It wasn’t long before a black dorsal fin broke through the water. Like a sharp blade, it sparkled as the sunlight hit the beads of water falling from the fin and back into the Pacific Ocean. It’s an incredible experience to see these beautiful whales off the coast of Vancouver and there’s really no better place to see them in the wild.
It was an incredibly lucky day for everyone on the water. It wasn’t more than 20-minutes from the time we left the pier before the first killer whale graced us with its presence. It was a quick start to what turned out to be an unforgettable day. Over the next three hours, we must have seen a group of whales breach the surface more than 100 times.
There are two types of orcas that call this area home; Transient killer whales and Resident killer whales. The ones we saw first were the Transient killer whales. These killer whales feed on a variety of mammals including seals, sea lions, dolphins, and other whales. They are called Transient killer whales because they travel along the coast from California to Alaska. Resident killer whales on the other hand travel less and eat only salmon. Regardless, they were putting on quite the show for us.
Sometimes they’d be seen in the distance and other times they’d be very close to the boat. Sometimes we’d see just the dorsal fin and other times we’d see their tail splash the water as a form of communication. My favourite moment was seeing the entire upper body glide out of the water and spotting the signature white mark near the whales head. It was a truly magical experience.
After three hours of pure whale-watching excitement, it was time to call it a day. After all, it was time to let the whales have their peace. As we approached land however, we got another surprise. Resident killer whales! As if the day wasn’t incredible enough, we came across a big family of Resident killer whales frolicking about the water and putting on yet another fabulous show for all of us. Some of them were hitting their tail on the water over and over again while others were just swimming by. At one point, three or four different whales breached the water at the same time.
It had long been a dream of mine to see majestic killer whales in the wild. In the last couple of years, I had seen humpback whales in Quebec and in Newfoundland so now it was time to go West and see orcas. Canada is one of the best countries in the world to see whales and if it’s killer whales you’re after, Vancouver is the place to go!
Planning a Trip to See the Killer Whales?
The two best places to see killer whales on the west coast is Vancouver and Vancouver Island. We didn’t have time to go to Vancouver Island so we went with Seabreeze Adventures, which is located in a small historic fishing village called Steveston. This “village” is in Richmond, which is located just 30-minutes south of downtown Vancouver. Their guides are very knowledgeable and friendly and the boats are top notch. Best of all, we saw loads of killer whales! Whale sightings are not guaranteed mind you but you’ll have a very good chance if you come between May and October. We went in September.
Learn more about Seabreeze Adventures by visiting www.seabreezeadventures.ca or by calling them at (604) 272-7200.
For more incredible travel photography, meet me on Instagram at Instagram.com/MatthewGBailey
Have you seen whales in the wild before? Where?