Questions (FAQs)

What is the best whale watching tour in Victoria?

Here are four criteria for choosing the best whale watching tour for you:

    1. Inside or outside: you can choose the speedy adventure of an open air zodiac tour or the relaxing comfort inside a cruiser tour
    2. Best team in the business: Ensure that company you chose has qualified staff, the knowledge of our orca naturalists is more than a requirement of the job – it’s a way of life
    3. Environmental impact: Understand the priorities of the company, at Orca Spirit we believe in the preserving and promoting the health of our neighbouring natural habitats above all else and have the awards to prove it
    4. Choose your season: There’s simply nothing better than a whale watching tour in BC with Orca Spirit, some prefer viewing beneath the summer sun, while others prefer cooler spring and fall viewings. Some even come in the winter months for an uncrowded adventure.

When is the best time of year for whale watching?

While it is possible to see whales at any time of the year, there is a peak season from May through October. During this peak season our sighting success rate is at 95-98% for viewing resident Orca pods near Victoria. In addition to Orcas, see the other wildlife that we view in the Victoria area.

Can you pick me up and drop me off?

Yes! Orca Spirit Adventures offers a courtesy shuttle service for all guests. We’ll pick you up at your downtown Victoria hotel—and when your whale watching adventure is over, we’ll drop you back at the hotel, or if you prefer, anywhere in the Victoria city core.

Do you offer a guarantee?

Victoria and its surrounding waters are world renowned for the many species of whales and the wildlife tours offered. Our guests travel from all over the world to get the chance to see Orca, Humpback, Gray and Minke whales in their natural habitat. We begin our ‘whale guarantee’ once all three of our local resident orca pods have returned to the area, generally late May to beginning of June. Any time spent with these majestic creatures is truly a memorable experience. However, being that these marine mammals are not tracked using damaging sonar or constant boat or aerial surveillance, they can be, at times, elusive. Many guests ask “what if we don’t see any whales?” For our staff at Orca Spirit Adventures the answer is easy, we offer our guests the opportunity to join us again on another free tour. Here are a few details the customer should know to redeem their free secondary tour:

    • Orca Spirit Adventures office automatically ‘flags’ the tour as a “No Whale’ tour. Eliminating the need for guests to return to the office for further paperwork.
    • Orca Spirit Adventures whale guarantee is not species specific.
    • Guests are booked on a stand-by basis and subject to Transport Canada vessel capacity and mandatory staffing requirements.
    • Non-transferable (photo ID may be required at check-in).
    • Orca Spirit Adventures reserves the right to substitute vessels (preserving covered boat or zodiac style).
    • Orca Spirit Adventures reserves the right to alter or cancel departures of any trip based on weather conditions, mechanical problems or other unforeseen circumstances.
    • Orca Spirit Adventures offer is valid for life and does not expire.

What Is The Most Environmentally Friendly Way To Get To Your Location?

There are many ways to get to Orca Spirit Adventures and we want to encourage you to take the most environmentally friendly route! Are you within walking distance? Consider a lovely stroll to either of our locations. Within the downtown core? We offer a complimentary shuttle to reduce the amount of traffic on the road. Call our office to reserve your seat at 250-383-8411. A little further way? Consider taking public transportation. For all regional bus schedules and routes go to The BC Transit Website and start planning your trip. Need further directions? We’re happy to help!

What is the ride like?

Exciting and sometimes quite adventurous. Depending on the weather and conditions on the water, the experience can be wild and wet, smooth and dry, or any combination of the two. A typical zodiac trip experiences more ocean spray, and passengers can be splashed at some point along the route. Morning tours and those on covered vessels are usually the calmest.

Where do you go?

Routes vary depending on whale sightings and weather. A typical route takes us along Victoria’s scenic waterfront to Oak Bay and the Chain Islets, where we pause to watch harbour seals and sea birds. From there, we often head east to San Juan Island, or north along the Saanich Peninsula. When whale sighting reports come in, we typically alter our course towards whales within range of the boat. Round trip distance is usually 50 to 80 km.

How should I dress?

During the summer (June through August), light summer tops and pants or shorts are fine, but it’s a good idea to bring layers such as a fleece jacket or sweater. It is surprisingly cool traveling quickly over the ocean. On cool days, evening trips and during the spring (April – May) and fall (September – October), long pants, sweaters, snug fitting hats and warm footwear is recommended.

Do you provide passengers with special gear?

