Whale watching is an unforgettable experience. There’s nothing quite like waiting and watching for a glimpse of these breathtaking marine mammals, then being rewarded by one gracefully breaking through the ocean’s surface before diving down again through the waves.
Canadian waters are home to a diverse range of whale species, including the spectacular Orca (the Killer Whale), one of the ocean’s fastest and most powerful predators with teeth that can grow up to four inches long.
What types of whales might you see in Canada?
Blue whales are the largest animals on earth. They can reach 100 feet long and weigh as much as 200 tonnes. Despite being so huge, blue whales feed on small marine life such as krill, (tiny shrimp-like creatures). These magnificent creatures have fringed plates of mesh-like material attached to their jaws, in place of teeth. Blue whales are speedy swimmers and can reach speeds of over 18mph.
Orcas, or killer whales, are much smaller than blue whales, weighing up to 6 tonnes and growing up to 32 feet long. They are instantly recognisable with their black and white colouring and long dorsal fins. Orcas typically don’t attack humans, but with their teeth being their primary weapon they’re known to take on large marine mammals (even blue whales).
Grey whales can grow to be bigger than a bus and are known for their mottled, almost crusty appearance. The Grey Whale often features scars and patches left by parasites that attach themselves to the whale’s body.
Humpback whales can grow up to 40 tonnes and are famous for the songs they sing underwater (various types of howls, cries, and moans). The jury is still out as to why these whales make these noises, but a prevailing theory is that they do this to communicate with each other and attract potential mates.
Humpback whales sometimes like to jump out of the water completely, making an arc, before splashing back down into the water again.
Other whales you might see off the coasts of Canada include the Fin, Minke, Beluga, and the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale species.
Whale watching Canada – where are the best places?
Three oceans surround Canada; the North Atlantic, the North Pacific and the Arctic Ocean, so when it comes down to the best place for whale watching, you’re spoilt for choice. Here are a few suggestions to help you when planning your trip:
The province of British Colombia on the western coast of Canada is one of the most popular places for a spot of whale watching. From here, you can visit Vancouver Island, where you’re likely to see orcas, humpbacks, grey whales and minke whales. A good time to visit here would be spring, as around 20,000 grey whales pass through the Island’s Pacific coast during this time of year.
Whale watching Victoria
On the southern part of Vancouver Island lies the city of Victoria, where many of the whale watching tours operate from. Three separate pods of around 80 orcas reside in the waters around the tip of the island and the nearby Gulf islands, so your chances of spotting whales here are favourable.
The east coast of Canada is thought to be home to around 20 whale species. One of the best places to visit here is Quebec, where you might see humpbacks, blue whales, minkes and perhaps even beluga and fin whales. August and September are the best months to visit if you want to spot a blue whale or two.
Around 10,000 humpback whales pass through Newfoundland’s waters each year, making this another whale watching hotspot to add to your list. What’s more, you’ll not only see whales here – there’s an abundance of seabirds and sailing icebergs too. It’s possible to see all three amazing sights at once if you’re lucky. The peak season here is the end of June through to August.
What to take with you on whale watching trip
To make sure you’re comfortable while out on a whale watching excursion, there are a few items you may want to take along with you:
- A fully charged camera (or a video camera) to capture those incredible whale sightings.
- A pair of binoculars so you can see whales at a distance.
- Seasickness medication if necessary.
- Plenty of clothing layers, including a hat and gloves, as the weather can be cold at sea even in the summer season.
- Comfortable flat shoes.
- Suncream as the glare from the ocean can intensify the sun’s rays.
- Sunglasses to help reduce glare.
Whale watching Vancouver
As part of our escorted motorhome tour around BC and the Canadian Rockies, you’ll get to visit Vancouver Island and take part in a whale watching trip. Alternatively, we can book a whale watching excursion on your behalf – contact our dedicated Travel Specialists for more information.