New state-of-the-art ship to help reduce noise and environmental footprint

VICTORIA – The Salish Sea Dream, Prince of Whales’ new $3.5 million environmentally-friendly custom-built catamaran has had such a successful inaugural season running unique whale watching day trips between Vancouver and Victoria and Victoria and Butchart Gardens, that the company has just placed an order for another state-of-the-art ship that will be even more environmentally friendly.

new victoria whale watching ship
new victoria whale watching ship

“It’s very stable, very reliable and it’s proved to be an amazing platform for tours so we’ve had rave reviews from our guests,” says Prince of Whales Whale Watching owner Alan McGillivray. “Business was up more than 30 per cent on these tours; we had many sold-out days and we saw whales every single day.”

McGillivray says the 2017 season was the best whale watching season they’ve ever had in terms of sightings, especially for humpbacks and transient killer whales.

“We had lots of humpback sightings and an abundance of other sightings as well,” McGillivray says. “They think there are about 300 transients between Mexico and Alaska and we believe we saw more than 100 unique transients this season, which is quite phenomenal.”

Protecting the environment is a top priority for Prince of Whales,

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Seagoing Deer in Orca Waters

Whale-watchers in local waters have become used to the seals and sea lions, the Orcas and humpbacks that delight visitors.

But on Sunday a Victoria-based Zodiac came across a deer buck off East Sooke Park swimming bravely toward Neah Bay while transient Orcas lurked nearby.

Captain Mark Malleson, with five passengers aboard, knew that he had to do more than watch a deadly drama unfold.

He decided to give the deer, by this time half a mile offshore, “a fighting chance.” He used the Zodiac to turn it back to a place on the rocks where it could get out. It clambered up, exhausted.

Malleson, head Zodiac captain with Prince of Whales, says the encounter was the first of its kind in his 20 years on the job.

He spotted the Orca bull on the hunt offshore first, then the rest of the pod swimming parallel with it close to shore. He recognized them as four T-137 transients.

“I saw what looked like a tree in the water, but it was moving, and moving toward the Orca. Then I realized the branches were antlers.”

And he knew that based on occasional anecdotal reports over the last 40 years experts have suspected that transients have been preying on land-based animals as well as marine ones like seals and sea lions.

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Sightings Report August 4

And so ends another beautiful day of whale watching on the Salish Sea. Today was a special experience as we had resident and transient killer whales! Wildlife was truly coming to us from all directions; every guest returning from their tour had a unique tale to tell about the beautiful marine activity they witnessed out at sea.

The waters were generally calm throughout the day, with winds picking up later in the evening. The sailing of the Georgia Strait on our Southbound Adventure Crossing was a tough one, but guests were rewarded with a sighting of four transient killer whales! Captain Gavin, First Mate Sandy and crew Sharon and Wilma never fail to deliver guests safely to Victoria and provide a fantastic wildlife experience.

A couple of our daytime tours out of Victoria were also able to observe some harbour porpoises, and spent some time with a number of always entertaining harbour seals. Ocean Magic II was crewed by Jeff, Casey, Lindsay, and Tom, and zodiac skippers included Mark, Matt W., Torin, Matt E., and Rhonda.

When winds picked up later on in the day, it made for an exciting 5:30pm trip for skipper Bo.

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Sightings Report August 2

Another busy and beautiful day!

And guess what? J-Pod is back in town! They put on a great show for crew Jeff, Casey, Lindsay and Rowan on the Ocean Magic II during the afternoon around Race Rocks as they headed west. The Ocean Magic II crew were also the first to spot 2 humpbacks in the area.

We broke yesterday’s record sending out 16 zodiacs today and passengers from every one of them came back with smiles on their faces!  Skipper Tom spotted the humpbacks, a mother and calf, relaxing east of Constance Bank, as well as T37 and other transient killer whales off of East Point. They were also seen by skippers Miles, Matt, Bo and Torin.

Later in the afternoon the wind picked up, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. We had some great evening sightings of K-Pod despite the chop and our passengers snapped some great photos!

The weather forecast is looking amazing for the rest of the week,

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Zodiac Style

Those keen on their creature comforts might prefer to take their Victoria or Vancouver whale watching outing aboard our larger boat, the Ocean Magic 2, with her covered decks, private bathrooms, and pantry service. Real thrill seekers, however, belong on one of our rigid hull inflatables, or RIBs.

Often referred to as Zodiacs (the brand name of one of the original and most popular designs) RIBs originated as rudimentary rescue boats in Wales back in the 1960s, but have since evolved into the fast, versatile vessels used today by search and rescue teams, the military, recreational clubs, police, scientific researchers, and as lifeboats themselves. We use them to find wildlife, and we find lots. This week’s highlight was an unusually large congregation of transient orca.   

Though showers on Sunday afternoon had deterred many from joining us on the water, ten plucky passengers were whisked more than 30 miles north over smooth, rain-speckled ocean, to the shelter of Satellite Channel, which cuts between the southern end of Saltspring Island and Vancouver Island.

As we approached the scene, excitement grew as several blasts could be seen in the far distance.

