Vancouver Island’s most celebrated residents are its marine mammals and they come in many forms. Members of a population of some 300 fish-eating orcas known as the “Northern Residents” are often in the area in pursuit of salmon. More stealthy mammal-eating orcas known as “Transients” or “Bigg’s killer whales” are also often hunting here.
Whale Watching in North Vancouver Island, BC
Back from the brink of extinction, humpback whales are also spotted regularly. Sightseeing trips may also encounter Pacific harbor seals, Dall’s and harbor porpoise, Minke whales and a prodigious array of sea birds. Acrobatic Pacific white-sided dolphins and the world’s largest sea lion species, Stellar’s sea lion, are in the area year-round, though spring and fall are the most predictable times to see large numbers of both. The sight of dozens of sea lions lazing on the rocks and growing loudly is unforgettable.
Whale Watching Booking Sites:
Vancouver Island North tour operators view all of these magnificent creatures with respect. The small community here is dedicated to ensuring safe, sustainable encounters that serve marine mammals and sightseers in equal measure. Captain closely adhere to “Be Whale Wise” guidelines that dictate that boats stay at least 100 meters away from any whales. That’s not to say these remarkable mammals won’t make a memorable encounter on their own terms.
Local experts offer tours from Telegraph Cove, Port McNeill, Alert Bay, Port Hardy, and as part of multi-day stays at remote lodges in the region that specialize in wildlife viewing. A number of operators adhere to the standards of the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association, an organization that conducts conservation and business activities aimed at benefiting marine mammals, the economy and the marine environment off northern Vancouver Island.
What to expect on a whale watching tour in BC?
- Whale watching tours typically last for around 4-6 hours.
- You are served lunch on the board which will mostly be soup, bun, and dessert
- A typical tour should cover the following items
- Professional guiding service
- All types of equipment (including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes, dry bags, and sponges)
- Hydrophone for listening to the whales
- What might not be included
- Flights, airport transfers, ferries, taxis
- Travel/medical insurance
- Alcoholic or carbonated beverages
- Rain gear
- Personal items (toiletries, clothing, etc.)
Best season for whale watching in Vancouver
- August & September: Best
- Mid-July & Mid September: Good
- Early July: Okay
- June: Not okay
Whale Watching Guidelines
- Be cautious and courteous, approaching known areas of marine wildlife activity with extreme caution
- Reduce speed to less than 7 knots when within 400 meters of the nearest whale
- Keep clear of the whales’ path of travel
- Do not approach whales from the front or behind, always approach and depart from the side
- Do not approach or position your vessel closer than 100 meters to any whale
- Stay on the offshore side of the whale when they are traveling close to shore
- Do not swim, touch or feed marine wildlife
- Know that humpbacks are large, can surface unpredictably after long dives and be very unaware of boats
- Be on the lookout for blows at all times
- Go slow if you see a blow
- If you see Whale Watch Flag raised on boats, slow down as this means whales are near