Thrilling Whale Watching from Victoria BC on Vancouver Island

Whale watching from Victoria BC was more than I ever imagined!  

Please, please, please don’t leave Victoria without doing at least one whale watching tour. I made that mistake on my first three visits to Victoria, British Columbia. However, now that I’ve whale watched there, it will be the first thing I do when I return. Why am I so exuberant about BC whale watching now? Read on to read my honest review…

Pinterest graphic with text: Thrilling Whale Watching from Victoria BC on Vancouver Island and photo of Orca jumping straight up out of the water
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Summary

Don’t have time to read the whole article? Then go straight to my favorite tour company for whale watching from Victoria BC. Or make reservations through your Princess Cruises shore excursions.

If you have a bit more time, you’ll learn these things from my firsthand experiences during BC whale watching:

  • Types of whales and wildlife you’ll see
  • When is the best time to see whales in Victoria
  • Types of tours and tour boats
  • Practical considerations like clothes to wear

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.”

Why had I skipped watching whales on previous Victoria visits?

Other whale watching tours I’d experienced were—dare I say—rather ho-hum. Sitting on a boat…waiting.

Not my cup of tea. I’d much rather be skippering the boat or, better yet, paddling a kayak to see orcas. Yes, some call orcas ‘killer whales,’ but I’d really like to paddle with the beasts—if that fits responsible whale watching guidelines.

During my recent visit to Victoria, I finally took the plunge, and oh, my! I’m so glad I did. There was nothing ho-hum about pulling on a bulky red flotation suit (think hefty snowmobile suit) and hanging on as our open Zodiac skimmed over the waves to whale habitat afar.

two women bundled in thick red, one-piece jackets smile at camera with drizzly weather behind them during BC Whale watching
UNSTOPPABLE Stacey and fellow travel writer Barbara Redding staying warm in flotation suits

Another reason I’m so keen on whale watching whale tours is because of the diversity of wildlife in the waters around Victoria, BC and the abundance of marine wildlife there. So, let’s move on to the types of animals you’ll see.

Types of Whales and Best Time for Sightings

Orca rises out of water with shoreline lined with rocks and evergreen trees during whale watching Victoria
British Columbia eco regulations keep Victoria whale watching tours at safe distances | Photo by Thomas Lipke on Unsplash

The primary attraction of whale watching Victoria is, of course, the whales themselves. The waters near Victoria are home to orcas and humpback whales, among other species.

Your BC Whale Watching Checklist:

  • Orcas
  • humpback whales
  • gray whales
  • minke whales
  • Stellar and California sea lions,
  • harbor and elephant seals,
  • otters and
  • various birds such as cormorants and bald eagles

When is the Best Time to See Whales in Victoria

Watch humpback whale feeding outside Victoria, BC | Orca Spirit Adventures photo
Humpback whale watching from Victoria | Orca Spirit Adventures photo
You'll experience lots of wildlife activity | Orca Spirit Adventures photo

The peak Victoria Whale Watching Season is between May and November, offering the highest likelihood of sightings. Knowing the best time to go whale watching will maximize your chances of seeing these majestic creatures.

Victoria Whale Watching Season

I created this printable to help you plan your whale watching from Victoria BC experience.

grpahic showing Victoria whal watching season as described in this article - created by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Wittig, travel blogger
large bird with wings cocked at 180 degrees glides toward water with talon stretched on this Victoria whale watching tour
Bald eagle launches from rock island outside Victoria BC | Orca Spirits Adventures photo

Visiting Victoria? Check out these useful services!

  • Booking.com

1.) Find the dream spot

Enhance your visit to Victoria with Booking.com. Find the perfect accommodations that fit your lifestyle and budget.

 

  • Viator

2.) Plan your fun

Explore the best of Victoria BC with Viator. Discover exciting tours and activities to make your trip memorable.

 

  • Discover Cars

3.) Rent a car

Discover the beauty of Victoria at your own pace with Discover Cars. Rent a car and enjoy the freedom to explore the city and its surrounding areas.

Winter Whale Watching in Victoria

The Victoria whale watching season doesn’t just suddenly end in November—it just gets a bit slower. During winter whale watching in Victoria, you’ll see humpback whales, Stellar and California sea lions, harbor and elephant seals, humpback whales, otters and various birds such as cormorants and bald eagles.

The company we toured with, Orca Spirit Adventures, stands by their whale sighting guarantee on all winter whale watching tours, too.

Now let’s move on to your choices of types of vessels and tours… and how we decided on the Zodiac vessel.

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Types of Tours Available

Over many years, British Columbia whale watching tour companies have refined the types of tours and made continual improvements to the vessels and their environmental impacts. Also, safety and wildlife viewing standards have been set because of the long history of whale watching from Victoria BC.

So today, various types of whale watching tours are available, such as

  • half-day tours on catamarans,
  • zodiac boat tours for a more intimate experience, and
  • covered boat tours for comfort and stability.
large white craft with interior seating next to small orange Zodiac vessel
A Zodiac vessel floats next to a catamaran-style tour boat designed for whale watching Vancouver Island | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

Catamaran Tours

Many of the catamaran-style tour boats are designed for BC whale watching. The twin hulls make the catamaran more stable. Also, you sit up higher than a Zodiac so it can be easier to spot a whale spouting. (See photo above.) Check out your options for tours on catamaran-style boats.

