Whale Watching

by mom


We all stood with our mouths wide open: it’s not every day you come across a pod of killer whales lunging out of the water 200 feet away. This was a day in May and we were on The Queen of Vancouver crossing the Georgia Strait, destined for Victoria. I used the word “breach,” to describe what I thought the whales were doing, but a man standing beside me corrected me: at least 40% of a whale’s body needs to clear the water before it can be termed a breach. Unfortunately the moment didn’t last long. We were like ships passing in the night; hardly even time to get a decent picture, so friends and neighbours would believe you later. Unfortunately again, my husband made the mistake of going on and on about the whales to my son, who was holed up in the video arcade room, oblivious to what was going on outside. My son got so riled up about missing this once-in-a-lifetime moment that I had to go into damage control mode, and promise to take him on a whale watching expedition so he could see his own whales. Naturally, I expected him to forget about it. As it turns out, my son’s memory is better than I thought it was. Funny how kids willingly remember things they want to remember (actually, who am I kidding--adults are just as bad). Anyways, I did a little homework on whale watching in Vancouver. I didn’t know that Vancouver is rated as one of the best locations in the world for whale watching. Every year thousands of whales migrate through the waters surrounding Vancouver hunting for salmon. They are mostly seen in the Georgia Strait, and in and around the Gulf and San Juan Islands. We saw Orcas, but you might also see Grey Whales, Humpback Whales, or Minke Whales (which I’ve never heard of before). In case you’re interested, Minke whales are a relatively smaller species as far as whales go, reaching lengths of 30 to 35 feet. You can tell Minke whales apart from other whales because they have a white band on each flipper. As well there is a whole slew of other marine life you might come across: sea lions, otters, dolphins and seabirds like puffins, bald eagles, pelicans and loons. Whale watching season runs from April to October. During peak viewing months most tour companies have a 90% success rate. The boats leave from downtown Vancouver, Granville Island, and Steveston (Richmond). If you’re the type who gets a little squeamish on the water, you might want to find out what type of boat the company uses. Some go out in rugged 12-passenger zodiac-style inflatables, while others have larger custom-built 50-passenger boats. A whale watching expedition can last anywhere from three to five hours. Most boats have a Naturalist on board to answer your questions, and identify any marine life you see. They also have hydrophones, which let you hear the whales talking under water. All in all it sounds like an experience you’ll never forget. I plan on going; maybe I’ll even take my son along.


Here are the some of the local whale watching businesses that you might want to check out:

Steveston Seabreeze Adventures

Vancouver Whale Watch

Wild Whales Vancouver

Prince of Whales


Various areas in Greater Vancouver


Spring, Summer, Fall