Winter Wildlife Tours
SALISH SEA WILDLIFE
Almost 200 species of mammals and birds call the Salish Sea waterways surrounding southern Vancouver Island home, relying on its delicate marine ecosystem for food and habitat.
RACE ROCKS ECO RESERVE
Race Rocks is a designated Marine Protected Area. To preserve its special ecosystem of plants, animals and biological diversity, access is restricted to scientific and educational purposes.
VICTORIA’S INNER HARBOUR
A hub of activity day and night, the Harbour is a base for small cruise ships, float planes and recreational boats. It comes alive during summer months with festivals, music and fresh local cuisine.
950 Wharf St.
Covered, Open - Zodiac
Zodiacs: 6 years and up
Departures - Covered
Level of Difficulty
Easy, suitable for all ages
November 1st - March 31st
Departures - Zodiac
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 seabirds. 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 course towards whales within range of the boat. Round trip distance is usually 50 to 80 km.
How old do you have to be to go on a tour?
Our covered vessel tours welcome people of all ages, but the zodiacs are restricted to those that are 6 years old and above.
Can you pick me up from my hotel?
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.
How far in advance of my tour does the shuttle arrive?
The day before your tour we prepare our shuttle schedule and will contact you directly to provide you with a time frame in which the shuttle will get you from your hotel. Pickups are anywhere from and hour and half to thirty minutes before the schedule tour departure time depending on the hotel location.
Is there parking near the departure dock?
Wharf Street Departures
Yes, there are pay parking lots at this office as well as street parking.
Coast Hotel & Marina by APA Departures
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.
What is the boat 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.
What is the best time of year to see whales?
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.
Will we really see whales?
Southern Vancouver Island is the best place to see whales in the wild! There is a chance of seeing a number of different species of whales including resident and transient orcas, humpback whales, Minke whales, and gray whales in addition to other wildlife including but not limited to seals, sea lions, bald eagles, cormorants, and the Race Rocks Lighthouse resident sea otter – Ollie! All of this being said, these are wild animals that we are viewing and so there is the chance of them being a little more elusive some days, which is why we offer our Whale Guarantee. In the event of a no-whale trip, you are invited back with us for a complimentary tour. No rush, this is a life-time guarantee as we want to bring all of our guests’ whale watching dreams to life.
Where do I 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 Hotel & Marina by APA, at 146 Kingston Street in Victoria, BC
- At the Harbour Air Seaplane terminal at 950 Wharf Street in Victoria, BC
- Wild Renfrew Guest Services at 17310 Parkinson Road, Port Renfrew BC
What should I wear?
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.
Can I bring a camera?
Yes! If you are joining us on a zodiac tour, we recommend talking to captain before your tour as he may recommend that you put it in the dry storage beneath your seat depending on the wind, weather, and sea conditions on the day of tour. Onboard covered vessel tours, if we experience inclement weather you can leave it in the heated indoor cabin, protected from the elements.
Are there bathrooms on the boat?
There is a bathroom onboard all covered vessel tours.
Are there snacks and beverages available for purchase on board?
Snacks and pop available for purchase for $2 on board during covered vessel tours.
What is your cancellation policy?
24 hour cancellation policy
- Guests must check in at least 30 minutes prior to departure time at their specific check in location
- Passenger boarding begins 15 minutes prior to departure time
- Tour departures and packages can be subject to time change and are weather dependent.
- The Zodiac is not recommended for those with neck or back injuries, expectant mothers, or children under the age of 6
- Cancellation Policy for all tours and packages: 24 hours
- Disclaimer: Tour departures and packages can be subject to time change and are weather dependent
- 3 hour, 100% carbon neutral whale watching tour
- Free hotel shuttle pick-up & drop off
- Choice of open zodiac or covered vessel*
- Full length cruiser suits (XS to XXL) for protection from ocean spray and cool air (Zodiac tours only)
- A hydrophone (underwater microphone) for listening to whales
- Certified Marine Naturalist/Biologist on board each tour
- Wildlife identification kits
- Whale Sighting Guarantee
- Complimentary coffee & tea on board covered vessel tours
- Blankets and binoculars
- $2 donation towards restoration of the salmon in the Salish Sea
- A safe and comfortable experience backed by our perfect safety record
*NOTE: Zodiac is not recommended for those with neck or back injuries, expectant mothers, or children under the age of 6
What to Bring
Sunglasses, camera, tight fitting hat, sunscreen and a sense of adventure!
What Might You See
“We almost cancelled this trip worried that we were going to waste money due to the time of the year. So pleased we didn’t – turned out to be a wonderful once in a lifetime fun filled day. Managed to see orcas, humpback whales, seals and so much more. We were on a zodiac which was brilliant.”
Helen M, UK
“This experience was definitely on my bucket list and it did not disappoint. We went with Captain Mick on a zodiac boat. He was very educative and funny. We were lucky enough to spot a mom Humpback whale and her calf and 2 orca families. Next to that we saw seals. The zodiac experience made it so much more fun!”
Wieke00, The Netherlands
“I have just returned from Vancouver and the highlight seeing at least 4 pods of Killer Whales, seals and sea lions after sailing out from Victoria Harbour. We had onboard a very knowledgeable naturalist who answered all questions with gushing enthusiasm and nothing was too much trouble. Fabulous.”
Top Rated Packages
After a morning on the water, we shuttle over to the tropical Butterfly Gardens, and beautifully manicured grounds at Butchart Gardens.
Cruise over snow-capped mountains in a seaplane from Vancouver, then join a 3 hour tour on one of our luxurious covered vessels or open air zodiacs.
After a hearty breakfast at the oceanfront Coast Victoria Hotel, we hit the seas for an action-packed 3 hour whale watching tour.
Leaders in responsible Eco-Tourism