————————————————————————————————————————–WHO WE ARE
What is Eagle Wing Tours
Our marine-based guided expeditions explore the Salish Sea in search of whales and other marine wildlife. Located in Victoria on southern Vancouver Island, BC, we’re a locally owned and family-operated company offering an exclusive, educational, eco-friendly experience for the discerning traveller. We offer you the chance to witness some of nature’s most majestic and awe-inspiring creatures in one of the most impressive settings on Earth. A treasure trove of diverse marine wildlife awaits you!
Where are you located?
We’re located in one of the most beautiful places on Earth—Victoria! Our floating office is located at historic Fisherman’s Wharf. Look for the colourful mural of whales and wildlife wrapped around our floating building! We’re close to the entrance ramp to the wharf, just take a right at the bottom by Barb’s Fish & Chips. We’re on the other side of Smoke & Anchor, across from Jackson’s Ice Cream. There are several other great eateries on the wharf too. Don’t worry, whale watching builds a healthy appetite! Historic Fisherman’s Wharf is located near the entrance to Victoria’s Inner Harbour at 12 Erie Street, Pier #2.
What kind of boats do you use?
We use two different versions of an “offshore hull design” (scarab), and a high-performance twin-hull catamaran. These styles of vessels have been used all over the world for search and rescue operations, high-performance offshore racing, and military applications because of their ability to blend safety and comfort with stability and speed. We’re the originators of these vessel styles within the whale watching industry. They’re comfortable, exciting and safe!
Can I choose which boat I want to go on?
Yes, you can. Please be aware that we’ll do our best to accommodate your choice of vessel, but reserve the right to consolidate tours and vessels if we don’t get minimum numbers.
What is the ride like?
It’s smooth, dry (mostly) and exhilarating! But as we all know, Mother Nature can sometimes kick it up a notch and when she does it’s crucial that you’re prepared for your whale watching experience. Comfort is a prime directive at Eagle Wing. Simply stated: if you aren’t comfortable you’ll not enjoy yourself, and that’s not acceptable with us. Tours are cancelled when sea conditions are unsafe or uncomfortable.
———————————————————————————————————————– COVID-19 SAFETY
What precautions are you taking against COVID-19?
Your health and safety is always our number one priority. Guided by the advice of public health authorities, Transport Canada and WorkSafe BC, and backed by the latest science, we’ve introduced a range of enhanced safety measures to provide the safest possible conditions for you and our staff. These include rigorous sanitizing procedures, contact-free check-ins, lowered guest capacity on vessels, mandatory use of masks or face-coverings, and strict social distancing protocols. For the full list, see Our Safety Pledge to you.
Do I have to wear a mask?
Yes, at all times during the tour (optional for children two and under). This is not negotiable. Face coverings are an operational requirement by Transport Canada as a protective measure against COVID-19. You can bring your own face covering or you can use the awesome whale-print buff we provide at check-in. We’re betting you’ll want to keep it as a souvenir!
How is gear and clothing sanitized?
We follow government guidelines for sanitization. Staff members wear gloves throughout the entire process of washing the clothing in the laundry before each tour. Each pair of sunglasses is washed with soap and water and then wiped with Lysol.
How can I support Eagle Wing Tours?
If you would like to support our business, please consider booking a tour or buy a gift card for later use! We’ve had a pretty rough start to our 2020 season so your help and support are much appreciated by all!
————————————————————————————————————————BOOKING A TOUR
What are your rates and departure times?
There are several departures throughout the day for your convenience. Please see rates and schedule. Please be aware that we’ll do our best to accommodate your choice of vessel, but reserve the right to consolidate tours if we don’t get minimum numbers.
How do we make reservations?
Advanced reservations are recommended so that you’re assured a seat. As a COVID-19 safety measure, we’re striving for a contact-free check-in, so we strongly urge you to pay in full and fill out the mandatory waiver online PRIOR to arrival. Be assured that we accept cancellations for any reason at any time up until one minute before departure. As always, our customer experience agents are ready to assist by phone and live chat.
