Whale Watching, Vancouver
Vancouver is located off the coast of the Strait of Georgia - the long, narrow body of water separating Vancouver Island from the rest of the North American mainland. Its within these waters that orcas (aka: killer whales) live here throughout the year. Not only are there orcas, but there are also porpoises, otters, sea lions, seals, and other beautiful marine creatures.
Orcas, technically a part of the dolphin family, are really fascinating creatures to watch. They can often be seen breaching (jumping), tail-slapping and spy-hopping. Even their more "mundane" activities, such as feeding for salmon, are exhilirating to see live, as they travel in pods (groups of 10-30 whales).
There are 3 resident pods or orcas that live in the Georgia Strait: J-pod, K-pod, and L-pod. J-pod stays in the waters of the Georgia Strait year round, whereas K and L pods live here during the warmer, summer months.
A lot of people think that they have to go to Victoria to go whale watching, but there are actually 3 companies located out of Vancouver: Vancouver Whale Watch, Steveston Seabreeze Adventures, and Wild Whales Vancouver. Vancouver Whale Watch and Steveston Seabreeze are actually based in the village of Steveston at the mouth of the Fraser River, which is a 45 minute drive south of Vancouver. Wild Whales Vancouver operates out of Granville Island. I think all of them offer shuttle buses in case you don't drive.
You really have to set aside a good portion of the day to go whale watching, as normally the trips take between 3-5 hours in length. I believe all these whale watching companies offer guaranteed sightings, which means, if you don't see the whales, you get to go again for free.
We went Whale watching on our first full day in Vancouver.
We used a company called Vancouver Whale Watch who are located in Stevenston, South West Richmond, Vancouver.
You can get there by taking a bus from Downtown. It takes around an hour, and you have to change buses around 3 quarters of the way there.
Seeing the Whales was a great experience, and i would do it all again if i had the choice, but you should be warned that it makes for a long day. We left the harbour around 2pm, but it was just after 4pm when we caught up with the Whales.
It was around 7pm when we get back. It is a bumpy ride, so all of those a little wary of boats should give it a miss.
With that said, it is a brilliant experience!! We loved it! The boat ride, although long, was a great laugh!!!
The only sad thing is that when you get to the Whales, you realise how much these animals are harrased. We were 1 of what turned out to be around 20 boats that were chasing the whales. Suddenly you wanted to just let them be!!
A good experience, but make sure you choose a proffesional team like Vancouver Whale Watch who knows the rules and doesn't frighten or get to close to the whales.
The total cost for whale watching was $203.30
The image opposite isn't the bst, but the little white marks that look like waves near the shore are whales jumping!
May seem like a cheesy tourist trap thing to do but trust me, it's not. I've lived on the west coast of Canada for 18 years now and had never really experienced any of the bountiful marine life we have here. We went with Seabreeze Adventures (actually located in Steveston in Richmond). Their boat was covered and comfortable with a back deck and sliding windows. Pros: You're warm, dry and you can talk. Cons: Slower boat, the whales don't get as close as they seem to like really brightly colored zodiacs. I would recommed if you wanna feel like you're getting right in there marine biologist-style take a zodiac, plus you'll likely be able to stay with the whales longer. If being in a huge parka and being splashed with ocean water isn't your thing, take a covered boat. Overall this was awesome, expensive, but awesome. There was 50-60 orcas in the area where we went, they were breaching and everything. Worth every penny (about $85 CAD). August and September are the best months to go. Early august they are closer to Vancouver Island and late august/september they are closer to the mainland.
This tour departs from Granville Island, costs CAN$110 per person. Budget the whole day for this. Use liberally sunblock and where sunglasses - the boats will be traveling very quickly!
The boat will travel south from English Bay to the area on the border with US where killer whales are often spotted. Once they locate them, you will be able to see them about a mile away. The scenery along the trip is nothing short of amazing. Leaves at 10 am, and you should make reservations. Their booklets are found in hotels.
See travelogue for more photos.
If you want to see whales I wouldn't recommend Vancouver Whale Watch. They waited until we had paid and were in the boat then told us that the whales were on the other side of Vancouver Island and their boat didn't have the range to get there. They showed us some seals and told us what types of birds we were seeing instead. The tour is advertised as being 3-5 hours and despite the fact that we saw no whales, we were back in 3. They would not give a refund but said we could come back again for free. This is worthless if you live far away. I asked if they planned to tell the people on the afternoon tour that the whales were out of range and they said no because they might see a stray humpback. I asked what the possibility of that was and they were very evasive and never answered. They were extremely slick and seemed like they had done this many times before.
These are based in Downtown Vancouver on Granville Island. We choose these as we didn't fancy a long trek to Steveston.
They advertise the tour as 3-5 hours long, we were out for a total of 7 hours. I don't think it matters who you go out with as they all go to the same spot. We saw J pod and lots of sea loins.
The people who took us out were very imformative and sure knew there stuff. We were given binoculars to get better views of the whales etc, books to read about them and given a talk.
We went on the covered boat and was sure glad we did as the weather was not great and looked very cold outside on the waves.
Ok if don't mind boats and are looking for a few hours of fun on the high seas (without really having to go to the high seas) take the Zodiac tour! We actually crossed back into US waters (no papers required;-) and floated floated just off shore of the San Juan Islands in Washington State while a whole heard of Okras swam passed the boat (one right under ours). How just like any other outdoor wildlife adventure you may so them or not but it was a lot of fun, a must do!
I chose this company as they are listed as a member of the WWOANW guidelines for responsible whale watching.