Zodiac Boats

Zodiac vessels, something like the lovechild of an inflatable kayak and a Miami Vice speedboat, get you to the whale habitat fast—you can’t do that in a kayak! Barbara Redding, a travel writing colleague and I were leery of riding the Zodiac on a rainy, drizzly day. But once we saw the flotation suits we would be bundled in, we decided to just do it!

The adrenalin rush of spraying water, thumping over wakes made by larger vessels and turning on a dime brought screams of delight to all onboard. Get the picture?

There was no “waiting” happening during this adventurous whale watch Victoria! Grab a look at your Zodiac tour choices. And make sure they will dress you in the proper gear!

Because, remember, there is no bad weather, just bad gear!

Covered Boat Tours

You can choose from several whale watching tour companies that offer covered boat tours. Remember to wear warm clothing as it will be cool motoring along on the water. Barbara and I were tempted to do a covered boat tour as it was drizzling in Victoria. However, we didn’t think we’d have time for the longer tour and get back to our Princess Cruise ship that was leaving that afternoon. So we chose the whale watching Victoria tour that carried us in a Zodiac vessel.

Check out these Pacific Coast cruises like the one I enjoyed so much!

RELATED: Discovery Princess Cruise | Don’t Overlook These Hidden Secrets!
Headed out in a Zodiac for whale watching from Victoria BC | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

Not on a cruise? Well, then I like Expedia for finding accommodations. Here’s what they’ve got for Victoria BC.

a femail furry creature lays on back in water with both forepaws wrapped a round its young which is nursing as they float along
Nursing sea otter seen on BC whale watching tour from Victoria | Orca Spirit Adventures photo

Whale Sighting Guarantee

Many of the BC whale watching tours offer whale sightings guarantees. The company that took us, Orca Spirit Adventures, offers one of the best BC whale watching guarantees.

Guaranteed Whale Sightings

They say on their website, “We don’t stop at a 98% success rate. If your tour doesn’t experience a sighting, we’ll invite you to join us again.”

Now THAT’s a guaranteed whale sighting promise for you!

But they seem to find the whales wherever they are! Mick had a radio and let his fellow whale watching tour guides know when we spotted the big Orca. Yes, he shares that with the other whale watch whale companies, too.

“We all work together to find you the whales,” he smiled.

Book your whale watching tour now online through your favorite service like Viator or Get Your Guide

Whale Watch Victoria: Additional Tour Options

Apart from traditional boat tours, there are other ways to experience whale watching Victoria, like

  • airplane tours for an aerial perspective,
  • kayaking for an up-close experience (suitable for experienced kayakers), and even
  • the possibility of seeing whales from a ferry, although this is less reliable and offers less proximity to the whales.

Practical Considerations for Whale Watching Victoria

Our naturalist wildlife guide and skipper Mick photobombs my pic of Barbara

People also consider practical aspects such as weather conditions, as the majority of tours take place in the sheltered waters of the Gulf and San Juan Islands. Warm, calm, and clear days are ideal for both comfort and whale visibility. Additionally, dressing appropriately for the weather, considering motion sickness, bringing a camera with a zoom lens due to the required distance from whales, and booking tickets online in advance are critical factors people consider when planning their whale-watching experience.

These considerations help ensure your whale watch Victoria is enjoyable, comfortable and memorable.

Responsible Eco-Tourism

man in winter parka and goggles on forehead points to orca fin in looseleaf notebook of orca identifying photos and notes
Our Orca Spirit Guide, Mick explains how to identify orcas from their dorsal fin | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

British Columbia Marine Mammal Regulations mandate that tour operators approach no closer than 100 metres / 109 yards. Because noise pollution is a factor in Orca health, tour guides shift their engines to neutral or idle when that close. Further, noise levels are kept down by not using horns or whistles.

To be an even more eco-conscious traveler, choose a whale watch Victoria tour company that uses modern marine motors that are quieter than older models.

Our Orca Spirit guide, Mick, was the one who told us about these regulations. You could tell by how he handled the Zodiac and knew the individual orcas that he and the company are committed to respectful wildlife viewing.

That and their 25-year track record of sustainable awards and recognitions sets Orca Spirit Adventures apart as one of the leaders in responsible eco-tourism in the whale watching Victoria community.

Tip: Be a responsible eco-tourist by using the telephoto lens on your camera or phone. That way, you needn’t get so close to the wildlife.

If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that I am big on ethical approaches to wildlife tourism.

Conclusion: Victoria BC Whale Watching

BC whale watching is one of the most exciting whale watch tours I’ve experienced. And I’ve experienced many around the world!

I hope you enjoyed learning about my experience so you know what to expect and can select your own tour based on your own preferences.

If you liked this article, please share it with the blue and red buttons below. Oh, yay, and leave a comment. I would love to hear what you think!

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Pinterest graphic with text: Thrilling Whale Watching from Victoria BC on Vancouver Island and photo of Orca jumping straight up out of the water
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Hi, I’m Stacey

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel is a travel blog focused on immersive travel that highlights food, wine and the spirituality of place. I also occasionally write about life as a Camino de Santiago pilgrim. I hope you enjoy what I post here. Feel free to leave comments! Read more…

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As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with a tour for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review,  the author believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

In addition, this blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, Stacey earns a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of keeping this travel blog active. 

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