What is an E-waiver?
The new e-waiver assists with the contact-free check-in procedure. To assist us, it’s important that you fill in your waiver online PRIOR to arrival. The waiver is necessary because Transport Canada requires that we keep a manifest of all guests on our vessels. This allows for contact-tracing in the event of possible COVID-19 exposure while on board.
Can anyone go on your trips?
Anyone of any age is welcome. Our larger vessels are wheelchair-accessible. Youth under 18 must be accompanied by a supervising adult. Age two and under ride for free! Tours are not recommended for people with serious neck and back problems or those in frail health. Please let us know your concerns at the time of booking. If weather and sea conditions are a factor, the captain will make the final decision prior to departure, always with the guest’s safety and comfort in mind.
Do you allow service dogs on your boats?
We welcome registered service dogs on our vessels. Boarding of a service dog is at the captain’s discretion based on weather and sea conditions at the time of the tour, just as it is for guests with a disability, back injuries, neck injuries or pregnant women.
How many passengers go on each boat?
For regular tours in summer 2020, we’re operating two high-performance vessels at close to half-capacity to promote social distancing. Both offer a first-class experience with ample personal space, room to move about, a private marine washroom, and a storage area for personal gear. The two vessels are:
4 Ever Wild – open-air, covered catamaran; approximate 50% vessel capacity with a captain, two crew and a dedicated Health & Safety Officer. (4 total)
Goldwing – open-air scarab; approximate 50% vessel capacity with a captain, one crew and a dedicated Health & Safety Officer. (3 total)
In addition, our smaller scarab, Serengeti, is available for charter tours for families and other groups in the same “social bubble.” Maximum 10 guests with a captain and a dedicated Health & Safety Officer. (2 total)
Are there washrooms on the boat?
Yes, there are well equipped spacious washrooms on board all of our vessels.
Is there parking close by?
Yes, there are lots of parking options, in either the Fisherman’s Wharf pay parking lot or nearby parking on the street (free, but limited to two hours maximum on every day but Sunday when it’s free all-day parking). You can also take a short walk from downtown along the Harbour Pathway or take a harbour ferry water taxi.
Do you offer a shuttle service?
Due to COVID-19 we’re not currently offering a pickup and drop-off service. Our staff is always happy to assist with directions and suggesting alternative methods of getting to our location at Fisherman’s Wharf. We have a paid parking lot on-site. Downtown is a short, scenic 10-15 walk. Victoria Harbour Ferries offers a very unique and entertaining water taxi service that connects our location with the heart of downtown Victoria.
What is available at Fisherman’s Wharf?
There’s lots to see and eat at Fisherman’s Wharf, so set aside some extra time before or after your tour. There are nine restaurants or food kiosks, offering everything from ice cream and Mexican to pizza and fresh seafood (take advantage of our Eagle Wing 10% discount at most food vendors). Wander along the dock and visit the 4 Winds Nest artisan boutique. View the working fishing vessels. Book a kayak tour or fishing charter. Be sure to take in the picturesque and colourful float homes that form a tight-knit little community of ocean-lovers. Keep an eye out for some of their furred and feathered backyard neighbours, such as harbour seals, river otters, raccoons, blue herons and geese!
Do I need to bring anything?
You’ll be outside for most if not all of your tour, even on our semi-covered catamaran, 4 Ever Wild, where we’ll encourage you to stay on the outer deck for health and safety reasons. The ocean air is always much cooler than on land. We strongly recommend you bring layers of WARM CLOTHING, especially an outer jacket that can cut the wind. Bring your own gloves and hats (woolly hats are recommended, baseball caps not recommended) too if you can. Don’t forget your camera, sunglasses, sunscreen and water!
How should I dress?
