We woke this morning on National Geographic Quest. We didn’t have to think about navigation or weather or sea conditions; the captain and the officers magically got us to Victoria, British Columbia without any of us having to worry. That was not always the case. Since time immemorial, this territory and these waters have been home of the Lekwungen People, a subset of the Coast Salish, who are also known today as the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations. These people navigated the waters in open canoes without the use of GPS and charts. First Nations peoples have called Victoria’s inner harbor their home for thousands of years.
Victoria is Vancouver Island’s second largest city with a population of ~91,000 people. It was incorporated on August 2, 1862 and continues to be a very busy port. The First Nations people are no longer the majority in the thriving metropolis, but the culture still peeks out through the western buildings and the very colonized city. Many guests got to learn about the Lekwungen People and the history of the city on the historical walking tour or a visit to the museum. Other guests enjoyed the beauty of the gardens and the secret culinary delights of the city on other tours. We felt lucky to have the sun shining on us for the second day in a row as we explored.
The location of the city in the rain shadow of the mountains makes Victoria a fabulous stop for the ship. We could see why First Nations people settled here. Victoria is still a great place to explore by water. The abundance of motorboats and sailboats moored in the many harbors around the coastline provided a picturesque view. When large ships come into the harbors nowadays, they must be piloted by a local pilot. A small pilot boat brings the local captain out to the ship to navigate into the harbor safely.
The waterways that National Geographic Quest traveled remind us of the hardships and treasures that the First People experienced long ago. Everyone went to bed exhausted and slightly sunburned as they reflected on the many people who navigate the waters we travel. From traditional canoes to large cruise ships to the smaller National Geographic Quest, Victoria is a treasure on Vancouver Island.