FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.18
Day 4 (2/2).
Whale watching was the final act of our Shiretoko experience. The 2-hour outing in the Nemuro Strait turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of our trip. Located at the eastern coast of Shiretoko Peninsula, Rausu is the most popular spot in Japan for whale watching. Depending on the season, various kinds of whales might be found in the waters just off Rausu, including minke whales, sperm whales, orcas (killer whales), humpback whales (rare), Dall’s porpoises, giant beaked whales, and several types of dolphins. In the summer months, there would be a good chance to spot Orcas, also known as killer whales. Orca is the biggest member of the oceanic dolphin family. They are highly social animals that hunt and wander the sea in pods.
After three days of poor weather, the strong wind and rough sea had finally died down despite the overcast condition over Nemuro Strait. Returned from Shiretoko Pass, we went immediately to the office of Gojiraiwa Kanko Eco Tour (ゴジラ岩観光) in Rausu to make our cruise payment, get a quick snack near the tourist office, parked our car at the dock, and followed one the three queues to get on our cruise boat.
After three days of stormy weather, the sea was calm as we were about to set sail for the whale watching cruise.
Looking back towards the dock, we could see Mount Rausu rising beyond the village of Rausu.
After seeing several black dorsal fin dolphins popped out of the sea in the first ten minutes, our boat captain received the news that orcas had been spotted by the other cruise boats ahead of us. Soon we reached cruise boats and had our first encounter with the magnificent orcas of Nemuro Strait.
While the whales roam in the water of Nemuro Strait, Stellar Sea Eagles and White Tailed Eagles rule the sky.
Lies between Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula and the controversial Russian Kunashir Island (国後島), Nemuro Strait is one of the best place in the world for whale watching.
Orcas often appear in a pod. We were fortunate to follow a pod of around a dozen of orcas, even with a few juveniles.
Sometimes, the pod would get pretty close to one of the cruise boats.
Eventually, the pod of orcas broke up into a few smaller groups. Our boat followed one of the groups towards the direction of Rausu.
Each boat followed a different group of orca.
Seeing one of the juvenile killer whales in the pod was very exciting.
In a few moments, the whales swam really close to our boat.
A few of them even swam under our boat.
From a close distance, we could truly appreciate the true scale of the orca’s dosal fin.
Some scientists can identify different orcas just by studying their distinctive dorsal fins.
For most of the time, our boat continued to follow a small group of orcas.
It was the first whale watching cruise that we ever experienced. We were grateful that the cruise turned out to be a fruitful one.
After about 1.5 hour chasing the whales, it was time for our boat to return to the dock.
The majestic Mount Rausu signified our arrival of the village of Rausu.
Most fishing boats were parked behind the sea wall at the dock.
It seemed that most fishermen were staying away from the sea for another day. Whale watching offered us the perfect finale to for our Shiretoko journey. We picked up our car at the dock, had another seafood lunch at Jun no Banya (純の番屋), and left Shiretoko altogether for our next destination: Mashu Lake.
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HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)
Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)
Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)
Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)
Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)
Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)
Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)
Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)
Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)
Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT
Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)
Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)
OCEAN PARK (海洋公園), Hong Kong
With 7.6 million admission recorded for year 2013-14, Hong Kong’s Ocean Park is considered to be the biggest theme park in Asia. Since 1977, the Ocean Park had been attracting locals and tourists with its amazing aquariums, zoological facilities, amusement rides, shows and entertainment attractions. With 91.5 hectares of land, the site is defined by two main areas: Waterfront and Summit, separated by the lush green hills of Nam Long Shan.