In short, DRESS WARMLY! We strongly recommend that no matter which vessel you choose, layer up and be prepared for all weather conditions. Dress like you’re going skiing (minus the snow!) Ocean air is always much cooler relative to what you may be experiencing on land in the harbour. Dress in warm layers, with a windbreaker jacket on top. Wear soft-soled shoes, NOT sandals (flip flops or bare feet are not suitable). Don’t forget gloves and a hat—woolly hats are better than baseball caps which tend to blow/fly off. If you’re unable to bring warm clothing please let our office know at the time of booking or check-in and we can assist you.
Can I bring food on board?
No. As an extra COVID-19 safety measure we ask that you not bring food or drink on board, except water. (Exceptions can be made for small children and people with medical conditions.) There are multiple reasons for this, the primary one being that you have to take off your mask to eat or drink. Also, we have no garbage disposal on board.
Who takes care of us on the boats?
Canada holds professional captains and crew to a standard recognized as one of the highest in the world. Your safety is assured aboard Coast Guard-certified vessels that exceed all requirements for our area. While you’re on board, our talented team of certified and experienced captains, marine biologists and naturalists are responsible for your safety and enjoyment. Each one of them is passionate about the Salish Sea and its wildlife and about sharing their knowledge with you. So many times, our guests have commented on the infectious enthusiasm of our staff. What can we say? We love what we do!
What equipment do you supply?
For health and safety reasons, we’re unable to provide sunglasses or binoculars at this time. We can provide “dollops” of sunscreen on request. The key to your comfort is clothing. Keep in mind that the air on the water is much cooler than on land. For our semi-covered catamaran, we strongly encourage you to bring your own warm clothing, as you’ll be spending most if not all of your time on the outer deck. For the open boats, we again encourage you to dress warmly (as if you’re going skiing!) in layers. If you’re unable to bring warm clothing please let our office know at the time of booking or check-in and we can assist you.
What about sea sickness?
Even though our vessels are very stable, it’s always a possibility, especially if you’re vulnerable to motion sickness. The Salish Sea is a large and ever-changing body of water and conditions inside the harbour may not reflect conditions on the outside. In summer 2020 we’ll be encouraging you to stay on the outer deck anyway, and fresh air always helps. As a precaution for those that are susceptible, we recommend you consider taking your preferred motion sickness medication at least one hour before your tour. It might seem counter-intuitive, but a light meal before heading out on a tour is advised, as marine travel on an empty stomach makes you more vulnerable. We also supply ginger candies, which can help alleviate nausea. Prevention is better than cure, so please speak to your captain or crew members as soon as you start to feel a little queasy. They can help you before it gets to the point where you’re “feeding the fish” their next meal. Never feel embarrassed—it’s nothing the crew haven’t dealt with before!
How do I tip the Crew for a job well done?
If you want to leave a gratuity, you may place cash directly in the tip jar (contactless) with our boat team after the trip or our friendly customer experience agents at the office are happy to take an electronic, contactless payment. Even from your home you can add a gratuity by calling our office, which is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, and we can process a credit card payment for you immediately. You can also express your appreciation by leaving a good review!
———————————————————————————————————————THE TOUR EXPERIENCE
Where do you go to see the whales?
The entire Salish Sea is our playground. Our operating area stretches north through the Canadian Gulf Islands toward Vancouver, east to the US San Juan Islands, south to the top of Puget Sound and west to Port Renfrew. Where the whales are is linked to their food—for example, marine mammals for Bigg’s killer whales, and schooling fish and krill for humpbacks.
When is the best time of year to see whales?
Success rates for different species shifts throughout the year. Transient/Biggs killer whales, for example, make up the majority of our killer whale sightings as they are plentiful and observed year-round. Their smaller, fish-eating cousins known as the ‘southern resident’ killer whales can also be encountered throughout the year, but are not as common as they once were. Humpback whales have been observed regularly throughout the year, too, but are especially common from late August through December. Gray whales are intermittent visitors as they stop off during their long migration from Mexico to the Bering Sea. There appears to be a small resident gray whale population in the area as well. During the summer, minke whales are located fairly nearby Victoria and we keep tabs on their movements, providing important information to researchers about this little-understood blue whale cousin. So, the best time of year for watching whales is whenever you have the time to come out and join us!
