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Stalking the Orca -- Good Whale Watching in Vancouver Area?

Stalking the Orca -- Good Whale Watching in Vancouver Area?

Old Jan 22nd, 2010, 06:13 PM
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Stalking the Orca -- Good Whale Watching in Vancouver Area?

Greetings, all.

I'm in the throes of planning our late May trip to Vancouver, and so this is the first of several threads I'll likely start. This one is about whale watching. We will stay a week in downtown Vancouver (timeshare), and add on a few extra days to go up the Sunshine Coast. We've really enjoyed whale watching before in Monterey, Tofino, and Juneau, but have yet to see Orcas...

Looking for a good zodiac trip. Since we're a week in Vancouver, I thought maybe Steveston? Or would Victoria be better, close to the San Juans? (Otherwise, not planning to spent time in Victoria this trip, would like to concentrate on some other things.) Or -- what about on the Sunshine Coast? Specific tour operator recommendations would be be most welcome, also.

As always, your advice is gratefully received and even occasionally heeded....
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Old Jan 22nd, 2010, 06:44 PM
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I think the Orcas hang around the San Juans near Victoria more than up near Vancouver. Just my 2 cents worth on this one.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2010, 08:08 PM
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Orcas in the Straight of Georgia travel back and forth across the International boundary at will depending on food sources.

Trips from Vancouver rocket across the Straight to view the same pods as trips from Victoria.

early May is a bit early but trips do go out daily and a spotter plane goes up each AM to determine where the Orcas are because pods sometimes divide as to age class and travel for a time to different spots although they'll generally be in the same area (the spotter plane is something companies don't like to talk about but I've seen it too many times to know it's not a figment of my imagination)

I haven't seen any companies running open zodiac trips out of Vancouver though, the trip across the Straight can be a bit hairy depending on the weather but trips out of Victoria do have open boat options.
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The Sunshine Coast is a lovely spot quite quiet and rural not a lot to see/do.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 10:46 AM
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Thanks, Orcas and Sam. This would be late May (5/23-30). It sounds like we might want to plan on a trip out of Victoria after all. Can you recommend any one of the tour companies in particular?
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 11:43 AM
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HI again Sludick - Prince of Whales http://www.princeofwhales.com/ is excellent. There are several good companies but I think this is the best. As you can imagine we have had so much company in Victoria and whale watching has been a priority.This company has had the best reviews by our visitors. Traveling back and forth from the mainland over the years we have had many "free" orca shows from the ferry itself.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 11:54 AM
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Vancouver Whale Watch does open zodiac trips out of Steveston, although it usually sells out so you'd have to reserve ahead of time.

By the way, all Vancouver/Steveston-based companies travel through the Gulf Islands and the San Juans. Go whale watching out of Victoria if you're already planning to go to Victoria, otherwise the Vancouver-based companies offer the exact same things, travel to the exact same places, and see the exact same pods of orcas.

The major difference is that Victoria has more companies to choose from, their rates tend to be slightly cheaper because the trips tend to be shorter (maximum 3 hours vs. Vancouver's maximum 5-7 hours). Of course, travelling from Vancouver to Victoria makes it more expensive.

Another thing I just thought of is that in May you still have a chance at seeing the migrating sea lions at the mouth of the Fraser (if you depart from Steveston).
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Old Jan 23rd, 2010, 01:02 PM
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Hi, traveller69! I rather expected that you would have some expertise in this arena, and thanks. There are some spectacular pictures on the Prince of Whales website.

Carmanah - have you taken an open zodiac trip out of Steveston? I am wondering about the amount of chop on the open water and how it might compare to Tofino.
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Old Jan 24th, 2010, 11:14 AM
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"in May you still have a chance at seeing the migrating sea lions at the mouth of the Fraser...."
As long as you don't get downwind of them.....

" I am wondering about the amount of chop on the open water and how it might compare to Tofino.
If it's windy it'll be rough if not it can be like a lake.....weather changes constantly so it's a crapshoot.
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Old Jan 24th, 2010, 06:31 PM
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I have taken an open zodiac out of Steveston about 3-4 times. It was never what I'd consider choppy, although you do get more waves as you cross from the mouth of the Fraser across the Georgia Strait to the Gulf Islands. But in my experiences, the waves have always been insignificant. Essentially, you're travelling protected waters so you don't get the big ocean swells or big ocean waves like you would in the open Pacific like around Tofino. As well, if it's too choppy (which usually means it's windy), they'll cancel the trip and reschedule/refund you.

Otherwise the open zodiac's a great vessel for travelling. It's fast, stable, and fun.
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Old Jan 25th, 2010, 02:26 PM
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OK then, thanks. Right now I'm planning on either the Vancouver Whale Watch out of Steveston or the Prince of Whales out of Victoria. We are going to get the Circle Pac from BC Ferries, and are also targeting the Marine Wildlife Journey at Campbell River. If we haven't taken the Steveston trip before we hit the island, then we can go on down to Victoria. Appreciate your advice, as always.
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