A few weeks ago, Ed and I had the opportunity of a lifetime to go on a whale watching tour! I’ve been mentioning all summer that I wanted to go on a tour because marine biology fascinates me, so Ed surprised me by arranging a whale watching day with the Prince Of Whales whale watching tour company. Honestly, I’m not that knowledgeable when it comes to whales (I focused a lot of my attention on sea otters when we studied marine biology), so I was excited to spend the day on a boat learning all about them!
We started our journey at 8am in downtown Vancouver, where we met the 10 other people who would accompany us that day, as well as the 2 tour guides and captain. Once we were dressed in our long yellow water jackets and had gone over all the safety precautions, we loaded everything on to the boat and set out for the day. I wasn’t too sure what to expect on the boat because Ed didn’t give me much information about anything, so I was surprised that it had a small kitchen area, a heated covered section, 2 washrooms, and a ton of seating. I guess I should have known that a whale watching tour boat is very different than a sail boat, which is what I’m more familiar with. Although it was a rainy day, we were optimistic that the sun would come out in the afternoon and we would have a pleasant trip. If you’re planning on going whale watching, my number 1 tip right off the bat would be to wear layers. It’s cold when you get out into the water and I was very lucky that I was over prepared by wearing 4 layers and a jacket!
The boat headed south towards the San Juan Islands, which was where the majority of the whale watching occurred. On the way there, which took around 3 hours, the two tour guides (who were also certified captains and marine biologists) gave us a lesson on whales. We were educated on the different species of whales, their behaviour and eating habits, their relationship with humans in the past and present, and we even went over identification charts and pictures of the pods that we would be seeing. We touched on the other marine life that lived along the West Coast, as well as the geography of the area, and I would definitely agree that the time passed by very quickly on the boat because we were hearing so much information. Learning in depth about what we would be seeing definitely added to the whale watching experience and it gave us a good insight as to what to expect that day.
Once we reached our destination, the boat’s engine was switched off and we began searching for whales. We saw sunbathing seals (pictured below), a variety of birds, and lo and behold… WHALES! We saw 3 of them and were told by the guides that 1 of them was the eldest in the pod (appropriately named Grandma), 1 of them was the youngest, and 1 of them was adopted from another pod. It was absolutely incredible to be so close to the whales and witness them hunt for fish and course play with each other! The guides said that the whales were used to people and boats because they grew up around research and tour boats. Although the whales loved to come right up to the boats, the boats had to relocate at times to make sure that the whales and (people on the boat) were safe.
I’m aware that my pictures of the whales aren’t the best, but check out the Prince of Whales’ blog to see daily updates on whale spottings and pictures!
After the whale watching portion of the day was over, we continued on towards Victoria, BC. It took us an hour to get to Victoria by boat from the whale watching location, but the sun was starting to poke its way out from behind the clouds and it was finally starting to warm up. Included in the tour was a ticket to the famous Butchart Gardens, so our plan was to grab lunch in downtown Victora and then catch the tour bus that went to the gardens. I had a steak salad for lunch, which didn’t look appetizing at all, but was surprisingly good, and after, we poked around a few tourist shops and bought matching caps because they were on sale for $2 and we’re weird like that.
The bus ride to Butchart Gardens was about an hour long, but we were so excited when we finally got there because all the flowers were in bloom, the pumpkins were being brought out, and the view was breathtaking. Here are a few pictures from the gardens that we visited. We didn’t have as much time as would have liked to explore the entire grounds, but we saw the Butchart Garden’s listed highlights and of course picked up some rose flavored gelato (it was delicious)!
After a long, exciting day, it was time to board the boat and return to Vancouver. It was a pleasant ride back since it was sunny and I managed to take a few photos of the beautiful scenery. After this short day trip, Ed and I are definitely planning to return to Victoria (especially the Butchart Gardens) to explore further. Who knows, we might end up taking another whale watching tour!
If you’re ever in the Vancouver area, check out Prince of Whales whale watching tour! I highly recommend them because their staff are very knowledgeable and the company has a whale spotting guarantee! To learn more about whales and the Prince of Whales whale watching tour, check out their website and blog at http://www.princeofwhales.com.
All the pictures in this blog post are my own. I took them with an iPhone 5s camera.