We’re Back! Top 5 Things to Expect on Your First Vancouver Whale Watching Tour
Well, at last, we are back! We cannot express how much we missed seeing you all and how good it feels to have our doors (partially) open again! So now that summer is fast approaching and restrictions are easing, British Columbians are looking to support their local businesses and plan their staycations for the summer. Lucky for us, we live in the most beautiful area in the world, so this is a great opportunity for us to look to our own backyard when planning our summer activities, like whale watching.
Did you know that BC has some of the best whale watching in the world – every year tourists flock to our shores to see killer whales, humpback whales, grey whales, sea lions, harbor porpoises, and other marine mammals all in their natural habitat? With residents looking to stay local and support BC tourism this summer, this is a great opportunity for us to take in a whale watching tour.
Since reopening, we’ve noticed an increase in inquiries from first-time whale watchers, as well as seasoned whale watchers planning their first post-lockdown trip. So, we’ve compiled a list of five things that you can expect from your first – or first post-lockdown Vancouver whale watching tour of the season, as well as some tips for making your first trip an amazing experience!
#5 – Yes, you will see whales
Research whale watching tour agencies to find the right fit!
When deciding on a company, do your research so you know in advance what to expect on your trip. Look at where the tour starts from, where they go, and how long they’ve been in business. It’s also a good idea to look at what others have to say about their experience with the company. Some things to consider when researching Vancouver whale watching agencies include:
Tour Length – Most tours are 3-5 hours, so make sure this will work for your group. It is also good to note whether they stay out longer to ensure that you see whales – sometimes whale watching requires patience!
Testimonials – What are other guests saying about the trip? Make sure you read the testimonials as well as ratings on sites like Trip Advisor – this will give you a good idea of what kind of trip to expect. If you are looking for a romantic boat cruise, but the company offers educational guided tours – this might not be the cruise for you. Make sure you have a good idea of what to expect before you book your trip.
Whale Wise – Make sure that your BC whale watching operator is Whale Wise and a member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA), a network comprised of Canadian and American whale watching companies committed to research, education, and responsible wildlife viewing. Each member provides an ethical, education-based approach to whale watching.
Sighting Guarantee – If you’re travelling in BC between April to October, there’s a good chance that you’ll see wildlife of some sort; however, if you don’t, what is the operator’s sighting guarantee and will they invite you back for another trip if you don’t see a whale? Most do, so make sure that this is an option.
White Rock Sea Tours and Whale Watch Vancouver, whale sightings are guaranteed from April to October. We have a 90% sighting success rate – and we guarantee that you will see whales, other marine mammals, and breathtaking scenery, or we will invite you back on a future trip – no questions asked!
#4 – Experience = Boat + Crew
Ensure the adventure matches your expectations!
Before booking, make sure that the trip you are looking at matches the experience that you wish to have. Think about how you would like to spend your day.
Do you see yourself with the wind in your hair aboard an open vessel? Or would you prefer the warmth of a covered vessel – or a little of both? Open, semi-covered, catamaran, or zodiac? If it is a wild open ride you are looking for, you might enjoy a ride on a zodiac boat. If you prefer a stable and warmer experience, you should look at companies that offer a tour on a catamaran. Is a washroom on board important to you? If so, make sure that that boat you are on has one. Research the tour operator’s boats, to make sure you will be riding in comfort!
Make sure that you tap into the extreme wealth of knowledge that the captain, naturalist, and crew can offer. Look at the experience, credentials, and number of years that the company has been offering trips. Most tours will have a Naturalist on board who will provide commentary and information about the marine animals and wildlife you see on the trip, as well as interesting facts about the history of British Columbia and Vancouver. They are subject matter experts, so take it all in and do not be afraid to ask questions.
Our captain, Andrew Newman, started White Rock Sea Tours with a passion for sharing the wonders of the ocean with his family, tourists, and local community groups. He loves to connect each guest with British Columbia’s natural beauty and exhibits his passion for conservation on each trip.
#3 – It Can Get Chilly
Dress warm and prepare for an amazing day!
How to Prepare
Although it’s summer and the weather is warmer, you’re on the water, so it is going to be a bit chilly! Remember that you will be spending between 3-5 hours on a boat, barrelling across the Georgia Straight over the open ocean, so it is important to dress accordingly. Most tour operators will supply Mustang Survival Flotation Suits that will provide some warmth, but we recommend that you dress warmly. We always suggest that our guests wear long pants, a fleece jacket, warm socks and also bring gloves, toque, and a scarf – just in case. And if you have them, wear waterproof boots. Weather can be unpredictable, so it’s a good idea to be prepared. It’s also a good idea to bring sunglasses, sunscreen, water, snacks – and of course your camera! But try to pack light, space is usually limited on the boat.
Getting the Perfect Shot
If getting that perfect shot is important to you, please be prepared to bring your patience too! It may take a while to get that perfect Instagram-worthy shot. Remember that we are moving, the whales are moving, and whales can be unpredictable, so have your camera ready!
If you are bringing a smartphone or camera along on the trip, ensure that you have a waterproof bag or somewhere safe to keep it. If you’d like some tips on how to take the perfect picture when out on a tour, read our blog: How to take amazing photos on your whale watching tour.
We ask that you make sure to put the camera down and enjoy the whales! You don’t want to spend your entire day looking through a camera.
#2 – No Two Trips are the Same
We’re happy to have you back and can accommodate your needs
Each trip is different, and you never know what to expect. Will you see whales – yes, of course, most Vancouver whale tour companies have an 80-90% success rate. As a PWWA member, our network is in contact with one another and kept updated on whale sightings. We go where the action is – and where the whales are.
So, what this means is that when we set out across the Strait of Georgia each day, we never know what to expect! Each day we search for whales, and we usually stay out until we find them. Each trip is an adventure, and no two trips are the same.
But this may not be what you had in mind, or possibly, in the post-COVID realm, this socially distant norm has changed how you feel about partaking in a small group activity (noting that we limit capacity to 12 guests and require guests to bring masks). If this is the case, most tour operators can offer alternative trips for you and your group.
If you are not comfortable being around other people, you may be able to book a private charter for your small group. White Rock Sea Tours and Whale Watch Vancouver offers other options for smaller groups, including sunset cruises, crab fishing charters, private charters, gulf island pub excursions – and can build an adventure that suits your needs and comfort level. Vancouver whale watching companies are happy to have you back and are willing to accommodate your needs for your health and safety.
#1 – We’re doing everything to keep you safe!
One thing that won’t change is the same great experience!
We are extremely to be back, providing whale watching tours for our guests! We have missed our guests, but now we are excited to get back to it and have our best year yet. We have been working within Transport Canada’s guidelines and have been adjusting our operating procedures as well as enhancing our cleaning procedures on our vessels and our office. We are taking extra precautions to ensure that our staff, crew, and passengers are safe!
Will things look the same?
Well, things might look slightly different. There will be more behind the scenes cleaning and additional sanitation measures taken before, during, and after each trip. We are limiting our capacity and ask that guests wear a face mask. We have implemented contactless check-in and staggered departure and arrival times to ensure the safety of each guest.
But one thing that has not changed, that you can count on is the experience you are going to have. We are more dedicated than ever to provide you with the experience of a lifetime!
See you on the water!