Who we are
With our large number of vessels, locations in both Victoria and Vancouver, and almost 50 staff in peak season, Prince of Whales is now the largest whale watching and eco-adventure company in British Columbia. As such, we are proud to be a leader in responsible whale watching and to have served as teaching platforms for whale research.
We are committed to customer service excellence from the moment we welcome you as our guest to the time we wave good-bye. Our team of guest service guides are Worldhost trained and certified; meaning, we are dedicated to doing everything we can to ensure that your time with Prince of Whales is nothing short of spectacular. In order to make your time with us more enjoyable, we try simplify things rather than complicate them, we will guide you rather than direct you, and finally we will provide you with enough time on the water to really relax and enjoy the viewing experience.
From the very beginning, we have been committed to hiring only the best guides. Some of our earliest staff members are still with us and have set the tone for the quality of our tours. To this day we operate above and beyond Transport Canada crewing regulations to ensure your experience with us is always a personal one.
As an industry front-runner, Prince of Whales is committed to safe, environmentally conscientious whale watching. We work with other members of the eco-tourism industry to continue conservation efforts, and to make sure that the whales’ habitat remains pristine for years to come.
To take a closer look at who we really are, be sure to check out our page of staff biographies in the Expert Guides section.
How we got our start
When Prince of Whales President Alan McGillivray was running around the Royal Victoria Yacht Club as a young child in the 1960’s, he had no way of knowing that his career path would take him halfway across Canada and all the way back again. Back to the ocean his childhood home overlooked, where he has worked for the past 20 years.
After completing a Bachelors in Engineering from Queens, and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario, Al returned to the coast, keen to carve out a niche for himself. He started on the water in 1993 when he won a daily contract to deliver the Times Colonist to the Gulf Islands in his specialty built, welded aluminum boats. This was a great success and he was later approached by Canada Post, who used him to deliver mail instead of running a truck on the BC Ferries.
Al noticed two things during his time on the water. #1 He saw killer whales all the time! #2 His boats were back on the dock from their 3am delivery runs by mid-morning. These two things gave Al the perfect opportunity to explore the feasibility of taking people out to see whales. Deckhand Chris Hall was also keen to try whale watching as he had grown up fishing off of San Juan Island, and was familiar with where to find whales. Chris has been with Prince of Whales from the beginning and is now our Marine Operations Manager. Al was so busy that first year whale watching that both his main boat and backup boat, aptly name the Prince of Whales, were in constant operation, alternating between cargo runs, and whale watching runs.
The industry had expanded enough by 1995 that the whale watching operators decided to come together to form what is now the Pacific Whale Watching Association. Collectively they concluded that there needed to be some sort of regulation surrounding how we watched whales, long before there were any laws in place. The PWWA was and always has been self-moderated, with the whales’ best interests at its heart.
By 1996, trips were so popular that Al had started constructing RHIB’s (or zodiacs, as their commonly known) which are now an industry standard. They are known worldwide for their seaworthiness, maneuverability, and comfort. Prince of Whales currently has 10 zodiacs in operation, giving us the largest whale watching fleet in the industry!
The first of our famous Ocean Magic vessels was built in 2005, with a second to follow a year later. These expanded our market to include infants as wells as seniors not fit for the adventurous ride of the zodiac, and sought to provide a more comfortable, laid-back experience. Whale watching was now a family affair. Ocean Magic II remained in Victoria for daily whale watching, while Ocean Magic was relocated to Vancouver. This was the start of our adventure crossings! Whale watching trips between Vancouver and Victoria are a perfect way to combine transport to and from the island with an activity that many people specifically come to the west coast to do.
Where we are going
In 2009 we partnered with the Butchart Gardens and Cruise Victoria Tours to create two one of a kind west coast experiences – The Whales & Gardens Tour, and the The Ultimate Day Tour, which was recently honored as a Canadian Signature Experience. These tours make the most of your time on Vancouver Island and allow you to see more while spending less time and money. In 2009, we also moved to our current Vancouver location inside the Westin Bayshore Hotel.
In 2014, we doubled our office space and our dock space at the Westin Bayshore and launched a sister company called Sea Vancouver Waterfront Sightseeing Adventures! These are not whale watching tours, but rather an exciting way to see Vancouver from the best available perspective in the city – the water! Tours are 90 minutes long and depart on the hour every hour from 9am – 8pm. In 2016, tours begin April 15th. For more information or to make a reservation please visit seavancouver.com.