Embarking on a whale watching cruise in search of Orcas, Grey Whales, or Humpback Whales is an excellent way to spend a beautiful day on the water. Let’s take a look at some of the top whale watching experiences British Columbia has to offer.
When to Go
You’ll find whales in the waters off BC all year long, but the whales are most abundant during the months between May and October; the weather during these warmer months is ideal for enjoying a nautical adventure, too.
Where to See Whales
In 2010, Travel and Leisure Magazine named the west coast of Vancouver Island as one of North America’s best whale watching spots. There are a number of tours available in cities like Victoria and Vancouver, and if you head to the northern region around Prince Rupert and Queen Charlotte Islands, you can enjoy viewing these magnificent mammals in even more pristine surroundings, along with seals, sea lions, porpoises, and a number of other marine creatures.
About the Whales
Orcas – Also known as Killer Whales, Orcas are actually the largest members of the dolphin family. There are several pods that hunt the waters off BC; occasionally, pods join together, and as many as 100 individuals can be seen traveling through the province’s emerald waters. There are three distinct populations here; residents, transients, and off-shore pods.
Grey Whales – Seen during the autumn months, Grey Whales are migratory. They spend summers in the Arctic and winter in Baja, Mexico; an extremely endangered species, these 15 metre-long mammals are an incredible sight to behold.
Humpback Whales – During the summer, Humpback Whales can be seen; these migratory whales spend the winter months in tropical locations, particularly in Hawaii. These whales are making an impressive comeback after years of having been severely threatened; the odds of encountering them increase with each passing year.
Popular Whale Watching Tours
There are a number of different types of whale watching adventures available; you can opt to spend a week or longer on a cruise, or spend a day or a few hours on a smaller boat. If you’re feeling extra-adventurous, you can head out for an up close and personal glimpse of the whales while paddling a sea kayak. Some tour providers to investigate include:
Offering multi-day cruises through the Queen Charlotte Islands, Northern Vancouver Island, Southeast Alaska, and more, Bluewater Adventures employs Native guides. Not only do these tours enable visitors to encounter whales, bears, and other wildlife, they visit ancient villages where authentic totem poles stand proud, plus they provide opportunities for exploring intertidal zones where colorful sea life can be seen in rich profusion.
Professional naturalists with Vancouver Whale Watch not only know when and where to encounter whales, they also answer questions and do all they can to enhance the viewing experience. This company offers day trips and shorter excursions aboard Zodiacs which are designed expressly for viewing marine mammals. Departing from the little fishing village of Steveson, just 35 minutes from downtown Vancouver, the company offers excursions between April and October.
An outstanding company with a large fleet, Prince of Whales offers more than just whale watching tours; they offer flightseeing adventures on seaplanes and special packages that include both a whale watching excursion and a trip to Butchart Gardens as well as Vancouver to Victoria crossing adventures. Prince of Whales has a division based in Seattle, Washington, in addition to offering departures out of Vancouver and Victoria.