If you are someone who’s up for a life-changing experience, you surely shouldn’t miss watching the marine giants in their own habitat. So here is a guide to Whale watching in Vancouver.
Vancouver is a populous metropolitan city in Canada located in the mainland region of British Columbia. Owing to its diversity and large population, Vancouver is regarded as one of the most livable cities in the world.
While there is so much to explore in this extravagant city, whale watching is a one-of-a-kind experience you shouldn’t miss.
About Whale Watching in Vancouver
The coastal city lies between the Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River. Vancouver Island shields the city from the Pacific Ocean. Despite sharing the same name, Vancouver Island and the city are entirely different geographical areas.
The largest ocean is home to a variety of marine life from orcas (also known as killer whales). Apart from that, it is also home to humpback whales and other marine animals. Sea lions, river otters, seals and sea birds like bald eagles and great blue herons are some of them. Every year thousands of tourists race to Vancouver to spot the gentle giants.
1. Why Should You Consider Whale Watching
Whales are known to be larger than dinosaurs. It sure is thrilling to watch these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. You are bound to feel humbled by their gigantic presence. Whale watching is the most sought activity of people who love marine wildlife and nature.
Vancouver tops the list of famous places for whale watching as around 20,000 whales pass this Pacific coast in spring. And, there are many amazing locations in Vancouver to go whale watching. You will witness humpback whales, Orcas, Gray, and Minke whales.
Orcas are not whales but a part of the dolphin family and you can find plenty of them in Vancouver. The resident and transient orcas are spotted during the spring to devour migrating salmon. You can also spot sea animals like sea lions and seals. Bald eagles can also be seen.
2. Best Time for Whale Watching
The best time to go whale watching while visiting Vancouver is between April and October. This is because these majestic mammals migrate through the coast during these months. A visit to the ocean during these days will guarantee a sighting.
You can spot resident orcas anytime on a trip around the Gulf and San Juan islands. But to get a peek at other mammals like Grey whales, Humpback whales, and minke whales, you need to plan a trip during the spring.
3. The Main Attractions
A range of marine wildlife can be seen on a whale-watching trip in Vancouver and the most common ones are:
Vancouver is home to these killer whales and they can be seen in large numbers. Resident and transient are the two types of Orcas.
The former preys on salmon whereas the latter preys on marine mammals. Sea lions, dolphins, seals, whales and porpoises are some of them. Resident orcas stick to their family and travel in pods whereas transient killer whales travel in smaller groups.
3.2. Humpback Whales
This baleen whale can be spotted on the Pacific coast during the spring when they migrate for feeding. The humpbacks are known for their spectacular breaches and tail slapping.
They are also quite famous for their elaborate songs which last for 20 to 30 minutes. The male sings loud and complex songs which are to entice the females. They feed on krills, plankton, herring and needlefish.
3.3. Grey Whales
This baleen whale is a favourite of whale watchers as it stays close to the shore and has an adorable habit of peeking into small ships. About 200s of these devil fish feed on shrimp-like mysids off the coasts of Vancouver Island.
This is most common when they celebrate their arrival by hosting the Pacific Rim Whale Festival every year. The opportunistic feeders can switch their feeding patterns based on the prey’s availability.
3.4. Minke Whales
You are in great luck if you spot these baleen whales as it is harder to track them down due to their complex social and population structure.
These whales are the smallest of the Baleen whale family and are known for their speed.
3.5. Steller Sea Lions
Around 25,000 of these sea lions are found in British Columbia and you are more likely to spot these loud and pungent animals from a boat.
Their preferred hang-out spots are isolated rocks and man-made structures.
3.6. Harbour Seals
They are most commonly found in British Columbia where they can be found on or near the ocean. These funny creatures might make you go ROFL when they do a hop-flop to get back to the water.
Dall’s porpoises and harbour porpoises are the two species found in British Columbia. Harbour porpoises are solitary and are the ideal prey of transient orcas. Dall’s porpoises are often confused with baby orcas.
Apart from these, you can also witness some popular birds like the Great blue heron, Bald eagles, Dunlin, Bonaparte’s gull and Black Oystercatcher.
4. The Different Types of Tours
Whale-watching tours range from trips in a fully closed catamaran to the high-speed zodiac. The trips have to be planned based on your comfort.
4.1. Prince of Whales Tour
This Vancouver City tour by Prince of Whales is the most famous one. It starts from Granville Island and heads to the Strait of Georgia in a catamaran. The boat has sufficient viewing areas and whales can be spotted from inside and outside the deck.
Professional wildlife guides are aboard and they make sure you complete the trip with profound knowledge about marine wildlife. Resident and transient Orcas can be sighted along with harbour seals, humpback whales, and bald eagles.
You can also repeat the trip for free in case you don’t sight a whale. There is a special sunset whale watching trip for 3 hours where some of the amazing shots of a whale along with the sunset are taken.
4.2. Seaplane Trip to Vancouver Island
The Harbour seaplane trip starts from Vancouver City’s harbour to Victoria’s harbour. On the way, you get to witness some amazing aerial views of the ocean and the snow-capped mountain.
This whale-watching trip starts from Victoria and you get to witness orcas and other sea animals. You can spend the rest of your time in Victoria which is also known for its 19th-century architecture. This trip is undoubtedly one of the best Orca whale-watching trips.
4.3. Zodiac Trip from Vancouver Island
If you wish to get close to these majestic mammals, this trip on a high-speed zodiac provided by Prince of Whales would be the best fit.
You will be picked up from your hotel and board the Zodiac on the Salish Sea. Hydrophones are provided during the trip to listen to whale calls under the water.
This is undoubtedly one of the best trips provided for tourists interested in whale watching.
5. What to Pack for Whale-watching Trip
You should pack a coat as it will get chilly out on the ocean. There may be wind currents that might make you cold, therefore pack accordingly. Hence, make sure you carry a good camera with proper zoom resolution that will help you get a proper look at those beautiful creatures.
You may also need binoculars as the safety rules ensure that the boating vessels stay at a safe distance from these creatures. Boating vessels should stay 100 metres away from whales and 200 metres away from Orcas.
So, what are you waiting for? This complete guide to Whale watching in Vancouver is your ultimate cue to go witness nature’s largest animals in their natural habitat.