Orca Whales in Canada
If you are planning a whale watching trip, one of the most exciting marine animals you will ever see is Orca (orca). These massive marine mammals are the second-most popular mammal in Canada, after the humpback whale. They are unique among all whales in that they give birth, nurse their babies, and return to the same spot they were born and bred in. This makes them extremely social and well-behaved creatures. As such, they are often included in tours of naturalist reserves.
Orca whales are known for their distinct white and black plumage. They also have distinct markings on their soft skin. The most common orca whales in Canada are the grey, humped, and gray orca. Canada has more than 200,000 kilometers of coastline, which means you can find a whole plethora of the unique 30+ species of whale that call these waters home during your excursion. Because these whales are so well known, you will likely be assigned one to three hours of time with a local expert on whale watching, so you can see many different types of whales in a limited amount of time. Whales may be seen from coast to coast, but they primarily feed when the water is warmer, and then go back to their long-delayed winter hibernation.
In June and July, Canada celebrates humpback whales’ month-long celebration, which coincides with their annual migration. During this time, viewing the whales is very popular, but viewing them at their most vulnerable points during their annual migration is even better! There are a couple ways to help you get close to the whales while you are on your four-day cruise in May, or during your three-day sailing in September. Either way, there will likely be a much greater chance for you to see the whales during their migration action, as they travel up and down the coasts, staying in various nooks and crannies where the water is warmer. A great per cent increase in sightings has been recorded since the early nineties.
Two other popular viewing destinations in Canada include Vancouver and Montreal, and although not actually on the ocean, you can still see whales during their migration in these cities. The most famous of these sighting opportunities is Vancouver, British Columbia, which boasts an abundance of clear skies and favourable weather conditions for whales. Just north of Vancouver is the Kitsilano Island, which is almost entirely hidden from view by the ice cap on its western coast. Many local First Nations and Inuit people depend upon the annual migration of these humpback whales to hunt and fish on the islands during the months of June and July. When you are in Vancouver in June or July, the first thing you should do is head to the Olympic Statue, where you will be given a guided tour of the Vancouver Marine aquarium, where you will be able to watch Vancouver seals, porpoises, whales and several other marine mammals.
Another popular summertime destination for tourists that wish to see whales is Vancouver’s Whistler area. Whale watching tours are popular in the months of May and June when the whales are closer to the water. Whale watching in Whistler runs from early June until late September, so make sure you plan your vacation far enough in advance to take advantage of this special time. There are numerous tours available, so be sure to choose one that includes you in it. One particular tour company runs two day tours that start in Port Alsworth at the entrance to Baffin Bay, proceeding to the breeding grounds inlets where you will see the first of the calves. If you wish to see more than just the whales, you may choose to visit the marine habitat on Whistler Island, where you will find pilot whales, seals, porpoises, and sea lions.
The colder months of the year are not the only time when you can enjoy whale watching in Canada. In fact, summer is often a very busy season, with hundreds of boats and tours arriving on the water each day to see these amazing creatures up close. July and August are particularly busy months as well, with many sailing out from Vancouver Island in order to see the whales up close and personal. Some of these companies offer private charters so you may never even have to worry about standing in a long line at the marina to board the ship. If you are lucky, you may even be able to watch a pod of whales from the deck of a tall cruise ship as it passes through Vancouver Island.