me in the shallow water!

Seeing the whole of his body through the clear water and the height of his dorsal fin out of the water, I felt like he was staring me down, his eye locked on me! He was blatently checking me out! 

This is the second male, he surfaced just off shore from where the first whale was, he was probaly 20 feet away from me in deeper water. 

Then they both dove down, and rose up further offshore, heading northwest down Commodore Passage, and out to Georgia Straight. The one on the right is the bigger male, who had just been right beside me! It's even impressive how big they are from a distnace, let alone 10 feet from me! 

The following day I was on my facebook, checking on The Orca Network's updates. Opening thier website I found a photo from one of the whale watching boats, of me and my friend on our paddleboards, and the two whales! Look in this picture it shows me balancing my paddle, while taking a photo of the other group of whales, and I didn't realize the two big males were headded right for me!

And there was an accurate description provided by the person on the whale watching boat who had been observing this group of transients through out the day of August 15th. They can identify each indivdual by the marking of the white saddle patch behind thier dorsal fins. So this lady knew exactly which Transient individuals had been the curous ones checking us out! Here is what she posted on the sightings archive: 

'T100 and T124 .... they headed straight for two paddle boarders, causing them to paddle like they've never paddled before for the safety of land. T100 and T124 ever so casually cruised right along the rocks where the two girls were collapsed on the rocks, their legs having clearly given out from fear... it was awesome.' - Tasli Shaw

So since that momentus afternoon paddleboarding, I have been researching transient's behavour and have found that they are highly territorial creatures. In the past when I have been in kayaks next to orcas, the orcas never showed interest in us, yet on the paddle board they specifically came to check us out. I feel that sitting in a kayak, I'm 2 feet from the surface of the water, so we don't look at all like the silluette of another orca. But standing up on the paddleboard I am 5.5 feet off the water, similar height to a large male orca's fin (1.6 m is the avarage male's dorsal fin). So my new theory is that the transient orcas thought we could be two other orca whales in thier hunting territory. And when you think about what a paddle board with a person looks like, it is so similar to an orca surfacing. I hope to test this thoery another time while paddleboarding around the seal haul out rocks of Silva Bay. You never know when you're going to be in the right place at the right time!

Happy Paddling,

Hilary Masson

Guide and Owner — at Silva Bay Kayak Adventures

Summer Reflections 2013

The Summer of 2013 has been an amazing year for Silva Bay Kayak Adventures! It's been full of amazing people joining us on our tours, spectacular weather, and magic wildlife encounters.   

 

 

Reflecting back on all of this there are some special moments I wanted to highlight. Starting with all our our friends who joined us on our Baja tours who came up to Gabriola to check out our summer operation. During our expeditions in Mexico we often talk about how amazing our home, Gabriola, is. So with all the stories, and anecdotes about our Gulf Island lifestyle, various groups of friends decided to paddle with us in Canada.

We started with May long weekend and a group of ladies from Whidby Island. Although the San Juans are close by, and similar to the Gulf Islands, the ladies loved Gabriola and our unique artsy culture and vibe! They also loved the paddling around the Flat Top Islands off of Silva Bay.

   

 

Our second group of visitors was a reunion of a group of ladies that came to Baja in February. Two women from Berkley California came with their daughters, two women form Victoria joined us, and another women from Gabriola. So we enjoyed the nice spring weather, walking in most of the parks on Gabriola, and paddling around Silva Bay. This was end of June, the weekend of Summer Solstice. Every year we like to turn one of our weekly Sunset Tours into a special solstice picnic potluck dinner. So it was perfect timing for our guests to join in on this tradition, and for them to meet some other local friends who also share the love for kayaking. 

We paddled out and around the Flat Tops, with calm seas, and the sun breaking out of some high clouds. Finishing on Carlos Island, which is situated perfectly for viewing the sunset to the west. The white oyster shell beach on Carlos was a great setting for our picnic. I paddle boarded that evening, so I used the surf board as a table for our picnic. Everyone brought amazing food to share, we had a great spread!

  

 

It was fun for old and new friends to connect, sharing food is such a great way to celebrate the coming of summer. The sunset was great with the sky opening up to the northwest.

 

A favorite moment of mine was exploring around Carlos Island checking out the wildflowers. End of June is perfect timing for seeing all the local native wildflowers, and if you know me, you know how obsessed I am with identifying them. Carlos has a good diversity for such a tiny island. I found sea blush, monkey flower, blue camas, wild trailing blackberry, yerba buena, heal all, stone crop, and yarrow.

     Summer Solstice is one of my favorite times of year, especially because of the wildflowers! 

 

Our third group of Baja clients who came to visit us on Gabriola, were a family from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The final Baja tour of the season, the Loreto to La Paz tour had a group of firemen from Saskatoon who loved paddling, and had a great time. That guys getaway to Baja left a few of them planning their next paddling trips with their family for the summer, and Gabriola seemed like the perfect next destination. Partly because I run Youth Outdoor Leadership summer Camps, and partly because the paddling in the gulf Islands is so idyllic, is why this was a great fit. So the family road tripped across the prairies, over the Rockies and down to the west coast, with their kayaks and camping gear in tow. The son fit right in with my kids camp, enthusiastically joining in all the games and activities. He especially liked learning about marine weather, tides, currents, and marine navigation. This was his first time paddling in the ocean, rather than on lakes and rivers in the prairies. While their son was in my day camp, the parents got to paddle on their own exploring the Flat Tops at a leisurely rate. We also had some nice sunset paddling with the whole family as well! 

The summer from there on was filled with kids camps every week, and our weekly events. We did a few youth camping expeditions throughout the summer, where the participants choose their own route plan, picking what camps sites they want to stay at, picking the times to go through the tidal rapids of Gabriola Passage, and navigating all on their own. The camping trips are always fun, with the youth doing all the meal planning and provisioning on their own!

 

 

  On the first camping trip in June, there was no red tide, so the kids were excited to harvest shellfish. We collected oysters, manilia clams, and cockles. Being June, we could still have fires, before the dry hot weather and usual fire bans happen. So we steamed open the oysters over the fire, and steamed the clams in a pot over the fire as well. The kids were excited about harvesting thier own food, learning about different species of shellfish, and which ones are edible and how to prepare them. But a few of them had never tasted an oyster before, so I was surprised when all of them loved the flavor and texture! None of them were grossed out, which for picky 11 year old boys, was amazing! 

 

 

Camping on Valdez Island is always a highlight, the kids love jumping off rocks into the water, and the sunset view from the top of the cliffs. Hole in the Wall is such a great camp site, and favorite of the kids, I understand why they wanted to stay there two nights in a row!  I was happy to find the site clean, and well maintained, with a new picnic table prefect for setting up our propane stove. The youth camping trips are a favorite of mine, as these memories, and new skills, will stick with the particiants for the rest of thier lives!

All in all, it was a busy, successful summer at Silva Bay!

Happy Paddling,

Hilary Masson

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