Orcas. This was our goal. Vancouver is one of the best places to see them, and we were determined. We had two different tour companies in mind, and if we didn’t see orcas the first day, then we planned to book for a second trip with a different company.
Our second day in Vancouver, still bleary eyed and jet lagged, we woke up early for our first tour. The tour boat for Wild Whales Vancouver departed from Granville Island, right in downtown Vancouver. Our hotel was only a short bus ride away, which made everything super easy. We arrived in Granville Island and easily found the office and checked it. We were given our boarding passes and shown the way to the dock. After that we had a bit of time to explore the markets and grab some breakfast (and some lunch, as it was not provided on the boat).
As we head out in the boat, the naturalist on board described the habitat of the local area, the different species that frequented the area and what we were most likely to be able to spot. Apparently October is not the best season for spotting Orca and the transient Orca have left the area, leaving only the population of resident Orca. We still crossed our fingers though.
We meandered our way out of the harbour area and started heading towards the Gulf Islands. Our captain drove freely as we all peered out the windows of the boat. It wasn’t too long before we started hearing rumors of Humpback Whales in the area. There are many different companies which operate whale watching tours out of the Vancouver area, and they all help each other out by broadcasting via the radio when they have spotted something.
We head out in the direction of the Humpbacks, all the while still on the look out for Orca.
Well, Orca didn’t happen on the way there, but we did get to spend several hours following a good distance behind two humpbacks as they jumped and played in the water.
But whales aren’t the only thing you get to see. We also saw harbour seals and a colony of sea lions, as well as all sorts of bird life. But we were still a little disappointed.. we didn’t get to see Orca!
A second attempt
So a few days later we decided to try again with a different company. This time we head out with Steveston Sea Breeze, a company based in Steveston. Even though the boat departed from Steveston, it was super easy to get there. A free shuttle came and picked us up straight from our hotel.
Steveston is a pretty little town, which is been absorbed by the greater Vancouver area. The area around the dock was surrounded by cafes, so we were able to refuel on caffeine and grab some snacks for the boat while we were waiting for our departure. This time our boat was a little larger, a little more comfortable, and it also featured an upper viewing area as well.
We head out, eyes peeled for Orca. After a bit of searching and only finding seals, a call came over the radio. Was it Orca?!? Unfortunately no, but some more humpbacks were sighted. So we set our course. This time we saw a different pair of Humpbacks, and these ones were even more playful – we even got to see them both completely breach! And as with the other tour, we also made the obligatory stop at the Sea Lion colony.
We were sad that we didn’t get to see any Orca, but we still happy with the experiences we did have. We have both seen Humpbacks before, but this was the first time seeing them breach and having the opportunity to get some awesome snaps.
There are several companies offering whale watching tours out of the Vancouver area. We only had the time to review two of them. We recommend shopping around so that you find the best tour for you, but we do advise that most boats do ultimately end up at the same place as the captains all share their coordinates when they do spot something.
Our comparison of two whale watching tours in Vancouver
|Wild Whales Vancouver||Steveston Sea Breeze|
|Location||Granville Island departure.Super central and easy to get to.Do not have a shuttle||Based in StevestonOffers a free shuttle from your hotel|
|Boat||Offers three different boats.Two of the boats are all open.One boat has an internal area.All boats have bathrooms on board.||They have several different boats with internal areasThe boats also feature an upper and lower external viewing areaAll boats have bathrooms on board|
|Naturalist on board||Yes||Yes|
|Food on board||Water and granola barsBring your own lunch||Water and granola barsBring your own lunch|
|Cost||$130 plus tax per adult||$120 plus tax per adult for whale watching toursSee website for rates for other tours*** They also offer a variety of other tours, such as sea lions,bird watching and fishing charters.|
We would like to thank Destination BC for providing admission to the attractions listed above