From humpback whales to orcas and everything in-between, Vancouver Island is known to be one of the best whale watching areas in British Columbia, Canada.
Known as the place to go for the best whale watching in British Columbia, Vancouver Island offers amazing opportunities to witness wild marine life. Luckily, there are a number of boat trips to areas where you can see 30-ton marine mammals majestically glide through the open waters of Canada.
Here are some of the amazing whales you may be lucky enough to spot during whale watching season:
Grey whales participate in the longest migration route of any mammal, travelling 16,000-22,000km between their summer and winter feeding areas. During migration, grey whales cover an impressive 60-80km a day at 3-5km per hour. Go whale watching between March and May to have a chance to witness this incredible annual migration of over 20,000 grey whales swimming along the west coast of Vancouver Island towards their summer Arctic feeding waters in Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
Once the most abundant large whale population on the coast of Vancouver Island, the numbers of humpbacks in BC waters sadly diminished after many years of commercial whaling. Recently, we have been lucky enough to report increased sightings of majestic humpback whales in BC once more. There are two distinct breeds of humpbacks and the summer months see both of these humpback populations head north to Alaska. When winter comes, one humpback breed migrates to Hawaii and the other migrates to Mexico. Many humpback whales have been sighted just off of the Vancouver Island coast, especially in September and October. These 22,000 graceful whales are slow swimmers but are well-known for their acrobatic breaches and tail slapping, as well as their singing skills – making them quite a stunning sight to see in the wild!
Orcas, also known as killer whales, are the ultimate predators of the open waters. Approximately 80 orcas live off of the coast of southern Vancouver Island, while a further 250 reside off the northeastern coast. The southern residents can be seen most often during the summer months as they feed on Chinook salmon, but generally can be sighted pretty consistently between April and October. The transient northeastern residents, who feed on seals, sea lions and mammals, are more frequently sighted during summer. Highly social animals, Orcas travel in pods of between 5-30 whales led by females. As a pod swims by you may be fortunate enough to hear Orcas click, call and whistle. Orcas click when they are searching for food, trying to recognize objects and figuring out where they are in the dark water. Orcas call and whistle when they are communicating with each other.
For those visiting Vancouver Island outside of the summer whale watching season, Minke Whales, the smallest of the North Pacific baleen whales, can be spotted year-round. Minke whales have a similar aesthetic to humpback whales, but are are just ⅓ the length. The northwest Pacific Ocean is home to approximately 25,000 minke whales, who primarily feed on small schooling fish. Although minke are shy and don’t spend too much time on the surface of the ocean, they are still the most prominent whales off the coast of Vancouver Island.
As you sail travel through the spectacular waters of Clayoquot Sound, you’ll discover a plethora of other wildlife too. Look up as Bald Eagles soar across the skies, spot a black bear in between the old-growth fir trees or see sea lions basking in the summer sunshine on the rocks.
We work with Remote Passages Marine Excursions to offer our guests the chance to experience the ultimate whale watching adventure in British Columbia.
To find out more about the whale watching tours we offer on Vancouver Island, click here.
We have a variety of Vancouver Island vacation rentals in Greater Victoria, Sooke and Ucluelet to suit your vacation needs. Call our highly knowledgeable Destination Experts who can answer any questions you may have about whale watching tours from Vancouver Island, or to find out more about our excellent selection of accommodations.