Vancouver Whale Watching

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Jun 16th, 2011, 10:48 AM
  #1
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Vancouver Whale Watching

My husband and I will be in Vancouver in mid July and are very interested in whale watching tours. Any recommendations - good or bad - on the many tours and tour companies? What time is typically best for sightings - morning, midday, or evening?
Thanks!
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Jun 17th, 2011, 07:08 PM
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No replies yet - do most people find the whale watching tours too touristy? I am not interested in anything that would be too invasive to the whales, but I am not keen on a "Disney"-type experience either. Or perhaps July isn't a good month to see the whales in the Vancouver area?
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Jun 18th, 2011, 08:26 AM
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Really can't help you b/c I've never been on a tour - know
some leave from Steveston which is a cute fishing village at
the mouth of the Fraser River.

Mister Google may be your friend in this.
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Jun 18th, 2011, 01:32 PM
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I was on onea few years ago but it was from Vancouver Island...hopefully someone will help you out
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Jun 18th, 2011, 01:58 PM
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I used to work for a Steveston-based whale watch company back in 2003.

July is the best time to go because there are 3 pods of residential orcas.

There is no better time to go in the day as the orcas are always present. Typically in the morning nobody knows where they're located, so the companies will go out in different areas hoping to find the orcas first. It's a bit of an adventure. In the afternoon they usually know where they are so there's less time spent on the search... keeping in mind that the orcas travel FAST and FAR. They could be down by Victoria at the southern end of Vancouver Island in the morning... (2-3 hours from Steveston) and by afternoon they could be at the mouth of the Fraser River (just minutes away from Steveston).

I wouldn't say the experience is touristy... definitely not at all Disney-like at all. But it's one of those activities that tourists do and locals typically don't. Most locals are doubtful that people actually see orcas, even though the success rate is often 90%. It's often a lot of money for locals to justify since it's in their backyard, but those who eventually get out on the water love it and can't believe they've never done it before.

I'm personally a huge fan of the open zodiak style boats as they make the journey a lot more fun... but that's just me. I'd personally go with a Steveston-based company not to be biased, but because they take the least amount of time to get to the orcas.

Vancouver based companies can be out on the water for 7 hours because they're often that much further away from the orcas.

The trips from Steveston vary from 3-5 hours (depending on where the orcas are located). You only spend about 20 minutes with the orcas due to regulations - a lot of the trip is spent on the journey out. Saying that, you see a LOT on the journey - bald eagles, porpoises, harbour seals, beautiful coves along the Gulf Islands, etc. It's really a gorgeous experience. You really need to set aside the good portion of the day, however.

If you go in the morning, you'll leave around 9 and will probably be back by 1-2pm. Then you can spend the rest of the afternoon browsing the shops & restaurants in Steveston... or you can continue on with your day elsewhere.

If you leave in the afternoon, you'll be back in Steveston by dinner time, so it really does eat up most of your day. However, there's something sublime about being on the water in the late afternoon.

Hope this helps
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Jun 18th, 2011, 02:14 PM
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BTW - here's a good video that captures the spirit of going whale watching out of Steveston:

http://therichmondreel.com/?p=615

The two companies I'd recommend:

Steveston Seabreeze Adventures
Vancouver Whale Watch
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Jun 18th, 2011, 03:52 PM
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...Now I'm a local who's learned a lot here - thanks, Robyn!
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Jun 18th, 2011, 06:51 PM
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You're welcome immini.
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Jun 18th, 2011, 06:51 PM
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Ack, I mean immimi
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Jun 18th, 2011, 06:56 PM
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I forgot to mention that they only time the companies never see orcas is if the orcas are too far away. Sometimes the orcas will leave the Gulf Island/San Juan Island region and they'll head into the open ocean for a day or two... so they'd be way too far to find. They'll still go out, however, as sometimes they'll find other wildlife - minke whales, for example. And sometimes they'll end up finding the orcas somewhere they wouldn't have ever expected. That's the nature of wildlife. The good thing is that with that 90% success rate, if you don't see orcas (even if you see other types of whales on the trip), you'll get a voucher to go on another trip any time in the future until you do see orcas. So in that way, you're guaranteed sightings. In July, with 3 pods, it's pretty hard not to see orcas, but you never know.
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Jun 18th, 2011, 06:59 PM
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One more pointer:

A pod of orcas is a group of orcas, usually around 10-20. The three local resident pods are called J Pod, K Pod and L Pod. J Pod is often the first to arrive, but J and K typically arrive for July and August. When all 3 pods are together it's called a Super Pod. *That* is a truly glorious sight!
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Jun 19th, 2011, 08:24 PM
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Awesome Robyn! I have lived in Vancouver almost all my life, and am in Steveston buying salmon off the boats several times a year. I have never thought about doing a whale watch trip from Vancouver. however, I am heading to Tofino next week and hoping to see some whales! Super excited.

Wished I had seen the group of orcas that came into Burrard Inlet a month or so back..that would have been a sight!
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Jun 20th, 2011, 08:03 AM
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In May we watched a pod in a feeding frenzy off Powell River
and Texada. Amazing animals - the pod stretched for at least
a mile and they were breeching (do orca breech?). We guessed
a lot of seals met their fate that day. Orca are deadly
hunters.

Robyn - you can call me 'mimi' lol!
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Jun 20th, 2011, 07:32 PM
  #14
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Robyn - thanks so much for the insight! I agree that seeing other wildlife will make it even better. I will look into the 2 companies that you mentioned and see what we can fit in - we only have 2.5 days in Vancouver.
Leanne
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Jun 16th, 2013, 08:45 AM
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You should consider going to a fishing lodge up in Haida Gwaii. I just came back from there and had an incredible experience with a Humpback coming over to see us while drifting. I have top water and underwater video I just uploaded to this site. http://www.iwanttofish.com/app/dkforums/forum/62/-1/232

On this trip I also saw a Minke whale and an orca pod. While you can never chase after them, they frequently come right by you up there. Last year I saw Fin whales as well. I heard they just spotted a north pacific right whale.

The scenery is breath taking and the fishing this year is awesome. I still keep rewatching my whale video. I can not believe it happened.
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Jun 16th, 2013, 10:05 AM
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Yesterday you would not have had to leave Vancouver harbour to
see orcas - a group of them were off Third Beach in Stanley
Park and then they came under the Lions Gate bridge into the
harbour - beautiful sight.
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