Written by: Lori, Zodiac Driver
When you think of winter activities, whale watching may not be the first thing to come to mind – yet on Vancouver Island the two truly go hand in hand! Here on the West Coast we have the wonderful fortune of being able to see whales all year round, and even now entering into December we have been experiencing phenomenal whale and wildlife sightings.
So what exactly can you expect to see on a Winter Whale Watching tour?
The first answer may surprise you – but one of the animals that you have a very good chance of seeing is Humpback Whales! They are famous for their long migrations from cold, nutrient-rich waters like we have here in British Columbia, to warm tropical waters during the winter months. With the cold weather it may seem like they should have all left by now – but we still have many humpback whales feeding in our region preparing for their migrations. Some humpback whales will leave these waters relatively late in the year, and some migrations overlap so there is always the potential to encounter these beautiful giants on our winter tours.
Another species of whale that you may be able to see are Killer Whales! The particular ecotype of Killer Whale that we search for is the Bigg’s Killer Whale, which is a mammal-hunting killer whale. They are typically seen traveling in small groups of 2-6 individuals. Bigg’s Killer whales are capable of traveling over 100km in a single day – and while they may occupy a wide range all the way from Alaska to California, they can be seen passing through the Salish Sea year-round.
The wildlife encounters on our winter tours don’t stop at whales, and there are plenty of other Marine Wildlife that you can expect to see on our tours! A multitude of different pinnipeds can be spotted, including California and Steller Sea lions, Northern Elephant Seals, and Harbour Seals! These animals can frequently be spotted at haul-outs, and they are an impressive sight when seen on land.
There is certainly no shortage of mammals to see during the winter months – but you are also very likely to spot a number of beautiful Marine Birds such as Cormorants, Rhinoceros Auklets, and perhaps most notably the Bald Eagle. These large birds of prey can be seen near the coastline, and this time of year we can see both adult and juvenile bald eagles in large numbers. Juvenile bald eagles often look larger than their adult counterparts because their tail and wing feathers are longer. Bald Eagles have an average of 7,000 feathers to help them stay warm and dry during the winter months.
One of my favourite ways to embrace a cold winter day is to go out on the water and experience the seasons and the always changing rhythm of nature. No matter what season we’re in, there is always wildlife to enjoy and appreciate.
Book your Winter Whale Watching Tour and come experience the wild with us!