One of the things that had been on my bucket list to do since moving to Vancouver, was to go out whale watching. Vancouver is perfectly placed for whale watching because many whales who migrate using the Georgia Staight pass through these waters on their way. There are also whales that stay here year-round so it’s an ideal place to go out looking for them.
Around Vancouver the most common type of whales to find are orcas. Orcas are often referred to as Killer Whales and they belong to the dolphin family. Orcas are not the biggest of whales, however, they are hugely powerful and have been known to kill great white sharks. Orcas are exceptionally intellegent animals that have their own unique ways of communicating. Some types of orca use sonar and eco location to find their prey and communicate, others form their own languages which are so unique that it is possible to tell what family a whale comes from just by listening to their calls. Orcas stay in their familial pod all their lives, with only the odd one or two breaking off on their own to form their own pods. The pod centres around the mother, or if there is no mother, then oldest female.
Around Vancouver the most common orcas are Transients (ones that migrate between seasons), Southern Residents (stay in the area year-round) and Offshores. The tour company I decided to use was Wild Whales Vancouver. With a guaranteed sightings arrangement and with over 90% of their tours providing sightings of whales they are one of the best companies around. They also leave from Granville Island which is far more accessible than having to go across to Vancouver Island or down to Richmond from Downtown Vancouver. My mum, brother and his girlfriend went out with Wild Whales Vancouver 4 years ago when my brother and his girlfriend were out here for 6 months and my mum came to visit.
The first whale watching tour I did was 2 weeks ago and we had no sightings of whales at all. Tickets cost $144 including tax for an adult so it’s not a cheap day out but well worth it. The trip was still enjoyable and the views are absolutely stunning. True to their agreement, Wild Whales Vancouver did give me a ticket to come back and go on another tour, which they keep repeating until you get a whale sighting. The tickets are valid for life and they have had people come back 10 years later to use theirs.
Being eager to see a whale this year I booked straight on to the same tour the following week (last week) and wow was I pleased I did. The trip was absolutely incredible. We saw 10 orcas (we think 3 different pods), seals, sea lions, porpoise, 2 bald eagles, a kingfisher and deer. It was beyond anything I could have imagined and was truly a life-changing experience. Watching the orcas was unbelievable. We saw them diving numerous times, one jumped out of the water, one did a belly roll, and another spyhopped. One of the guys on our tour, Max Venturi, captured them on camera – see images below.
One photo has also been contributed by Emma Bjarnevik and the video is from Vidy Nima. To tell the males from the female whales look at the dorsel fin. The adult male fins are long and straight, the juevenile males and females have smaller curved dorsel fins. I would highly recommend doing this tour.
Video by Vidy Nima
Photos by Max Venturi
Photo by Emma Bjarnevik
Some of my photos
Update (May 2018) – Still one of the best things I have done since moving here. Happy to accompany you on your tour, just saying 🙂
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will come join you on your trip.