When you think about the first of October, you probably think about beautiful fall colours, pumpkins, crisp weather, and Thanksgiving and Halloween just around the corner. You probably don’t think about whale watching.
But that’s a mistake! It’s a common misconception that whale watchers stop operating over the winter because the whales leave the area. We hang up our flotation suits for the winter months because there aren’t as many tourists, not because there aren’t any whales! We are so excited to continue to offer three of our most popular whale watching excursions through the end of October. Ocean Magic II will be departing from Victoria on 3-hour whale watching tours daily at 12:15pm (along with year-round zodiacs on demand). On the Vancouver side of things, we are sending our Ocean Magic vessel on half day (4-5 hour) whale watching tours, as well as Sea Vancouver zodiacs doing 45-minute Vancouver harbour tours!
We continue to guarantee sightings year-round, so there’s no risk of coming up empty handed, and there’s lots of wildlife still in the area. If you do get skunked, and don’t see a whale (they’re wild animals, it happens), you can come on another trip for free! So make sure to book your tour early on in your visit to take advantage of this great offer.
We’ve been having an amazing season watching both Resident and Transient orcas. The names of these different ecotypes of orcas are incredibly misleading: Residents don’t stay here all the time and Transients aren’t migratory! Residents are best viewed between June and September when the salmon are spawning (and therefore encouraging the whales to come close to shore), and paradoxically, Transient orcas are the whales we can see year-round!
The Transients are the star of the so-called “off-season,” and while they might not always be the easiest to find, they’re sightings never disappoint. Transients travel in small, tight-knit groups. When we look at residents there will often be many whales spread out in a large area, but when we look at transients, they are usually all swimming together. Seeing three to five whales surface in perfect synchronisation is something that still gives me shivers, even after 6 years on the water!
Not to be outdone, our largest species of whale, the humpback, can still be found around here throughout the fall. These guys hang out between June and October before making an epic migration to Mexico. Humpbacks split their time between breeding grounds near the equator and feeding grounds at higher latitudes. They’ll eat a much as they possibly can here over the next month and then start their vacation in Mexico!
Seals and sea lions are also seen in large numbers throughout the fall. They look really cool, they sound really cool, and they smell AWFUL! It’s so worth it though!
For the birders, fall is unquestionably the best time to see the largest number and widest variety of migratory birds. We’ve got phalaropes, murres, scoters, turnstones, and many more.
There’s so much to see, so bundle up and get out here!
by Jennifer Dickson