Canadian Bucket List: Whale Watching on Vancouver Island

According to Wanderlust Travel Magazine, Vancouver Island is the #1 whale watching destination in the world. ❤

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I chose to book a whale watching tour with SpringTide Eco Tours. They are based in Victoria, where there are known to be pods of both orca and humpback whales. They offer the tour in one of two boats: either their spacious ocean cruiser, a 61-ft motor yacht, or their high-speed inflatable raft. I opted for the more thrilling ride. 😀

luxurious option
adventurous option (my choice) 🙂

This three-hour tour took us through the Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca where we went watching for different species of whales and various other animals on the open sea.DSC_5107 (1)DSC_5097For the journey, the company provides these water repellent life suits, which serve to insulate, but also double as a flotation device. The boat goes about 30 mph and the weather on the water is about 10 degrees cooler, so I made sure to bundle up for the ride. So stylish! 😉G1728001_1499113565843_highAfter about 15 minutes we spotted these harbor seals. Our boat was required to maintain a distance of 100 meters from the animals, as to not disturb them.DSC_5132DSC_5122 - Edited (1)After about an hour on the boat we got word of a humpback whale sighting, so we hightailed it over to that area.

another zodiac boat looking for whales

When we arrived, we were greeted by two humpback whales. Humpbacks are distinguished by their hump-shaped gray backs, and distinctive bumps, which are actually over-sized hair follicles. On average, humpbacks weigh about 65,000 pounds, which is the same as five adult elephants! 😮

humpback’s dorsal fin

We found these whales in the commercial shipping lane, since during the summer months, they tend to congregate here, feeding on small fish, like plankton and krill.DSC_5087Fun fact: Humpbacks don’t have teeth, so they can’t chew their food. Instead they have bristles, similar to a broom, which filters food in and also keeps food from getting out. Interestingly enough, during the winter, the whales migrate thousands of miles to warmer waters, where they give birth and raise their young. In doing so, they spend nearly 6 months without eating, living solely off their fat stores.DSC_5180They are also a nautical marvel, as they navigate by sensing changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. They can easily travel hundreds of miles in a perfectly straight line! In contrast, orcas use sonar to navigate. Our guide said that this sonar makes orcas more sensitive to a boat’s presence (i.e. more difficult for whale watching). Coincidentally, the only known natural predator of humpbacks is orcas, so maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t see both in the same spot. 😉

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humpback whale tails have two lobes called flukes

Now in watching the breathing pattern of the two humpbacks, our guide reckons one of them was sleeping, since it kept coming to the surface so often. He said, since whales have to be awake to breathe, they sleep underwater for only a few minutes before coming back up for air. In contrast, whales hunting for food can normally go 20-30 minutes without taking a breath! This whale looked so majestic as it would come to the surface, exhale thought its blow hole, then submerge itself back underwater, splashing its fluke on the way down. ❤

After about 45 minutes of watching the whale surface and flick its beautiful tail, we began to make our way back to the harbor. Overall, the whale tour was a truly incredible experience, and seeing this massive creatures is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that can only be found in a few special places like this. 😀

I surely did! 😉

Cost: 73 USD, which includes the 3-hour boat tour with gear and guide. Normally the tour is 88 USD, but Moose Bus participants get a discount. 🙂

5 thoughts on “Canadian Bucket List: Whale Watching on Vancouver Island

  1. Darn! Our whale watching record is really dismal.
    Either the weather was bad, or simply the supposedly many whales that passes through are missing. Lucky you, the closest we saw of any whale is their flukes in the distant!

    Liked by 1 person

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