Imagine zipping along the ocean in a zodiac when suddenly, the boat slows down. A couple hundred meters ahead, you watch the massive outline of a whale’s tail break the surface before dipping down into the depths of the ocean. Above, eagles are screeching and soaring and you’ve just waved goodbye to your new sea lion friends as you headed out farther into the Pacific. Whale watching and wilderness excursions are a top activity out of Victoria B.C. – below are a few key points to keep in mind while you plan your day on the ocean!
Best Time to Go:
Technically, whales can be seen at any time out of Victoria. A steady population of Transient Orcas mean they’re around all year. That being said, May – November is considered “peak season” and is when companies have a higher success rate at spotting whales. Depending on the day and season, you can also spot Gray, Minke and Humpback Whales, along with Seals, Sea Lions and Porpoises.
What to Wear:
Zipping around on the ocean can get pretty nippy, even on a hot summer’s day. Be prepared and dress in layers. Flat, close-toed shoes are the way to go when you’re working on getting your sea legs as well. Be prepared with sunscreen and sunglasses, too.
What to Bring:
Be sure to bring along a camera or video camera (with straps!) and, depending on your tour departure, some snacks and drinks for along the way. Bring along some extra layers if you tend to get cold and don’t forget the sunscreen on a sunny day.
What to Expect:
Expectations may vary depending on the time of year and company you book with, but below are some of the most common features of any Whale Watching excursion out of Victoria:
- 3-4 hour long tours
- Skilled Guides and Captains at driving the boat safely and locating whales.
- Do not expect to approach closer than 100m to the whales.
- Within 400m, the boat will slow down to less than 7knots to reduce the impact of the boat on the marine mammals.
- Guidelines are part of the Be Whale Wise Guidelines and are to help reduce impact of the vessel on marine mammals.
- Expect to see not only whales, but also plenty of other marine life along the way!
- Each type of boat will provide a different kind of experience.
- Sea sickness is a rare occurrence – if you’re worried about it, take your favorite motion sickness medication beforehand
- Expect to share the boat with others on the tour
Good Things to Know:
Finally, before you go, there are a number of questions you may want to ask the company so that you can be full prepared for your day!
- What type of boat?
- Are there washrooms on board?
- Are there snacks/beverages available?
- When do the trips leave?
- How much earlier should you arrive at the area of departure?
- Are floater suits available/do you need to wear one?
- Is there a hydrophone on board to listen to the whales?
- Is there a Whale sighting guarantee?
For many, spying these humble giants in their natural environment is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is always humbling and mind blowing to see their tails disappear below the waves or hear the spray and see the mist of the whales along the horizon. Follow these guidelines and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, there’s so much to see out there!