Watching whales in their natural habitat can be exciting. For some, it’s similar to bird watching. Recreational activities like whale watching are popular in Vancouver Island.
Whale watching tours are arranged both for scientific and educational purposes, and brings in a revenue of over $2.1 billion per annum through tourism. Currently, the industry employs over 13,000 workers worldwide. Vancouver is home to the Orca Whale, the Grey whales, the Humpback whales, and the Minke whales.
Vancouver Island is a hotspot for whale watching. There are over 20,000 grey whales migrating the island’s Pacific coast during the spring season. The resident orcas are considered one of the most researched pods in the World. You can catch a close-up of the giant orca in Johnson Strait, spot a grey whale migrating or attend the Pacific Rim Whale Fest at Vancouver Island.
Why Vancouver is the Best Place for Whale Watching?
For one, you get to watch the whales in their natural habitat. Watching them spray when they come to the surface or to see them propel themselves away from the water as they do a full-body breach is truly magnificent.
If you are looking for water bodies that are rich in marine life, then the coast of British Columbia would be the place. There is a 90% success rate you might come across a whale during a whale-watching trip. Most guided tour operators often offer a guarantee of watching the whale at least once. In case you don’t, you can come back to view them again for free.
But why is whale watching being done in Vancouver? The reason is, that the mighty whales are usually found in the Salish sea. It is the layer of water that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland. The whales swim along with the British Columbia’s Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands of Washington State.
There are plenty of tour operators that leave from Victoria, a place found on Vancouver Island. There are a few ways to go whale watching in Vancouver and this article covers most of the relevant options for the same.
What is the Best Month of Year for Watching Whales in Vancouver?
The best time for watching whales in Vancouver would be from May to October as you get to see the resident orcas feeding on migrating salmon in the Strait of Georgia and the Gulf Islands.
If you are keen to spot a northern resident orcas, then the late summer months would be ideal as they feed in the Johnson Strait.
Marine wildlife experiences in British Columbia’s remote coastal areas range from sea lions to otters, to dolphins and birds and one must keep an eye out and have cameras ready to capture the best shot.
4 Fascinating Locations for Whale Watching Vancouver
Nearly thousands of Whales migrate from March to October every year through the waters near Vancouver. It is therefore one of the most sought-after locations for Whale Watching. There are many tour operators that offer services from the Gulf Islands and San Juan islands to the watch pod of whales from the high-speed zodiacs, a cruiser, a kayak, or even a seaplane.
A pair of binoculars is a must to watch the whales as they pass through the northern waterways that include the humpback whales, the resident orcas, the grey whales, and the minke whales. Apart from these marine mammals, you will be delighted to spot a range of sea birds, brown pelicans, harlequin ducks, Pacific loons, tufted puffins, and bald eagles.
Whale Watching Vancouver tours are often incomplete without the spotting of the resident orcas, it is the most attractive option for a whale-watching trip. Watching whales in Vancouver would give you an insight into nearly a large resident pods of resident orca whales. At times, small pods of transient orcas travel across the coastline as well.
1. Whale Watching in Downtown Vancouver
As the whales are spotted on the Strait of Georgia and around the Gulf Islands, planning a visit to Downtown Vancouver for Whale Watching Vancouver would be ideal and the most sensible thing to do.
To have the perfect marine mammal viewing of the magnificent creature of the sea, visitors need to know the following:
Time to Go for Whale Watching in Vancouver
As mentioned earlier, the whale watching season is from March to October. As thousands of whales migrate through these waters during these months and the fact is that it is much cooler on the water than on the shore, hence these months are the perfect time to go for whale watching Vancouver trip.
Sights to Behold during Whale Watching in Vancouver
Resident Orcas feeding while migrating, Salmon and transient orcas hunting for porpoises, seals, and other marine wildlife are awe-inspiring sights to behold during whale watching Vancouver trip. At times, if you are lucky you may get to see pods of grey whales travelling around the region.
How to Go Whale Watching in Vancouver?
As there are many options for whale watching from Vancouver, one must consider the trip that would suit their needs. Many of these excursions last from three hours to a full-day trip. Some trips feature an on-board naturalist that educates the visitors about British Columbia’s ecology.
Many visitors combine a whale watching Vancouver trip with a local sightseeing tour of the charming historic fishing village, Victoria on Vancouver Island. A seaplane, a ferry, or the boat that will take you for the whale watching trip can help you get there.
Some of the top places for Whale Watching from Downtown Vancouver are as follows:
a) Whale Watching Tour in Vancouver
This tour offers its visitors a half-day Vancouver whale watching tour with a professional wildlife guide on board. One can look for the resident orcas, seals, porpoises, and eagles while on a modern boat.
Cruises include shuttle pick-up and drop services, snacks, and a restroom on board.
You can expect to have some of the most incredible marine wildlife experiences found near Vancouver and the tour is considered nature lover’s best way to immerse in the scenic beauty of the western coast of Canada.
