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What Will You See on Your Whale Watching Tour?

February 28, 2013

Humpback Whale Breaching

Humpback Whale Breaching

As the name implies, whale watching tours are meant to take you out on the water to see whales in their natural environment. Whale watching in Victoria BC, considered one of the best spots in the world to watch whales, can offer you that experience, but there are more than whales living in the straits around Vancouver Island! Here’s a short guide on what you might see during your whale watching tour, and how to recognize different animals.


Orcas, or killer whales (even though they are a actually species of dolphins), are the most frequently sighted whales around Victoria. With their black and white skin and high, pointy fin, they are difficult to miss. Contrary to popular belief, their eyes are not the white spots on their sides (called the “eye patch); the small, black eyes are situated just under the eye patch. You will see them if you look closely.

Humpback whales

Less frequent but just as majestic, humpback whales sometimes come to the waters around Victoria in the fall. They are among the larger species of whales, measuring up to 16 meters in length. It is recognizable by the bumps on its head and back that give this species its name.

Harbour seals

The harbour seal is the common seal you will see in most coastal waters of North America. Their fur ranges from brown to gray, and you can recognize them by their characteristic V-shaped nostrils. They like to live and hunt around rocky areas. They’re also really smart and like to play around humans!

Sea lions

If you’re lucky, you may see the endangered Steller sea lion in the waters around Victoria. Their fur is lighter than other types of sea lions in hues of yellow and tan, and sometimes even red. Females grow to 2.5 meters and males up to 3.25 meters. They also like rocky environments for resting and hunting.


Porpoises are small dolphin-type animals about as big as a human being. Around Victoria, you may spot harbour or Dall’s porpoises. They look a little like dolphins, with the same grey skin, but their snout is round and flat instead of elongated into a beak-like mouth. Dall’s porpoises have a black and white skin that looks a bit like those of killer whales.



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