It has been 19 years since we last visited Ocean Park. A revisit of the park after two decades was quite interesting for us. In the old days, the park was renowned for its amusement rides, and shows of dolphins, sea lions and the orca named Miss Hoi Wai (海威小姐); today there are exotic animals and more cool amusement rides but Miss Hoi Wai was long gone. Back then, the park served mainly the local Hong Kongers; now over half of the visitors are from mainland China. As awareness of wildlife conservation grew in recent years, the park has also included educational interpretation for visitors. However, as documentaries like The Cove and Blackfish which reveal the cruel reality of marine theme parks, visiting a place like the Ocean Park has become a controversial matter. There are increasing concerns over keeping wild animals in captivity while advocating wildlife conservation through its funded programs and educational interpretation throughout the park
We spent the entire day wandering around Ocean Park, first at the lower Waterfront area checking out the splendid underwater world of the Grand Aquarium and the rare mammals including giant pandas, red panda and golden snub-hosed monkey from the Chinese Province of Sichuan pavilion and the Giant Panda Adventure pavilion. We then took a short cable car ride over Nam Long Shan to arrive at the Summit Area, where the distant scenery of Deep Water Bay and Aberdeen were equally impressive. Up on the Summit, amusement rides and wildlife exhibitions scattered upon several platform levels. We managed to see a number of wildlife exhibits before dusk, ranging from marine animals like jellyfish and sharks; freshwater fish like Yangtze sturgeons and Amazonian pirarucu; penguins, seals and walrus from the Arctic and Antarctic, etc. We took the relatively new Ocean Express funicular back down to the Waterfront area, where we made a brief visit to the children friendly Whiskers Harbour and enjoyed the last moments of the Symbio, a show that featured a 360 degree water screen, lighting effects and fireworks at the Lagoon by the park’s main entrance.
As we exited Ocean Park, we passed by the near completed MTR station. After new features have been added in recent years, Ocean Park is soon to go through another phase of transformations: first will come the convenience of the subway station, and second the highly anticipated Tai Shue Wan Water World, projected to be completed in 2018, almost two decades since the last water park closed its doors. Surviving through difficult economic times and competition from Hong Kong Disneyland Park, the ever-changing Ocean Park proved its resilience and ambitions. In 2012, it received the Swedish Applause Award, a highly regarded international prize in the theme park industry.
Bathed in mysterious blue light, schools of silvery fishes swim in circles in a multi-storey glass cylindrical tank. It is visually impressive and attracts all visitors’ attention at the Grand Aquarium designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Red panda and giant panda at the Giant Panda Adventure pavilion.
The cable car which links the Waterfront and Summit areas is an attraction by itself. The relaxing 15 minutes ride offers spectacular views of Deep Water Bay and South China Sea.
The Sea Jelly Spectacular pavilion display over 1000 sea jellies.
Splendid jellyfish glows under the special lighting.
Visitors walking through the glass tunnel while a rare Chinese sturgeon swims by in front.
“I’m FINished with fins” – A smart slogan to request people to refrain from consuming shark fins. Such education is crucial in Hong Kong where shark fin soup is still a luxurious delicacy in the banquet menu, even though there is increasing awareness among the younger generation. Years ago documentary such as Sharkwater has already explained the devastating consequences to the marine ecosystem on earth as the result of massive demand and consumption of shark fins
Close encounter with sharks at the Shark Mystique. Sharks are one of those animals often got misunderstood.
Amazonian pirarucu in the Rainforest Pavilion. These giant freshwater fish can grow up to 4.5m long.
Pacific walrus at the Polar Adventure pavilion.
The South Pole Spectacular pavilion features king penguins, southern rockhopper penguins and gentoo penguins.
Amusement rides are popular attractions at the Summit, including the “Hair Raiser”roller-coaster.
Partial view of the Summit area.
At Pacific Pier pavilion, a curious sea lion interacts with a spectator by following the visitor’s hand motions on the other side of the glass.
Ap Lei Chau, Ap Lei Pai and Lamma Island at dusk.
[left] a moon hanging above the Ocean Park Tower with slowly rotating viewing platform; and [right[ a seahorse decoration at the Ocean Express funicular station.
“Whirly Bird” chair ride beyond the Ocean Express funicular station.
[left] Cable cars bring visitors back to the Waterfront area from the Summit area in the evening when approaching closing time; [right] the light decoration of a small ferris wheel lit up in the evening at Whiskers Harbour.
When the kids’ zone Whiskers Harbour left alone without kids.
A wooden horse of a carousel in Whiskers Harbour.
Water, fire, light and fireworks are the main components of the 360° water screen show Symbio.