Yes. Full length cruiser suits (extra small to double extra large) are supplied for your comfort and safety for all zodiac tours. These Transport Canada-approved flotation suits provide protection from ocean spray and the cool ocean air.

What should I bring?

Sunglasses, camera, tight fitting hat, sunscreen and a sense of adventure!

Where do we board the boat?

Depending on which tour you’re on, boarding will take place at one of our two locations. You’ll be notified in advance of the departure location at either:

      • Our private dock, approximately 70 yards from the Orca Spirit Adventures office in the Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel, at 146 Kingston Street in Victoria, BC
      • At the Harbour Air Seaplane terminal at 950 Wharf Street in Victoria, BC

Is Vancouver Island the same as Vancouver?

No. Victoria is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, located 112 kilometers across the Georgia Strait from the city of Vancouver. Luckily, if you are staying in Vancouver there are plenty of options to get here! By Plane: Harbour Air will fly you from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria in just 35 minutes! Check out our “Sea-to Sky” package for savings!

      • By Helicopter: Helijet flies daily from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria in 30 minutes.
      • By Car: BC Ferries car and passenger service for Metro Vancouver to Vancouver Island (Victoria) departs from Tsawwassen (approx. one hour drive from downtown Vancouver). Daily sailings from Tsawwassen to Schwarts Bay (Victoria) typically run between 7:00 am – 9:00 pm. Check out their website for our Whale Watching/ Accommodation

By Bus: Visit the BC Transit website for information on how to get to Victoria by bus.

Is parking available at the Coast Victoria Hotel & Marina?

There is a parking lot at the corner of the Quebec Street and Montreal Street about a half block from our office. As well, there is another lot at the corner of Kingston Street and Menzie Street.

Is parking available at the Wharf Street Office?

Yes, there are pay parking lots at this office as well as street parking.

Can you hear a killer whale?

Sometimes, yes. Each of our boats is equipped with a hydrophone (an underwater microphone) that is lowered into the water when we’re near a pod of whales. If the whales are vocalizing, the sound is picked up by the hydrophone and amplified for you to hear.

What is there to see besides sea mammals and sea birds?

Plenty — sea planes in motion, commercial fishing vessels, tugs towing barges and log booms, naval ships, freighters, sailboats and yachts of all descriptions, hang gliders and wind surfers, shoreline reefs, islands, kelp beds, lighthouses, waves, fog banks, reflections, mirages, sunsets, mountains, cloud formations, an ever-changing seascape, not to mention our very entertaining crew!


Orca Spirit believes in sharing our knowledge about the coast waters and its marine life with our passengers. That’s why we’ve developed ecological programs that make every tour an enjoyable and interesting learning experience.

Do boat engines disturb the whales?

Orca Spirit is the only whale watching company in Victoria to use ultra-quiet, ultra clean Yamaha four-stroke engines that create minimal disturbance to the marine wildlife. They minimize vibration and run much more quietly than standard outboards, allowing our passengers to hear what’s going on above and below the water. The engines’ exclusive “Inertia Charge System” delivers superior power, yet provides up to 30% more range and fuel efficiency than a conventional two-stroke. These engines are so clean-running that they exceed the U.S.A. Federal EPA emission standards for 2006.

How do killer whales sleep?

Unlike humans who are automatic breathers even while we’re asleep, killer whales are voluntary or “conscious” breathers, who allow only one half of their brain to sleep at a time. The unconscious side of their brain rests, while the active or conscious side regulates breathing and other bodily functions.

Why are killer whales black and white?

The distinctive black and white pattern, known as “disruptive colouration,” provides natural camouflage as the killer whale hunts for food, and protection from predators above and below the water by obscuring their body shape and outline. Plus, their dorsal (top) surface is darker than the ventral (underneath), making them less visible in dark water and against light skies.

Our fleet?

Our covered yachts and cruisers, with seating of up to 200, are fully equipped with a variety of comforts such as heated cabins, padded interior seating, washrooms, kitchen and bar facilities, 360 degree and elevated viewing platforms, full length tinted windows, surround sound systems, hydrophones and video monitors. Orca Spirit’s custom-designed Zodiac inflatables offer you a first class marine adventure that’s safe, educational and fun for the whole family. Modelled after fast-response Coast Guard rescue vessels, zodiacs combine speed with extraordinary stability while cruising at 25-35 knots. They are fully equipped with padded bench seating and cushioned backrest, a washroom and full length Mustang Cruiser government-approved flotation suits. Each vessel is inspected annually by the Coast Guard.

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