They’re called whale-watching tours, but guests see much more than whales on these adventure sightseeing excursions just off Victoria’s shores.
When conditions permit, tours leave daily from Victoria’s Inner Harbour and the Port of Sidney. Qualified operators, Prince Of Whales and Sidney Whale Watching run a range of vessels, including zodiac-style boats, catamarans, yachts and covered expedition cruisers.
The nutrient-rich and sheltered waters around Vancouver Island flourish with marine life, and this is the place to experience some of the world's highest density – and most accessible – whale watching. Sheltered passages between Vancouver Island’s southeastern tip and the San Juan Islands just across the U.S. border are some of the best waters in the world to see whales up close in their natural habitat.
These amazing mammals swim along the shorelines, chasing salmon, socializing and interacting with each other. Juan de Fuca Strait, Haro Strait and the Salish Sea are the summer home for three groups of resident orcas, totaling about 80 individuals. Orcas, commonly known as the killer whale, are the main attraction, but gray, humpback and minke whales can also be seen passing through.
Orcas are called whales, but they are really the largest member of the dolphin family. Female Orcas grow to five to seven metres long and weigh three to four tonnes, while males can reach eight metres long and weigh more than six tonnes. They are typically black, with a white eyespot and a grey patch, known as a saddlepatch, just behind the dorsal fin.
The sheltered waters around southern Vancouver Island are home to enough plankton to feed the world's largest marine mammals, and the marine ecosystem is home to an astonishing diversity of saltwater inhabitants. Tours often also get to watch delightful sea otters, colonies of seals and sea lions sunning on the rocks and taking dips, playful porpoises and dolphins delighting in the waves, and graceful sea birds gliding and diving in the breeze.
Diving and shore birds are plentiful here, and regular sightings include bald eagles, falcons, osprey and cormorants. Most of the marine adventure tours have local certified naturalists on board, and they are fascinating sources of information about the animals, their behaviour and their habitat.
The tours range from a couple of hours to all-day excursions, and the most sophisticated ones use hydrophone technologies to hear the whales' unique underwater conversations. Many of the tours include a visit to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, Canada’s first Marine Protected Area, home to an astonishing abundance of marine life.
There are many companies that offer whale watching and in the downtown core and harbour, Prince Of Whales is the most popular company. They have been sharing premiere whalewatching and marine wildlife experiences with guests from around the world for over 20 years. You can also depart from Sidney (near the Airport and Ferry terminal) at Sidney Whale Watchingand find yourself in the middle of the Orca whales foraging grounds