Victoria Whale Watching Report: Bald Eagles, Seals & More
May 10, 2019
It was another gorgeous day on the water as we set our sights east of Victoria, heading into Haro Strait before turning North into the San Juan Islands. There was a report of a humpback spotted near Henry Island at 9 am this morning, but we could not see any blows in the area when we arrived. We decided to look around the iconic Speiden Island to see what we could find.
As we looked along the rugged grassy slopes, we spotted giant Steller Sea Lions both in the water and hauled out at Green Point. The boys on land were HUGE! With a maximum weight of 2500 pounds, the Steller Sea Lion males were definitely tipping the top of the scale! We also spotted a Bald Eagle in the tree above the sea lions, checking out the area from high above. We ended up seeing six Bald Eagles during our trip including a pair nestled together atop one of the small islets in the area.
Harbour Seals are the most abundant marine mammal off the coast of British Columbia and their “bowling ball” heads could be seen popping above the water. We also saw a large cluster of these “rock sausages” soaking up the sun and enjoying the warm day. Majestic Mount Baker made for the perfect backdrop as we made our way back to the Victoria Harbour.
Orca Spirit cruised out of the Victoria Harbour and decided to look southwest of the city for whales and other Salish Sea wildlife. We looked in Becher Bay where the scenery is stunning with forested slopes and beautiful seaside homes, but no whales were sharing the view. With no blows misting the air in the bay, we cruised over to Race Rocks Lighthouse where life abounds. The tall black and white striped lighthouse has been guiding ships into the Strait since 1860.
From the fuzzy blonde face of Ollie the only sea otter to the round heads of the bountiful Harbour Seals, furry creatures filled the Bull Kelp beds and littered the rocky shorelines. We also got to see the massive sea lions as they rested on the rocks, soaking up the sun. One of our favourite species- the Elephant Seals- were taking up all the space on the boat ramp. They are moulting this time of year, so they love to spend lots of time relaxing in the sun that keeps them warm and cozy. Their long noses called a proboscis can be inflated to help exaggerate grunts, roars, and groans as they extend up to a meter from their face!
After enjoying a lovely afternoon on the water we set course towards the Victoria Harbour. With hundreds of pictures taken and sunshine soaked up, we were all excited to check out the shots we captured of the beautiful Salish Sea and its residents!
Ovation of the Seas docked in Victoria and we picked up guests at Ogden Point.
While some guests walked down to the boat, they caught sight of a new resident of the rocky shoreline- a marmot! We have spotted this little creature once before this season, but they are extremely rare to see in our area!
Once on the water, we started our search to the west of Victoria in the Juan de Fuca Strait. With depths reaching 1000 feet, whales use every part of the strait from the shallower shorelines to the deepest parts in the middle of the strait. We looked for blows, splashes, and fins along the horizon. With sightings of a humpback whale, a grey whale and even two minke whales earlier in the day, we were determined to relocate the whales. Since they are air breathers and need to surface often, we can spot whales throughout the entire day.
After an extensive search out west, we headed to Race Rocks Lighthouse to visit the diverse wildlife that resides there. Very quickly we spotted the blonde face and long whiskers of Ollie, the only sea otter in our area! Ollie was napping in the Bull Kelp bed in front of Helicopter Rock. Ollie stays warm in our 12 degree Celsius waters by having one million hairs per square inch on his body. Because he lacks a think layer of fat, he is not a target of the mammal-hunting killer whales.
We also got to see the largest inhabitants- the Steller and California Sea Lions as they were hauled out on the island that hosts the lighthouse itself. This area is home to the males of these species, the females live separately in rookeries that the males visit for two months of the year during mating season. The Harbour Seals were also present, resting in the dozens as the sun lowered in the western sky. Despite not finding the whales, we did enjoy many other species of Salish Sea Wildlife.
We capped the tour off with a scenic tour of Victoria’s Inner Harbour where we showed our guests the historical buildings and newly developed infrastructure like the single-leaf bascule Johnson Street Bridge and state-of-the-art Harbour Air seaplane terminal.