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Ocean Magic Marine Wildlife Adventure Oct 12

It was another bright sunny afternoon in October , when Capt Scott headed the 12.15, Ocean Magic II vessel out of the harbour and set a course west to search for Humpback Whales that had been reported. We soon found an active ‘Bait-Ball ‘ where many gulls and sea birds congrigated. Their presence indicated that there were schools of fish below the surface. The calm surface of the water allowed for great visibility in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, so it wasn’t long before we saw several Humpback whales in the vicinity south and west of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. We watched these behemoths foraging. They would lift their Flukes prior to a deep dive that allowed for great amounts of water to cascade off those mighty tails. It is always fascinating to watch these huge whales in these waters. Several more whales surface as we travelled further west. Another report came over the radio that 2 Transient Killer Whales had been located.They were identified as the T 11 family two-some, a female with her son. He was a big fellow with a huge dorsal fin. They were in traveling mode and slowly heading out west, however they surprised us with a spy-hop behaviour.

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Ocean Magic Marine Wildlife Adventure April 8

There is always something to look at when one takes a wildlife trip with ‘ Prince of Whales.’ Victoria is surrounded by incredible scenery and an abundance of marine mammals within these cold, but rich nutrient waters. The Sunday afternoon 12.15pm Ocean Magic II, with Capt. Gord in the wheelhouse, headed us east and north to find members of J and K Pod, part of the Southern Resident community of Orca. We found the whales traveling very slowly inshore off Pender Island. The whole group seemed to be in a very mellow mood, resting while milling about. What a magical encounter with these whales once again. Our crew of naturalists on board Casey and Dan shared their knowledge with our international and local guests. The return trip gave us views of gulls, air craft and some marine traffic, the ” deep seas” freighters and tankers, that traverse the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is great to be on the west coast enjoying’ Nature ‘.
Clint “Orcawizard”

Most of the images on the blog are shot with a 400 mm telephoto lens. Because of our restrictions around wildlife (100+ meters), we use powerful lenses to better share orca activity that passengers see on their trips.

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Ocean Magic Marine Wildlife Adventure April 7

It certainly was an afternoon to be on the water. The sun was out and the conditions relatively calm. We had a report of Orca way north of Victoria so Capt. Gord and his crew of Casey and Dan headed the vessel north up Haro Strait. A group of Transient Orca were reported at the top of Haro Strait. Along the way we took in the sights of many of the picturesque Canadian Gulf Islands. The Orca were soon spotted and we set up to view them. We watched as these apex marine predators worked their way north, rising up to breath in the sparkling waters.The scenery around this area is spectacular especially on a sunny day, so when the local weekend yachting community heads out with their spinnakers flying, it becomes eye candy for our guests. A few Long-tail ducks surprised us as they flew by. As we headed back we passed Harpoon Rock, a granite rock at Harling Point, left over from glacier days. From certain angles it appears to have a face etched upon it . What a story it can tell of the First Nation peoples that used it as a look-out when sea lions came ashore at this point.

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Ocean Magic Marine Wildlife Adventure April 6

It was a beautiful afternoon shaping up for the 12.15pm Ocean Magic 2 vessel as we left the harbour with Capt. Gord in the wheelhouse. First Mate Casey, and Naturalist Dan gave an expert presentation of our safety procedures and discussed the possible wildlife to be found in these nutrient rich waters. We saw many sail boats, with sails flying high as we headed east and then north up Haro Strait to find Transient Killer whales reported just off Mayne Island. Given that several family groups of Transient Orca had been seen the two previous days in much the same area, and had been ID as the T 90’s, T65’s T49’s and T30’s that many of the Orca seen today on our incredible trip were some of the same animals. These apex predators were zig-zagging all over the place and popping up around pleasure craft that stopped to watch in awe, of these incredible marine mammals. killer whales are the marine mammal hunters, preferring seals, sea lions, porpoise and dolphins and even small whales. On our way back to Victoria we encountered yet another group of Transient Orca off James Island. These Orca were in a playful mood,

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Ocean Magic Marine Wildlife Adventure April 1

It certainly was a great day for an adventure. The sun was out and the winds light as our Skipper Gord slipped the Ocean Magic from Victoria’s inner harbour. He headed us west past Race Rocks and beyond. We took in the sights of Vancouver Islands rugged coastline as we searched for wildlife. Or crew of Casey and Dan answered all the questions and passed on a wealth of information about the wonders of our marine enviorment. Our trip back through Race Rocks Ecological Reserve brought us a viewing of five Elephant Seals. These Elephant Seals take their name from the large proboscis that resembles an elephants trunk. Elephant Seals and spend over 80% of their time in the water, and an amazing statistic of the Elephant seal is that it can hold its breath underwater for over 30 minuets. There was also many Harbour Seals and a large variety of seabirds, Cormorants, Gulls, Pigeon Guillemots and Oyster Catchers. Our guests were treated to yet another great marine wildlife adventure with Prince Of Whales!

Clint “Orcawizard”, Marie “Orca-Magic”

Most of the images on the blog are shot with a 400 mm telephoto lens.

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