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Ajolder May 9th, 2017 03:41 PM

Whale-watch tour from Victoria or Vancouver?
Beginning Jun 10 will spend three nights in Victoria then four in Vancouver. Would like to try a whale watching tour and was wondering from which city we should partake. Appreciate your thoughts on that as well as if any particular companies stand out - good or bad!

rclark May 10th, 2017 07:20 PM

100% Victoria, I'd even head out to Sooke(40 mins from Victoria) as you'll have the best time for sure. They're all pretty awesome companies, nothing really negative to say.

You can take a leisurely cruise or jump on one of the really fast boats if you like a bit of speed :)

BC_Robyn May 10th, 2017 07:26 PM

It doesn't matter whether you depart from Vancouver or Victoria because they both meet up in the middle and see the same pods of orcas. Since you're spending so much time in Victoria, you may as well go whale watching out of Victoria because the tour is shorter out of Victoria, as they usually don't have to travel as far to see the orcas from Victoria. The tours out of Victoria are usually 2-3 hours long. When you depart from Vancouver, they usually travel further distances to see the orcas, so you end up spending a good chunk of the day devoted to the tour, as the tours are often 3-5 hours in length, and if you depart from downtown Vancouver, the tours are even longer.

But ultimately, the Vancouver companies and Victoria companies will end up in the same places, and you'll be able to wave to the Victoria passengers from the Vancouver boats, and vice versa. :)

My suggestion is to look for a company that offers guaranteed tours, as if for whatever reason they don't see orcas during your trip, the guarantee means you can go again in the future (for free) with that same company until you do see orcas. At this time of the year, they see orcas 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time, the orcas have travelled too far out into the open Pacific for the whale watching companies to venture..

Next item to consider when choosing a company are the whale watching vessels. If you want indoor boats, boats with rooftop decks, etc. choose a company that offers that kind of boat. If you want a real sense of adventure and a sense of being out on the open water with the wind blowing in your face, go with a company that offers an open zodiac vessel. I don't like white water rafting, but I absolutely love zodiacs - they're what the coast guards use as they're the most stable vessels in the water. They can also travel faster than regular boats, and are able to cut through waves. It's really quite a thrill and I highly recommend the experience if you've never been on one before.

Everything else - the professional guides, whether they offer water, snacks, etc., underwater listening equipment, etc. That's all fairly typical and are usually offered by all companies.

Finally, orca watching rules are heavily regulated, so companies must only spend 20 minutes tops with the orcas, regardless of how long the actual tour is. The length of time is usually a buffer to account for the possible travel time it'll take them to get to the orcas. From Vancouver, you may spend 2 hours travelling one way before you get to the orcas. In other times, you may only spend 15 minutes. But often the companies will also extend the tour to venture to scenic areas, and areas where you can see other types of wildlife: seals, sea lions, bald eagles, etc. So you may only spend 20 full minutes with orcas, but the tour is full of nature, wildlife, and scenery.

Another thing about whale watching in this part of the world: the companies can't go closer than 100 meters before they must cut their engine. Sometimes orcas will venture closer to the boat, but other times they don't. The whale watching companies can't control this.

Anyway, I wrote way more than I anticipated, but hopefully this helps. :)

Ajolder May 11th, 2017 10:09 AM

Thank you so very much BC_Robyn - appreciate your detailed response! Based on your arguments I agree Victoria is the place to embark on tour. Will investigate the variable you mentioned and make selection accordingly. One last(?) question - do you think we (2 people) need to book in advance or can we make day to day decision on getting tickets?

BC_Robyn May 13th, 2017 02:19 PM

Glad I could help!

You probably don't need to book ahead in Victoria, only because there are so many day-trip visitors there, and there are so many companies to choose from. However, I'd book ahead just so that you can guarantee the boat you want and the time you want. Otherwise, there's always a chance the time you want or the boat you want can sell out, especially if it's a smaller vessel. I'd also book earlier in your trip to build in a contingency plan in case you don't see orcas on that trip - you can book again in a few days just in case.

Weather has little baring on whale watching trips. They go rain or shine. They'll only cancel if it's too windy (the waves will be too rambunctious for a pleasant or safe tour).

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