Captain’s Blog

Port Renfrew Whale Watching Report: Dall’s Porpoise, Harbour Porpoise, Whales, Seals, Sea Lions, and More!

August 17, 2020

Week of August 17th, 2020 – 9am/1pm Zodiac Vessel Tours

Another week of excellent weather and wildlife sightings. The month notoriously known for its fog has failed to live up to the reputation. Instead everyday we venture out into clear skies and refreshing cool breezes that relieve us from the summer heat on land.

With such clarity we peer out into the open sea and suddenly realize the sheer amount of wildlife that surrounds us. Shy harbour porpoise silently pass by while their more excitable cousins, Dall’s porpoise, race over to our boat and surf alongside before veering off into the glassy waters around us. As they go and we approach the offshore banks we can see dozens of humpback whales ahead, in groups of 2-4 individuals all surfacing around us. At this point we must explain to our passengers that we cannot possibly go to view every single whale they see, but instead we will transit these waters carefully and appreciate the sheer number of whales, seals, sea lions, sea birds and porpoise around us.

We usually spend 20 minutes thereabouts cruising this way until we settle on some whales that would be best to stop and view. What we are looking for is the humpback whales who have found a good feeding patch, equivalent to an all-you-can-eat buffet, we’ll watch 10-20 whales side by side all diving together in a spectacular fashion and disappearing into the dark water below us. The silence that follows is a mix of awe and anticipation as we wait for them to surface minutes later nearby.

This last week there have been an increased number of killer whale sightings as well. Some Bigg’s orca elusively cruising the shoreline but most the critically endangered southern resident killer whales aka SRKWs. Although new regulation permits the viewing of these particular killer whales, they are not a definitive part of the experience with so much more wildlife in the area. Instead, we stop the vessel more than 500 meters away and explain to our guests the many challenges these animals need to cope with and the questionable situation of their future. Watching from this distance allows a glimpse of their tall black dorsal fins rising through the swell. Usually, there is scientists out their vessels taking samples from the SRKW and it is interesting to see them working from afar. Sometimes there are known research vessels in the area when we come across SRKWs, at which point we call on the radio and pass along vital information about their movements.

Research and conservation are major components of the education program in our tours. This year being unique, exclusively taking out Canadian passengers due to COVID-19, the subject of conservation is more relevant than ever. In this way we hope to leave last impressions about the significance of nature here in Port Renfrew and inspire others to be more active in conservation wherever they call home.

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