ANCIENT REEF AND ESCARPMENT, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
Continuing on the accounts of our experiences at parks in Southern Ontario, this time we would write about the Bruce Peninsular National Park. At Bruce Peninsular that separates the Georgian Bay from Lake Huron, Bruce Peninsular National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park are popular among hikers, adventurers, and tourists. From Tobermory at the tip of Bruce Peninsular, regular tour boats take visitors out to Flower Pot Island to appreciate its unique rock formations, and Cove Island for its romantic lighthouse. Adventure seekers also regard the Fathom Five National Marine Park, the area south of Cove Island, as a paradise for shipwreck scuba-diving. Back on the shore of mainland, Tobermory is a hub for all activities in the area. Regular ferry also departs from here to Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. Near Tobermory, the Bruce Peninsular National Park offers a well maintained natural reserve for nature lovers and hikers who either begin or end the 700km Bruce Trail that connects Tobermory to Niagara.
450 millions years ago during the Silurian era, a shallow warm sea covered a vast area of Northeastern United States and the Province of Ontario in Canada within a depression in the Earth crust known as Michigan Basin. Known as the Niagara Escarpment, the northern edge of Michigan Basin is still visible today. The Niagara Escarpment runs like an arch from the western edge of Lake Michigan up along the southern edge of Manitoulin Island, and from the Bruce Peninsular all the way down to the New York State, cutting through Southern Ontario between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie where the Niagara River makes the famous 50m drop at Niagara Falls. For 700km from Niagara-on-the Lake to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail runs almost in alignment with the Niagara Escarpment. It is the longest and oldest marked hiking trail in Canada. Before hitting its terminus at Tobermory, the trail enters the Bruce Peninsula National Park where we visited twice in 2007 and 2011.
The first time we visited Tobermory, we spent a long time on the beaches at Burnt Point. We were fascinated by the crystal clear water in gradient tones of turquoise. The rocks at the beaches were light grey in colour, and were covered with small holes as if bombarded with rounds of shelling. These unique grey rocks eroded by wave actions and layers of flat stone platforms in the turquoise water were fossil evidences of the prehistoric past at the Bruce Peninsula, when the tropical sea of Michigan Basin was full of marine life and coral reefs. It was hard to imagine that the cool temperate Bruce Peninsular was once a tropical reef similar to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. During our second visit of the park we spent a little more time visiting its unique grotto and stone beaches, and walking its network of hiking trails where from time to time thousand-year old cedar trees and prehistoric reef fossils revealed the ever-changing natural landscape of our planet.
In Tobermory, boat tour is popular from May to October. Most boats depart from the Little Tub Harbour, where a cluster of bars and restaurants gather to serve the tourists.
The Big Tub Lighthouse was declared a recognized heritage building since the early 1990s. A major restoration to the the Big Tub Lighthouse was made in 1987 after a fierce winter storm washed away its shingle sidings and part of the foundation.
Near the Visitor Centre, there is a 20m tower structure which gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the park.
Beyond the furthest point of the loop trail lies the beaches of Burnt Point.
At Burnt Point, the turquoise water was beautiful especially under the warm sun. The light grey rocks were quite comfortable to sit on, which make a perfect spot for a short break after the hike.
At Burnt Point, the water was so clean that the flat rock platforms under water could be seen clearly from above. When the wind brew over the peaceful bay, the rippled image of the rocks produced a poetic Impressionist painting on the water surface.
At Burnt Point, a large rock revealed its unique perforated surface above water.
At Burnt Point, the soft-looking moss on rocks was actually very hard and rough.
The orange moss added a little accent colour to the grayish-white rock at Burnt Point.
At Burnt Point, erosion on the rock revealed interesting patterns.
“Someone was here” – A visitor built an Inukshuk structure to mark his/her presence at Tobermory.
Indian Head Cove Beach (background). Many visitors love to explore the Grotto near the beach. The Grotto (foreground) can be reached on foot from the beach but it requires some simple rock climbing skills.
Swimmer who chose to different route to enter the Grotto.
The entrance to the Grotto (foreground) and Indian Head Cove Beach (background). Visitors have to climb down from the cliff top to reach the Grotto on foot. It isn’t an easy direct route but it still attract many visitors. Swimming from the Indian Head Cove Beach is another popular option to access the Grotto if the water is warm enough for a comfortable swim.
