I’ve never had the opportunity to see these amazing mammals in the wild, but as soon as I booked my trip to Canada, I knew that going on a whale-watching tour would be the place where my dreams would come true.
When I first began to research where the best place was to whale watch, the number one company that was suggested was Prince of Whales out of Victoria and Vancouver. After doing some research I quickly discovered that this was certainly the company for me.
Two days of whale watching in Canada was organised, out of Victoria BC, and here is what happened.
Day one of the journey started with a trip on the Zodiac Adventure tour. This tour consists of 3 full hours of whale watching with a small, intimate group of 12 and an amazing tour guide. You will start your journey by suiting up into a buoyant, water-resistant suit before boarding the open-air boat. The tour is a round trip from Victoria, and yes… It really is “the adventure of a lifetime”.
The journey started by heading to Race Rocks, a small ecological reserve and marine protected area where hundreds (I really mean hundreds) of seals relax. These small rocky islands are absolutely packed with seals and are a very entertaining way to start the tour. I was so excited to see these animals that I was completely unaware of what was coming next!
From then on we headed to the area where the humpback whales had been spotted. The journey on the Zodiac is very fast and can be quite rough and incredibly cold. It was a reasonably warm day, but my goodness I was freezing. At such fast speeds on the open water, the temperature is around 10 degrees cooler, so make sure you stay warm if you take this tour.
On these tours, the guides are connected through the radio. They help each other keep informed on the whereabouts of the whales and where they were previously spotted. No tracking devices, just marine lovers who know their stuff.
So just a few minutes from the reserve and we were faced with 2 huge humpback whales.
What I love about the Prince of Whales guides, is that they really believe in eco-tourism and preserving the habitat and natural behaviours of the animals. Our tour guide in particular really tried to keep a safe distance from the whales.
It can sometimes be quite difficult when they are underwater for 5-10 minutes and pop up out of nowhere… Right next to your boat. But when this did happen, the guide wasn’t happy about it and that is a really great thing. Taking a photo of a whale right next to your boat is really cool, but observing the animal in a way that doesn’t disturb them is even better! That’s something I really loved about this experience, conservation over tourism.
We had an amazing experience with the 2 humpback whales; they were doing a lot of dives and treating us to a show. We stuck around for about 15 minutes and witnessed 4 amazing surfacings.
After experiencing a lot of dives, taking amazing footage, images and experiencing close encounters we decided to ‘let the whales be whales’ (words from the guide), and moved on to the Orcas.
These are the whales that most of the guests were waiting for. These beautiful mammals were in a pod of 5 and were travelling at quite a pace (possibly towards race rocks for a midday snack).
The Killer Whales are a little harder to track as they are prone to zig-zagging under the water. They come to the surface much more frequently compared to the Humpbacks, but they aren’t always swimming in a direct path. We kept our distance and I loved every moment. Who wouldn’t!
We were so incredibly lucky to see both the Killer Whales and the Humpbacks. Our guide informed us that there are only a handful of trips per year where more than one species of whale are seen. We really were lucky!
Zodiac gets an A++.
NORTHBOUND ADVENTURE CROSSING / OCEAN MAGIC
So the next day we departed on the Northbound Adventure Crossing. This journey left the central Victoria harbour at midday for the first portion of the journey… A 3-hour whale-watching tour.
The difference between this tour and the Zodiac, is mainly the size of the boat and the number of passengers. The boat holds around 60 people and has an upper and lower deck for optimum viewing. This boat still reaches a very high speed and the upper deck can get very chilly.
There are no cosy suits this time, so make sure you have a jacket handy (they will supply you a blanket and beanie if you’d like one). The Ocean Magic has a snack bar and bathroom as well, so it’s perfect for longer trips.
On this day we headed in a different direction. Instead of heading out towards Port Angeles, we headed north up the east coast towards the Southern Gulf Islands. We headed directly to the area where a large pod of Killer Whales had been spotted, stopping along the way at some well-known sights and being taught about what to look out for when spotting whales.
What we found at the destination was a huge pod of Orcas, with a baby too!
We kept our distance once again and cruised along next to these beautiful animals for around 30-45 minutes. I honestly could have watched them all day… Especially the little bub.
What I found really great on this day, was how conscious the staff were about the animal’s wellbeing. The staff seem to absolutely love their job; the captain even tried to slow down other speeding boats due to the whale’s presence, to prevent them from being frightened away and interrupting them from their way of being. Big hi-five!
Once hanging with these amazing animals, we turned back towards the Butchart Gardens.
What is amazing about these tours, is that they not only show you the whales that swim in their waters, but also the many other species of wildlife too. On both tours, we stopped to see different birds, seals and also spotted some dolphins and porpoises from a distance too.
The 3 hours of whale and wildlife watching is an absolute treat, but they also have a lot of other things to offer. This particular tour had an included trip back to Vancouver, which is also available in the alternating direction.
Before your departure back to Vancouver, there is a brief stop at Butchart Cove to drop off the people who purchased the ‘Whales and Gardens‘ tour ⏤ another amazing alternative if you want to visit the beautiful Butchart Gardens, one of the most popular attractions for visitors to Victoria.
No matter the decision on your drop-off point, the views you will be faced with are priceless. The cruises around the cove are exciting, peaceful and also exhilarating. You never know what you might see!
Our journey to Vancouver was a non-stop ride. We headed on the route to Vancouver but were firmly ensured that if we were to spot any wildlife, we would, of course, stop to view them on the way. This section of the journey is still whale watching, but just a bit more like a ferry.
Forgetting about the whale-watching portion, this part of the tour is lovely nonetheless. The views you will see from the water are amazing, and the best part is that it drops you right in the harbour at the base of downtown Vancouver. A short walk and you could be right at your hotel!
Catching the BC Ferry from Victoria is a hassle and drops you 45 minutes out of Vancouver city.. so why not travel to Vancouver on a small boat with amazing views and a perfect drop-off point. Win-win!
All in all, I encountered 2 Humpback Whales, 15 Killer Whales, 3 Porpoise and over 100 Seals in under 9 hours of a guided tour. Who would honestly complain about that!
After experiencing other companies out on the water, Prince of Whales wins hands down. They kept their distance when others were getting too close. They spoke about the conservation of the environment and wildlife, and I really do feel as though they loved their job. All the staff were evidently lovers of these whales and were so passionate about what they were here to do. In my eyes, no one can compete with compassion like that!
I would wholeheartedly recommend this experience to everyone I know. I can tick whale watching in Canada off of my list knowing that I did it the right way… This company really is one of kind and the ultimate ‘Prince of Whales’.
A big thank you to Prince of Whales for gifting me with the Northbound Adventure Crossing. It was an amazing experience and as always.. all opinions are my own!
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