Whale Watching Tours Off Vancouver Island For Nature Admirers
Seeing whales in the flesh can be an awe-inspiring event, which is probably why whale watching tours are quite popular. This article takes a look at the whale watching tours off Vancouver Island, one of the most popular destinations for those who want to see these gentle aquatic giants firsthand.
Facts about whale watching tours in Vancouver Island
The waters around Vancouver Island are well-known as the home of over 200 Orcas, making the area a prime spot for whale watchers. The orcas are a combination of residents (numbering at 217 whales that are members of 16 pods) and are found by the Johnstone Strait, and transients, which are made of 160 orcas belonging to 30 small pods. The transient whales can usually be found in waters further from the shores compared to the resident whales.
While Orcas predominantly occupy the waters around Vancouver Island, going on a whale watching tour in the area can also allow you to catch a glimpse of other kinds of whales there, as some of these aquatic giants may swim in the area during their migration seasons. Some other animals you may see in your whale watching tour include:
- Pacific gray whales. Over 20,000 Pacific gray whales can be seen along the west coast of Vancouver Island from March to April, as this area is part of their migratory route.
- Humpback whales. Humpback whales, known for their acrobatic tendencies and beautiful songs, are usually found at the north of Vancouver Island, close to the Inside Passage. Humpbacks can usually be seen around the island during summertime.
- Minke whales. Minke whales, a smaller breed of baleen whales, can reach up to 32 feet. These whales are quite shy, so you’ll need a keen eye and sharp ears in order to see these.
- Other creatures. It’s also possible to see other animals such as Harbour porpoises, Dalls porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Stellers sea lions, and Harbour seals during your whale watching expedition in Vancouver Island.
The best time to join one of the whale watching tours is from May to November, where sightings are more common. This is because these months are the time for salmon, the staple food of these whales, to spawn nearby. Orcas in particular are quite plentiful in the Broughton Archipelago and Johnstone Strait from mid-June to October. The Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve by Johnstone Strait is where the rubbing stones can be found, so called because Orcas like rubbing their bodies against these stones. To date, the Orcas in the region are the only killer whales known to rub their bodies against stones or pebbles.
What to expect from a whale watching tour
Some of the things you can expect in a whale watching tour include:
- The itinerary. The itinerary will depend on what type of tour you joined. Some are day tours that bring you to the waters where the whales are and back again, while there are others that not only allow tourists to catch a glimpse of these gentle aquatic giants but also allow them to enjoy all of the sights to see around the area. For example, some tours take visitors to sheltered inland coves where they can see eagles foraging, bears foraging, and other kinds of wildlife in their natural element. Other tours are week-long events that include a trip to Hot Springs Cove.
- The boat. Like the itinerary, the boat you will be taking on your expedition will depend on what tour you availed of. Choices include a luxurious yacht, a catamaran, and even kayaks that you can paddle out so you can be closer to these whales.
- The lectures. In most cases, guides of whale watching tours won’t simply just bring you to the areas where the whales can be found in. These tours are usually led by scientists, captains, naturalists, or other such experts who are not only whale experts, but who are also knowledgeable about Vancouver Island, from its history to its wildlife. As such, you get to listen to lectures given by these experts so that you will also be able to enrich your knowledge during your trip.
- Other sights and attractions. Some tours can also include a trip to Alert Bay, where the First Nations cultural centers can be found. Local artwork and potlatch paraphernalia that have been confiscated by the Canadian government are some of the exhibits you can see there.
How to prepare for whale watching tours
Some tips that you can follow in order to prepare for a whale watching expedition include:
- If you’re planning on joining a whale watching tour, be sure to book reservations in advance. These tours are highly in demand, so it’s possible to run out of slots quickly if you don’t make your reservations early.
- Make sure to base your reservations on what kind of animals you want to see in your trip. If you want to catch a glimpse of certain kinds of aquatic animals, be sure to book your reservation on a month that these beasts are known to make an appearance near Vancouver Island. For example, if you want to see humpback whales, book your reservation for summer and not in any other season.
- Dress in warm layers. It can be chilly when you’re already in the boat, so be sure to dress warmly so that you won’t get cold.
- Prepare for seasickness. Whale watching tours will bring you to open waters, so those who are sensitive to seasickness should make the necessary preparations in case of motion.
Other activities to do in Vancouver Island
There are also other activities you can do at or near Vancouver Island apart from joining one of the whale watching tours. These include:
- Scuba diving. The waters around Vancouver Island feature some of the best scuba diving spots in the world. Not only will you get the chance to have up-close-and-personal encounters with the creatures of the deep, you can also get the chance to explore the beauty of underwater life, and maybe even explore a sunken ship.
- Bungee jumping. Various areas in Vancouver Island offer visitors the chance to try out bungee jumping from large canyons.
Vancouver Island has a lot to offer to nature admirers. If you’re an adventurous soul who wants to experience the best of what the world has to offer, consider booking a holiday in Vancouver Island. Don’t forget to make reservations for a whale watching tour!