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UPDATE! Telegraph Cove: A Time-Travel Type Getaway

Two Orcas near Telegraph Cove Two Orcas near Telegraph Cove Photo by Noor-un-nisa Koller

The serenity of the place cannot be overemphasized. Visiting this tiny little hamlet on the northeastern edge of Vancouver Island is like traveling back in time to a much slower, perhaps wiser existence. Clapboard cabins built on stilts line both sides of a boardwalk, with flower boxes and lace curtains on the old fashioned windows. The lace features flower patterns, and sometimes at night, black bears come and dig for something right underneath the cabins. Here, one feels much closer to nature than in the urban setting most of us yearn to escape from.

The adventure starts just getting to Telegraph Cove, a tight-knit community of 28 year-round residents. That number swells to quite a few hundred during the summer months, since aside from the time-travel, the hamlet's major attraction is eco-tourism. Located near Johnstone Strait and the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, the area is home to a number of resident Orca pods, augmented each year by transient Orcas on their way to or from Alaska.

Telegraph CoveTelegraph Cove

You have your choice of visiting these killer whales in their natural habitat at water level in a kayak or a bit further up in the two main boats of Stubbs Island Whale Watching, the Lukwa and the Gikumi. The Lukwa is aluminum and fitted with all the latest marine navigational instruments, while the Gikumi is all polished wood and warm hospitality. Both come equipped with a friendly, seasoned captain and a naturalist on board who shares her in-depth knowledge of Orcas, humpback whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall's porpoises, harbor seals, and sea lions, or any other animal that might be spotted by the handful of tourists who make reservations months in advance to be part of this unforgettable four-to-five-hour experience.

One year, a bald eagle zeroed in on the Lukwa and followed us all the way back to the Cove. My family and I have been going to Telegraph Cove for nine years now.

Located 202 km heading north from Campbell River, the drive is on a two-lane highway that takes you through lush rainforests and very few signs of civilization. Be sure to gas up before this leg of the trip because the country road is without any gas stations until you get to Port McNeil. By then you've missed the turnoff to Telegraph Cove.

My daughter, Noor-un-nisa, is an avid photographerMy daughter, Noor-un-nisa, is an avid photographer

Until 1956, there was no road; the Cove could be reached only by boat. Then the curvy, bumpy dirt road was built, which really tested your shocks. It was finally paved in 2006. Telegraph Cove gets its name from the telegraph relay station that was the northernmost tip of the Campbell River telegraph line, which was built in 1911. The Morse code messages arrived here and then were ferried by boat across Broughton Strait to Alert Bay, which housed the government post on Cormorant Island. Decades later, an underwater cable was laid across the Strait.

The importance of Telegraph Cove was discovered during World War II when it was vital to have a telegraph link to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. By this time the telegraph line was extended to Port Hardy. A contingent of 65 airmen were stationed at the Cove to ensure that the transmission of messages was not interrupted. Remember, this was a time when the Allies were expecting an imminent Japanese attack on Canada's Pacific Coast. On the lookout for saboteurs, sentries walked the whole length of the telegraph line, mostly strung on trees along the water.

A humpback lunge-feeds among a large flock a sea birdsA humpback lunge-feeds among a large flock a sea birds

The cabins on the boardwalk were all standing by then, and one served as a bunkhouse for the servicemen, while another was their field hospital. The mess hall was housed in another cabin, where regular entertainment could be had in later years. Plaques mark each cabin, explaining its historical significance.

Today's pastimes usually involve getting up early and exploring the natural wonders of the local countryside. One of the most exciting daytrips to be had is run by Tide Rip Tours. They call it Grizzly Bear Adventures and it involves hunting the hugest bears of the animal kingdom using cameras only--thankfully not guns. They take you over to the mainland by boat where you transfer to another water vessel equipped with an observation platform. The huge animals come down to the mouths of rivers to drink or to catch fish, and then only the muffled clicks of Nikons and Canons and other digital devices break the silence.

A huge humpback whale came so close to the boat that Noor-un-nisa was able to take this dramatic photographA huge humpback whale came so close to the boat that Noor-un-nisa was able to take this dramatic photograph

If fishing is more your bag, you can catch bottom dwellers such as halibut, ling cod, rock cod, and red snapper in the most sheltered fishing spot on Vancouver Island. Sockeye, chum, coho, chinook, and pink salmon migrate past Telegraph Cove annually and sport fishers have caught up to 100-pound specimens of these delicious fishes. Millions of others are allowed to pass peacefully, on their way up the coastal rivers to spawn and provide future generations of fishers with memorable catches.

Other recreational activities include kayaking to get up close and personal with the whales and dolphins, or partaking in group excursions to beautiful spots where seals and sea lions sun themselves on the rocks and hundreds of sea birds swarm the schools of fish that congregate in the area.

If you bring your own boat, there is commercial mooring for eight average length vessels at a time (up to 40 to 60 feet) as well as one slip for 100 -foot yachts. If you come by recreational vehicle, you may choose to stay at the RV and Camping Grounds, with all the amenities.

This large group of Steller's sea lions provided a cacophony of guttural soundsThis large group of Steller's sea lions provided a cacophony of guttural sounds

One of the most exciting places at Telegraph Cove is the Killer Whale Interpretive Centre, otherwise known as the Whale Museum. The huge skeleton of one giant Fin Whale has been restored and the bones of smaller whales and other marine mammals have been reconstructed to provide a glimpse into the physiology of these fascinating animals. Charts and pamphlets serve to explain the contents of this great resource.

If you're in the mood for fine dining, the Killer Whale Cafe and Restaurant is your best bet. Also, be sure to check out the Gift Shop, which sells fine sports clothing emblazoned with an Orca logo. The Arts and Crafts Museum is augmented by a General Store, which sells beer and wine, in addition to basic food supplies. Most cabins are equipped with a kitchen, so you can do your own cooking.

The owners of Telegraph Cove resort, Marilyn and Gordon Graham, are super friendly people and they set the tone for everyone who lives and works at Telegraph Cove. Some of the cabins are pet friendly, so we take our Golden Retriever, Max, with us.

Did I mention that the cabins have no TV? This is the best part of it for my wife and I, who are tired of the constant electronic soundtrack of our lives back in the city! How does our 15-year-old daughter, Noor-un-nisa, relate to the lack of television? Blessedly, she curls up with a book, instead. However long we stay at Telegraph Cove, we all wish we could stay a little bit longer...

Be sure to check out the current issue of Rosebud Magazine, the one with Rihanna on the cover. On pages 84-85 read all about Spirit Bear Salmon Charters, focusing on an another great fishing spot on Vancouver Island: Ucluelet, BC.

A black bear looked directly into her lens after munching on some berriesA black bear looked directly into her lens after munching on some berries



On Saturday, we took our daughter on her 10th Whale Watch at Telegraph Cove. After three days of solid rain and us trying to figure out how to waterproof our camera gear, the rain stopped and the sun peaked out once or twice as we boarded the Lukwa for our unforgettable adventure. We saw six humpback whales and they came so close to the boat that Noor-un-nisa was able to snap some incredible pictures. As an extra bonus, a black bear munching on some berries on shore looked straight into her camera for a second. She’s such an excellent photographer, that she caught the exact moment. Her pictures of the bald eagle and the Steller's sea lions are further proof of that.

Telegraph Cove is closing down for the season at the end of this week, but the memories will stay with us for a long time to come.

A bald eagle is perched on a branch almost directly above the boatA bald eagle is perched on a branch almost directly above the boat


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Telegraph Cove: Stubbs Island Whale Watching
Last modified on Friday, 27 July 2012 18:02

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