Lifejacket on, all hands aboard and eyes peeled! Whale watching has become a popular activity on Vancouver Island. The Pacific Ocean is the stage on which the annual mass migration of whales takes place, and various types of whale can be seen in the coastal waters close to Vancouver and Vancouver Island from around March to October.
Most whale-watching excursions set sail from Victoria on Vancouver Island. Once out in open water, but still in sight of snow-covered mountain peaks, it’s time to look out for the first black fin or tail to surface. This usually does not take very long and the giant mammals can often be seen from far away. Most whale-watching excursions provide a special guarantee: if you don’t see a whale, the next trip is free. This speaks volumes about the chances of success - it’s a rare occasion when the waters remain undisturbed here.
The cold waters surrounding Vancouver Island provide the perfect environment for the impressive orca, also known as the killer whale. Sometimes up to 100 of these creatures can be spotted at the same time. The best time to spot orcas from the northern coast of Vancouver Island (Johnstone Strait) is from July to mid-September. On the southern side, at Haro Strait, the chances are greatest from the beginning of May until the end of September.
In addition to orcas, many grey whales and humpbacks have been spotted here. The grey whales pass by the western coast of Vancouver Island (at Tofina) and can mainly be seen in April and May. They are on their way from Mexico to the Bering Sea, stopping off at Vancouver Island’s bays to rest and feed.
Although all types of whale are spectacular to see, the humpback is many people’s favourite. Small wonder as the humpbacks are chiefly known for their acrobatic displays and the sounds they produce. These ‘songs’ can often be heard while whale-watching and it is a magical sound. If the humpbacks are in a playful mood, they propel themselves up from the sea and pound back down on the water's surface, causing an enormous splash. Some of these creatures can weigh up to 45 tonnes, equivalent to around 500 people.
Most whale-watching trips last around half a day but you can also book a full day trip. The excursions are usually led by nature lovers and are also therefore very informative.