Since watching Free Willy as a little girl I always dreamt of seeing Orca/Killer Whales in the wild. Whilst Orca can be found in all of the worlds oceans it is widely accepted that Canada is the best place in the world to see them, and in particular Vancouver Island.
As we started planning our travels around Western Canada we knew that our number one priority was a whale watching tour, in hope of seeing these beautiful creature with our own eyes. We decided that this would be a super fun activity to do to celebrate our two year anniversary, so we decided to book a tour for that specific date. I researched all of the tour companies and despite their being many reputable ones to choose from I kept reading fantastic things over and over about a little tour company called Ocean EcoVentures.
Ocean EcoVentures departs from Cowichan Bay, about an hour north of Victoria. Whilst there is a small amount of public transport available on the island it was quite hard finding accurate timetables and availability, so we decided to hire a car (which would also give us a way to get to the rest of the island).
This small, family operated company guarantee a Whale sighting in their tours, particularly between May 15th and September 15th when the Whales are more commonly sighted. If you don’t see a sighting the website says that you will receive a complimentary tour for another day. They also firmly stick to the 100ft rule, which means boats are not supposed to get closer than 100ft from the whales so as to not interfere with their natural movement and to not create trauma for them (though at one point some of the pod had disappeared and we were at a standstill waiting to see where they had gone when they jumped out mere metres from our boats, which gave us great photo oppurtunities as well as the ability to watch them up close for a few minutes).
We were so pleased that we chose this tour. The boat can only hold 12 people so it’s a really nice and intimate sized group and it means that you are able to ask your guide more questions and not have to hold your camera above a sea of heads.
We went on a super hot day and were dreading have to put on the mandatory floatation outfit, but as the captain said it would, by time we got out to sea the temperature dropped drastically and we were all very grateful for the warmth of the gear. If you are going on a day that isn’t particularly warm I do recommend taking a jacket as well.
We didn’t want to get our hopes too high in seeing Orca but we need not worry, within thirty minutes we stumbled upon a pod of almost 30 Orca Whales. These Whales belonged to the ‘J Pod’ family, made famous in the movie Free Willy as the family that he was from (in real life the Whale that played Willy, Keiko, was captured from Iceland and not apart of the J Pod). We were so lucky to see this incredible pod, which even had two calf’s (baby whales). They were sleeping for majority of the trip, which simply put means they are just swimming around calmly (which was exciting enough) but luckily for us they ended up waking towards the end of our tour resulting in seeing incredible jumps (spyhopping and breaching in technical words). It sure looks like fun being a whale, especially an Orca (which by the way have now become my favourite animal).
We also briefly followed two Humpback Whales, but we were all less excited about them.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Orca spend their whole lives with their family, isn’t that so lovely?
Fun Fact #2 Did you know there are two types of Orca, resident and transient. Resident Orca only eat fish, and in particular Salmon, whilst Transient Orca eat any kind of mammals including Seals and Dolphins and even other small whales. Transiest and Resident Orcas never mate or interact with each other.
The tour is supposed to run for 3-4 hours but luckily for us the tour ran close to 5 hours as the captain/guides just love their job so much they couldn’t bring themselves to drive away from the Orca.
It was an absolutely amazing day and we feel so lucky to have seen them so active and playful. I highly recommend Ocean EcoVentures tours (but I’m sure you’d enjoy it no matter who you go with).
Check out this little video I created of our experience!
Note: I was not paid for this recommendation in any way or form and all opinions are my own.
Have you ever been lucky enough to see Orca in the wild?
If not is this something you would like to experience?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!