Visitors have an access to a free cancellation policy up to 24 hours in advance to get a full refund. The free cancellation policy is not applicable if cancellations are done in less than 24 hours.
b) Whale Watching Adventure in Vancouver for a Half-day
Herein visitors enjoy whale watching adventure by becoming a part of the “Salish Sea Dream”, an 80-foot flagship catamaran. It is a whale-watching tour that gives you a wonderful experience to see the whales and marine wildlife in some of the best viewing areas.
The organizers promise visitors on board to teach about the local flora and history by a knowledgeable crew. The Salish Sea Dream is a 95-passenger vessel that features an indoor heated cabin with floor-to-ceiling windows and open-air decks.
All tours will be accompanied by a captain and an expert crew of guides and naturalists. Other amenities onboard include complimentary tea and coffee, and two washrooms.
c) Seaplane Flight to Victoria and Whale-Watching Cruise
To be mesmerized by the lovely aerial views on the crossing of the Strait of Georgia, one must enjoy a trip by the seaplane to Victoria. The trip begins at the island capital on an exciting cruise through Haro Strait which is home to Orcas or the killer whales, the sea lions, and seals.
The tour is mostly arranged for a small group and visitors can do whale watching on a boat to spot the Southen Resident Killer whales. The seaplane flights are between Vancouver and Victoria.
d) Watching Whales in Safari in Vancouver
Watching whales in Safari in Vancouver is a full-day tour from Vancouver. Tourists can travel on a comfortable and covered boat. The tour operators have a track record of whale sightings on 85% of the trips.
The whale watching tour includes a full day trip on a warm and enclosed boat so that visitors can view wildlife and get tips from a naturalist’s point of view. It also includes free hotel pickups and drops.
2. Granville Island Whale Watching
Another fascinating location for watching whales in Vancouver would be Granville Island as it is Vancouver city’s most popular attraction. With its well-stocked and bustling public market, artist studios, entertainment venues, and beautiful waterfront dining, Granville Island is a wonderful tourist location.
Visitors can board any one of the four vessels owned by Wild Whales Vancouver, some are open-air boats, and some are semi-covered, but all boats are equipped with washrooms and hydrophones. Wild whales organize only one trip a day so there is no question of rushing back to the dock for the next scheduled trip in a hurry.
So visitors can have a lovely time watching whales onboard. Whale watching Vancouver on Granville Island boat can take up to 6 hours and it is best to carry some provisions before starting on the journey.
3. Whale Watching Vancouver Tour in Steveston Village
A whale watching tour in the south of Vancouver is best done in Steveston Village. A quaint fishing village on the Southwest corner of Richmond has some of the best whale sightings in Vancouver.
The following are tour operators that function in Steveston Village for whale watching Vancouver tour:
a) Seabreeze Adventures
Four-hour tours are offered in semi-covered or Zodiac-style boats by Seabreeze Adventures and it includes an onboard naturalist/interpreter. They offer shuttle pick-up at Richmond or Vancouver hotels for approximately a $10 fee.
b) Vancouver Whale Watch
It is one of the first whale-watching companies to function out in Vancouver and has been in business for nearly 21 years. Their first-class vessels are zodiac style that have been custom designed for wildlife viewing and equipped with hydrophones.
Tour timings differ from 3 to 5 hours and a seafood lunch at Stevenson either pre or post-tour is regarded as the best. A $15 fee is charged for anyone requesting shuttle service.
4. Watching Whales in White Rock
The fourth most fascinating place to do whale watching in Vancouver is in White Rock. White Rock is a beautiful seaside town, just north of the Canada/US border. The White Rock Sea tours operate from the pier along the White Rock beach.
Whale watching Vancouver tours depart daily at noon. It travels across Semiahmoo Bay and into the Salish sea. The tour is unique with halts at the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island for lunch. The entire trip with breaks included will last for nearly 5 hours.
Things to be Noted while Going for Whale Watching Vancouver Tours
- To dress in layers – As temperatures on the waters are mostly inconsistent, it is best to dress in layers.
- A waterproof Camera, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, a water bottle, and a snack are ideal for the trip.
- Ensure a proper check with the tour operator regarding the vessel that you would be travelling in.
So is Whale Watching Vancouver Worth all the Effort and Money?
Whilst a Whale watching trip can be a thrilling experience of a lifetime, it can prove to be an adventure that will result in wonderful memories. With lovely clicks of the seabirds, the dolphins, and the magnificent Whales, it will be a day filled with surprises.
There is of course a possibility of the trip resulting in a non-sighting of a whale. Well, it is best to be prepared for it and mind you it is not a must that you will never see a whale during the Whale Watching Vancouver Tour.
But even if you don’t, you can return to be lucky the second time for free. You must understand whale watching Vancouver trip is just one way of spending time in Vancouver. There are plenty of amazing things to do in Vancouver but you must remember that whale watching Vancouver tops them all.