OVER THE THREE-DAY Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Victoria, Canada, I witnessed the great pride of elders as they watched their children and grandchildren dance, drum and sing, celebrating and preserving their rich culture.
We were a mix of Indigenous people, some in colourful regalia, and non-Indigenous people that included local mayors, business leaders, and myself. We paddled in sync to the shared traditional territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to ask for permission to come ashore, a time-honored protocol. It was a historic day, as this had never been done before in the history of Victoria.
Chief Ron Sam of Songhees First Nation welcomed us ashore and stated the significance of the canoe ceremony when he said:
“You know I think it’s important, the acknowledgment, when we’re all in a canoe, pulling in the same direction. You know, I think that’s what we want to achieve on a daily basis.”
It was an honour to be in one of 3 First Nations canoes during the historic Welcoming of Canoes ceremony. Watch a short 30-second video of my experience.
For authentic Indigenous cultural experiences, attractions and events in Canada, visit:
Cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Vancouver and area. We found these ones in South Surrey in March 2016 while we were on a family trip during March Break. As a resident of Toronto, have to say I was a little jealous of their cherry blossom trees. Not only do they bloom earlier than us, they have many more trees than we do in Toronto, at least, it seemed that way. We saw trees everywhere we looked from Vancouver to Abbotsford.
Vancouver celebrates the Sakura trees and even has a Cherry Blossom Festival. In 2016, it runs from March 24 to April 17th.
For more information about the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival including a map of cherry tree locations, visit here. The map helped us find the trees pictured above.
One of my favourite things to do when I visit British Columbia is to go on a whale watching tour. I’ve been to BC several times and have been on many whale watching tours in Victoria, Tofino and Vancouver, British Columbia.
While on a sunset whale watching tour in the waters of the Salish Sea near Victoria, we were surrounded by a family of orca whales. Suddenly, an orca whale came out of the water to check us out.
Shortly after the above photo was taken, a mother and baby orca swam under our boat, twice. We also had a rare opportunity to watch Orca whales as they taught their young how to hunt for porpoises and saw a humpback whale and seals. It was my favourite whale watching tour to date.
I highly recommend Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria, British Columbia for these reasons:
They are Canada’s first carbon-neutral, eco-adventure whale watching company
I usually bring my 40-150mm 2.8 pro lens for a whale watching tour without a second thought as the whales are never close enough to use a shorter focal length. For the first time, I stood at the trunk of the car and questioned whether I should take the shorter focal length lens.
I had been on 2 whale watching trips during my visits to British Columbia this summer and didn’t even think about it before, but for some reason I had 2 minutes of photographer anxiety. In the end, I didn’t take it because I know that when wildlife appears closer than they normally do, there’s not enough time to change lenses.
Maybe I just knew I was going to see orca whales up close.
We came upon a pod of transient orcas after about a 20 to 30-minute ride from where we departed at Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria, British Columbia. Transient orca whales are also known as Biggs killer whales. We watched them alternate between shorter 2-minute and deeper 4-minute dives. In those longer dives, they were hunting.
As our captain vied for position and stopped a safe distance away, my best friend who is from British Columbia and is Nlaka’pamux and Cree First Nations was quietly singing her ancestral songs. We were the only 2 on the back of the boat.
Suddenly, a spy hop!
At that moment, I knew they were coming.
Shortly after the spyhop, some of the orcas started poking their head out of the water as if they were checking us out.
I started to notice more surface activity but weren’t sure what the whales were up to. Then, we could see a harbour porpoise. They seemed more interested in playing with it than eating it as they would push it along and disappear with it under the water. The naturalist on board our Eagle Wings Tours boat thought that they were teaching the baby orca how to hunt. The truth is, he wasn’t sure, as he said that he had never seen anything like it before.
While the large male orca swam close to Eagle Wing tour’s other boat, my friend started to sing a little louder. I knew she was trying to communicate.
Then, two orcas were straight out in front of us with their heads above the water looking towards us with the porpoise between them. It was as if to say ‘look what we have’.
The next moment they came towards us.
As they got closer, I switched to video mode and captured the moment they swam under our boat, twice! I said hello and thanked them, out loud.
I thought they’d reappear on the other side of the boat, but instead they resurfaced on the same side that they started from, right beside us.
Every now and again I’d hear my friend say “kuk’stem” which is thank you in the Nlaka’pamux language. She was following Indigenous protocol in giving thanks to the whales and the Creator.
It’s been a great travel year for me and I am grateful for the opportunities, new friends, old friends and for a family that supports me.
In 2014 I returned to a country I love – South Africa, not once but twice! I visited in May and my dad came along. I also returned in November and my family (husband, 4yo & 9yo sons) came with! My dad joined us a week later. My visits to South Africa are always so inspiring and wonderful and never long enough.
The reason for my return to South Africa was because of a women’s mobile photography development initiative I founded and started there in November 2013, The Heart of a Woman Project. I visited in May to launch phase 2 and my father came with to meet the ladies and offer some help. I returned once more in November to celebrate our 1st anniversary with an exhibition and cultural celebration and was very happy to have my husband & 2 sons (9 & 4) with me.
On the way to South Africa, we had an overnight layover in London, England. Mostly we stayed near the airport in hopes that my sons would adjust a bit to the time difference so they could handle the further 2 hour difference between GMT and SAST. It seemed to work and they adjusted well. It also helped to avoid 2 back to back overnight flights. We took off to Windsor before checking in for our flight. Windsor was about 25 minutes from Heathrow, it’s a quaint town and a good layover visit. We saw Windsor Castle from the outside only and had lunch in a local pub. It was my son’s 1st visit to Europe, we’ll have to go back for a proper one.
I also went to New York City in October for National Geographic Traveler’s seminar on Storytelling Photography with Ami Vitale and Melissa Farlow, two well respected NG photographers. I’ve been a professional photographer since 2003 and have been following Ami’s incredible work since that time. It was great to meet her in person and to learn from her.
New York is a great city for solo travel and I love to see a show on broadway, discover a restaurant and observe what’s happening around the city. While walking back to my hotel after seeing a show on Broadway, I came across this scene in Times Square. At first it was just this young man with his sign and then this half dressed man came by and started dancing, things got interesting.
I am also grateful to have been able to get in a short visit but with quality time with dear friends in Vancouver (my home away from home) and Saskatoon in Canada in April.
Between all the travel both solo and with family, I also managed to visit some our family favourites nearer to home – Niagara Falls in February and June and the Kawartha Lakes in August.
Lastly, I added 2 new cities to my travels, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico in July. I was in Santa Fe for the International Folk Art Market that hosts artisans from around the world. From their website – “Celebrates the humanity of the handmade that empowers communities through monumental earnings.”
There were so many talented artists with their incredible handmade work. It was like travelling around the world in a day. The highlights were visiting the artists and learning more about the work from Myanmar (Burma), South Africa and Haiti. I met a man and his family that represents the last 30 puppeteers of Myanmar. It’s a dying tradition that dates back 600 years. You can read about it here.
I also got a chance to drive a bit of Route 66 in Albuquerque.
It’s been great to go through my photos of the last year and relive some memories. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some images from the destinations I visited in 2014.
Sharing 2 quotes I love and perfect for starting the new year –
Wishing you new beginnings, magic, dreams and safe travels in 2015, the best is yet to come!