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best whale watching

Houston, Texas
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best whale watching

Where on Vancouver Island is the best place to go whale watching (orcas) in the summer? We're planning a visit to Victoria and see there are numerous companies there. Should we just plan to do it there or head up to Sidney or some other spot? We're in the planning stage of our trip so we can adjust our itinerary. Would like to go where we have the best shot at seeing whale activity.

Port McNeill
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1. Re: best whale watching

Victoria is good for orcas but heading further north to Telegraph Cove and/or Port McNeill is better for viewing orcas and other wildlife. Port McNeill is a 5 1/2 hour drive from Victoria.

I do not want to knock Victoria as there is good viewing around there and if travelling further north is difficult time wise it is a good choice. However, if you truly want the best place for whale watching then head to the north end of the island.

In addition to there being more orcas at the north end of the island you also have excellent opportunities to see humpback hales, Dall's porpoises, white sided dolphins, seals, sea lions, eagles, sea birds and bears. There are a lot less operators up here than around Victoria so the whales do not have as many boat around them all day.

Motorized whale watching companies include: Stubbs Island in Telegraph Cove www.stubbs-island.com (the original whale watching company up here and their naturalists do a great job), Mackay Whale Watching in Port McNeill www.whaletime.com (offers the longest tour on the fastest boat) or Sea Smoke in Alert Bay www.seaorca.com (Sailboat).

Sea kayaking is also very popular and allows for a different vantage point to view the areas wildlife. Kayak day trips have about a 50% success rate of seeing orcas and tours of 3 days or longer have about a 95% success rate during July, August and September. Tours range from day trips to 6 day expeditions. In Telegraph Cove check out North Island Kayak, www.kayakbc.ca and in Port McNeill Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures, www.kingfisher.ca

You could spend a few days and visit nearby Alert Bay and Sointula. If you want info on these locations, other activities and suggested places to stay just let me know and I will add more info.

Canada
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2. Re: best whale watching

I'd have to agree with kingfisher, that if you have the time to head up Island, you will have a much rounder experience of not just whales, but a plethora of other wildlife as well. Since you asked where is the "best" place, then the Port McNeill/Telegraph Cove area would have to be my vote.

There is certainly similar excursions from Campbell River, but more lengthy boat travel than farther up Island. Victoria won't have that same "wilderness" approach.

Houston, Texas
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3. Re: best whale watching

Thanks for your suggestions, but I was hoping there was someplace closer to Victoria or the Gulf Islands. I've promised my husband that this would not be a big driving trip since we are only going for a week. I'll certainly keep Port McNeill in mind when we are able to take a longer trip. For this trip, should we just stick with Victoria or head up to Sidney or one of the gulf islands? Will it make much difference?

Port McNeill
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4. Re: best whale watching

I don't think there is much difference between Victoria, Sidney or any of the gulf islands as the tour boats will likely all end up in the same place anyway to see the whales. So whatever works best with you other plans will likely be OK.

Houston, Texas
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5. Re: best whale watching

Thanks.

Israel
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6. Re: best whale watching

Hi,

How are the Tofino / Ucluelet whale watching tours compared to the ones in Campbell River / Telegraph cove / Port Mcneill ?

On paper, they promise much the same for lower price and half the cruise time.

Thanks,

Elad.

Port McNeill
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7. Re: best whale watching

Tofino and Ucluelet are very good for grey whales during the spring as the grey whale follow the coastline on their northwards migration (during the southerly migration in the fall they are usually further off shore).

There are a number of greys that stay all summer and Tofino and Ucluelet operators have a good success rate seeing them. Humpback whales have been see more regularly over the past few years as well. You may also see seals, sea lions, sea otters and bears alogn the beaches.

Chances of seeing orcas are much less than in the Victoria or the north island areas. Orca mostly seen in the Victoria and north island areas are fish eating orcas that often congregate in the dozens (I have seen super-pods pf over 100 out of Port McNeill). In Tofino and Ucluelet if you see orcas at all you are more likely to enounter the mammal eating orcas that travel in much smaller numbers, typically 1 to 6.

As to the original post if your travel plans allow it travelling to the North Island (Port McNeill/Telegraph Cove) not only gives you the best orca viewing possibilities but also excellent opportunities for a wider variety of wildlife.

While Port McNeil and Telegraph Cove have all the basic amenities you will not have as much of the touristy trappings you will find in Tofino or Victoria.

8. Re: best whale watching

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