Approaching the Grotto. There were many visitors gathered around the entrance into the Grotto.
Inside the Grotto lies a pool of glowing turquoise water. There is an opening through the rocks in the water that leads to the lake beyond.
A view from the Grotto looking out.
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Read other posts on Parks of Southern Ontario
1.1 Land of Water and Forest, Algonquin Park, Ontario ( 1 of 3)
1.2 A Tale of Rocks and Maples, Algonquin, Ontario ( 2 of 3)
1.3 When Moose Meets Beaver, Algonquin, Ontario, (3/3)
2. Ancient Reef and Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
3. Algonquin Legend and Mazinaw Pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario
HOI HA WAN (海下灣)– Marine Treasure Trove in Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong
Hoi Ha Wan, literally means “Under Sea Bay”, is best known for its marine biodiversity and mangrove forests. Prohibited for fishing, boating and collecting marine wildlife, the small bay of Hoi Ha Wan is a marine park frequented by divers, snorkelers and kayakers, as well as families who come for a lesson of natural science.
I came to spend a causal afternoon. Under the mid-afternoon sun, a few groups of children walked out into shallow water searching for starfishes and sea cucumbers. From the shore, I could see rock corals, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, crabs, seashells and fishes of various colours and sizes. At Hoi Ha Village, banners were hung at a number of places urging developers to stay off the Hoi Ha area.
DAY 70 (3 OF 4) – BEAGLE CHANNEL & ISLA H, USHUAIA, TIERRA DEL FUEGO, ARGENTINA
Named after the ship captained by Fitz Roy who took Charles Darwin on board to study natural science around the globe, Beagle Channel was one of the three sail routes where ships could go between the Atlantic and Pacific before the opening of Panama Canal. The Beagle channel is narrow, but the water is crystal clear and full of marine wildlife. Doing a cruise in the Beagle Channel is a mandatory activity for all visitors to Ushuaia. There are many tour companies in town offering various boat rides up the Beagle Channel.
After the seafood lunch at Chiko, we took a boat tour with Tres Marias. With only 10 people on board, touring the Beagle Channel on a sailboat is a unique experience unlike most of the other cruise boats that can take dozens or even over a hundred of passengers at a time. While most boats would take tourists to see the sea lions and sea birds from afar, and reach as far as the Lighthouse Les Eclaireurs, we chose Tres Marias because it allowed passengers to physically land on Isla “H”, a small island in the channel within the Isla Bridges natural reserve.
The sea was calm today. After leaving our bags in the cabin, we climbed up to the deck and sat under the boom. The trip to Isla H took about an hour. After we arrived, we got about an hour to hike around the island with our guide. The island is largely covered with small plants that can survive the harsh Fuegian winds. On a stone beach, we passed by a shell mound left by the former canoe people, the nomadic Yamana. There were also various types of seaweed and seashells all over. On the high point of the island, our guide led us to a colony of rock cormorants nesting on the cliff.
After Isla H, Tres Marias took us to a colony of sea lions on a small island. Waves were higher on our way back with water splashing onto the deck every so often. Since we were sitting at the front of the boat, we both got soaking wet as if exposed to a cold shower. Overall it was a pleasant experience to sail in the Beagle Channel. It was cold, wet, but the scenery and the wildlife made it worthwhile.
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Read more on Ushuaia in 2013 South America
Day 69.1 – Magellan Straight
Day 69.2 – Arrival, Ushuaia
Day 69.3 – Fuegian Grill, Ushuaia
Day 70.1 – Museo Maritimo, Ushuaia
Day 70.2 – Chiko Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 70.3 – Beagle Channel & Isla H
Day 70.4 – Kalma Resto, Ushuaia
Day 71.1 – Pier, Ushuaia
Day 71.2 – Fuegian Trees, near Estancia Harberton
Day 71.3 – Penguins, Martillo Island
Day 71.4 – Estancia Harberton
Day 71.5 – Kaupe Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 72.1 – Post Office, Isla Redonda, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Day 72.2 – Senda Costera & Bahia Lapataia, Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Day 73 – Stranded in Ushuaia Airport
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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought