Whale Watching, Victoria
I went whale watching again this summer. I chose to go with Prince of Whales again and wasn't disappointed. We went on a zodiac, which is a small inflatable boat that seats twelve passengers and travels at a high speed, zooming and bouncing right over the waves.
Our boat headed out of Victoria's Inner Harbour towards the US Juan de Fuca Island. As we approached the island we were pleased to find that our boat was the first to come across a large group of about twelve killer whales, including a very large adult male and one or two babies. Initially the whales were having a blast and jumping out of the water, but as more boats joined us they took to staying underwater longer.
We also saw a group of about twenty harbour porpoises, a huge golden eagle and dozens of harbour seals. It was a great afternoon! My pictures are rather deceptive, as the whales initially came much closer to our boat (not vice versa) than it appears in the photos.
There aren't washrooms on the zodiacs, and the trip is three hours, so do pee first! Bring a bottle of water because you'll be out in the hot sun all afternoon without shade, and I also suggest bringing your camera, binoculars and some money for a tip inside a ziplock bag. Bouyant wetsuits are provided for warmth and protection from the wind.
Make sure you pee before you go, and don't forget your binoculars!
Whale watching tours is a huge business here in Victoria and all around the Pacific Northwest...but I wonder how much is too much..there are hoards of boats plying the local waters and in and around the San Juan Islands...and I believe its a contributing factor in they're decline locally...Tour boats are regulated Federally both in Canada and the U.S.A. so there are some measures taken to "protect" them...Im not sure though that its likely enough to not contribute to they're survival in these waters..
I'm certainly not recommending that you avoid satisfying any curiosity about seeing whales here but just making a comment...
Ive participated twice in whale watching tours and honestly its such a thrill to see them in they're natural environment..there's not much from my experience that can match the thrill of it..
Both times that I've gone out I've used the company " Prince of Whales " and both times I've opted for a Zodiac experience...you're so close to the water it feels like the boat is likely going faster than it likely is and if REALLY lucky...if the whales come close to the boat it seems so close..be warned though...that using a Zodiac can be a pretty rough ride...as well as downright cold...even when its a HOT and SUNNY day on land.They'll set you up in a "survival suit" but trust me its not enough to be warm....bring along and wear a sweater underneath the suit to help...if I was venturing out during the Fall I would certainly bring along a pair of gloves and a hat that you can pull down over your head..
Both of my experiences have been favorable....the very first trip I went on there was a Transient Pod hunting for snacks around Rocky Point...an easy 20 minute trip out of the harbor...the second trip was to a Resident Pod that was in the area..
For those that might not know...there is a kind of hierarchy established in "Orca World"....Transients normally feed on sea mammals....the Resident Pods in the Pacific Northwest feed predominantly on fish so things are kind of balanced out for them...and one isn't encroaching on another's food source..
Prince of Whales has a ticketing office on the Inner Harbor...and they're boats tie up and depart and return here also...they "kit" you up at the ticketing office...the guides are fun...and SAFETY is stressed over and over again...They and the other companies are again regulated heavily by Transport Canada and they must adhere to established maritime safety protocol...
Tours on the Zodiacs leave every half hour during peak season and run hourly when demand is declining ...tours run for three hours..
Its not a cheap adventure though...an adult price will set you back $ 95.00 and $ 85.00 for students and seniors..a child's fare ...8- 12 years old will cost you $ 75.00...They recommend that children under 8 should travel on the Ocean Magic...a larger and more conventional boat.
You can book onto these tours either at the ticketing office or by telephone...and either way....they'll be able to tell you if a pod or whale or whales has been spotted on that day.
The city of victoria boasts many whale watching trips which depart hourly from victorias beautiful harbour.Along with whales you will see beautiful scenery flying by, as you whip along the water in what feels like a jet propelled zodiac.Also, we saw white tipped dolphins,seals and eagles.The killer whales are amazing, and a must see.Reasonably priced, this is a must see activity, for your trip to victoria.
The Orca watching season in Victoria is from April to September as they follow salmon to the rivers each year. While the salmon return from the oceans to spawn so the Orca sighting opportunities increase.
The Humpback whales frequent the waters around Victoria between October and November.
3 Hour Whale Watching tour to see these magnificent creatures was $99 in August 2010 and departed from the inner harbor.
We went with Prince of Whales whale watching and had a fabulous time. This is the most popular tour company and we could see why. They have a great location right downtown Victoria, great service, affordable and we saw LOTS of whales!
Every 30 mins. 3 hour tours go out. You can go on a cruiser boat or a zodiac (we did the zodiac which was a blast!). You get a suit to wear to keep you warm out there as it is cold!!!
Call ahead to reserve and check how the sightings are that day.
This is one of the best things I've ever done! I was so lucky to see near of 12 whales the day I took the tour, from big to small ones jumping so near from our boat. I know it is not very common to see such amount of whales and the guide was surprised too. It is a 3 hour tour and the boat is fast, stable and safe. At the end of the tour you are offered hot chocolate to get warm.
Tickets costs $75. DON'T you miss it.
I recommend just going for the heck of it, enjoying the whole trip whether you watch the freaking whales or not, although its pretty sweet when you actually do.
They make you wear a huge orange astronaut suit and take you around the harbour and outside .
Dont eat a lot before going!!!
Two activities really stood out - first, go off-shore on a whale-watching trip (especially by an Adventures Pacific Zodiac boat as shown here) in Clayoquot Sound. This trip out of Tofino was very exciting because of its speed and the great on-shore scenery (although the Grey whales that we saw were not as spectacular as the Humpbacks that we saw while whale-watching in New Brunswick and Newfoundland). The other thing that you should enjoy is a close-up look at the fantastic forests in BC - Cathedral Grove (on the way to Port Alberni) being a great example as in my other two tips in this section.
Spend 3 hours on the ocean watching Killer Whales and other marine life on a Zodiac boat. This is an awesome experience which allows you to get quite close to these amazing creatures. You will be dressed in a survival outfit as it gets quite chilly out there. Bring your camera and loads of film (don't want to run out).
The Zodiac Adventure Tour by the Prince of Whales company is far out the best known trip you can make for whale watching. The boat seats 12 persons and the trip lasts 3 hours.
Tickets are around CAD 100.
This website allows you to take a 1/2 day or full day whalewatching tour from either Victoria (the main base) or Vancouver (you get dropped off in Victoria, and you have to make your own way back to Vancouver but the company WILL help you with return options--just ask!). They also give a 95% whale-sighting guarantee! (Check before booking, depends on the season!)
Although we didn't spot any of the larger creatures from the deep, the trip was worth it. Three hours at sea with plenty of things, animals and panoramic views to look at - not a bad way to spend a sunday afternoon. Great guide, knowlegable and with the necessay amount of humor. This must be one of the "must do" things in Victoria.
Cooperation between all the whale-watching operations ensures that everyone knows where the whales are feeding that day. So chances are good that you will see a whale. Even if you don't see whales, sea lions and seals are always in the area, as a sort of consolation prize.
You travel in a Zodiac, with about 10 people. The boat is small enough that you can get quite close to the wildlife. The day that I went, it was cold and rainy. We didn't see any orcas (killer whale) but we saw a grey whale surface a few times, and we were close enough that we could see the barnacles on its skin.
Giant orange suits and goggles keep you warm and dry out on the water.
Its awesome, if you dont focus so much in actualling watching the whales but more on the whole idea of the trip.
They make you wear this huge orange suits for proction and take you on a boat for a while and show around.
So much fun,but dont eat a lot before going.
I suppose this i like a water safari!
Whale watching is a massive trade in Victoria, so its best to check out a few different companies to get the best deal. We went with the ones with Yellow boats! (can't remeber the name!)
It took us about 40 minutes to actually reach the whales, but then zipping over the waves is fun in itself. It can be a bit painful too so if your prone to backpain, be careful who you choose to travel with!
But however long it takes its worth it to see these amazing creatures. Unbelievable. They are masive, terrifying, beautiful............