Why are you more expensive than some other companies?
Pay a bit more, get a lot more! As passionate stewards of a world-renowned marine environment, we’re motivated to provide our guests with more than just a “look” at the whales. On every tour we go above and beyond—maximizing guest comfort, showing off the ecosystem as a whole, and providing personalized, science-based information on what our guests are seeing. Our vessels offer 360-degree viewing and are designed to offer the smoothest ride possible. Every detail is considered and taken care of with one goal in mind—to deliver that “wow” factor!
How do you find the whales?
The short answer is teamwork. On the water, everyone works together. As a member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, we share information when on the water and other companies share with us. We also get real-time sighting reports from ferries, shore-based observers, seaplanes, sport and commercial fisherman, and other sources.
Is there any better time of day to see the whales?
In general, there’s no best time of day for sighting success. Our vessel style has a greater range than many of our competitors, allowing us to confidently guarantee sightings 98% of the time from May to October. It boils down to what time best suits your schedule. Sometimes it’s windier in the late afternoon, yet the whales can be more playful in rougher water conditions. In late August/early September we do contend with fog as the sun rises, but it usually burns off by late morning.
Are killer whales seen on every trip?
Not every tour. There are four species of whale we can regularly see in this area, depending on the time of year—humpbacks, killer whales, minkes, and gray. Our company’s success rate for seeing at least one of these species on a tour is over 98%. Humpback whales are sighted consistently from May through October. For killer whales, the odds are definitely in your favor. Victoria and the Pacific Northwest are renowned globally for reliable killer whale sightings. When averaged over the entire season from May to October, our success rate for killer whales is 90-95%! Rest assured, when time and distance allow, our captains will try to show you as many whale species as possible.
How do you guarantee your sightings?
A combination of local knowledge, superior captains, and a dash of luck enables us to show whales to our guests on the majority of our tours. If there are whales around, we usually know because of our affiliation with an extensive spotting network. Our fast boats allow us to literally go the extra mile(s) to show you whales—whether they’re humpbacks, Bigg’s killer whales, minke or grey whales—along with many other enchanting marine animals. Our whale sighting success (any species) is 98% from May to October. In the rare event that whales aren’t seen, guests are covered by our Whale Guarantee—a lifetime pass to come back as many times as is necessary to show you whales!
How close do you get to the whales?
Whale watching guidelines supported by Canadian and US authorities, the Pacific Whale Watch Association and top researchers stipulate that commercial operators must remain 200 metres from Bigg’s killer whales in Canadian waters (200 yards in US waters) and 100 metres from baleen whales in Canadian waters (100 yards in US waters). In 2020, operators in Canadian waters are prohibited from approaching whales that have been identified as endangered southern resident killer whales. If whales approach a vessel, that vessel is expected to make every effort to get out of the way, if safe to do so. If a whale surprises a vessel with a close surfacing, the vessel must shut down to let the whale pass. Read more about Being Whale Wise.
Can we hear the whales underwater?
Yes. All of our boats are equipped with scientific-grade underwater hydrophones that are lowered into the water when within the vicinity of whales. Their sounds are then amplified and broadcast over a surround-sound system. The mysterious and beautiful calls of killer whales, or the grunts and groans of humpbacks, are a highlight of any trip. We’ve invested in top of the line hydrophone and broadcast equipment for your enjoyment and education.
What marine life is there to see?
Every tour is an original experience. The anticipation of the unknown and wondering what will be discovered around each approaching point is where much of the magic lies. The wildlife in the Salish Sea is spectacular and diverse. Marine life you’ll potentially see include humpback whales, killer whales, minke whales, gray whales, Dall’s porpoise, harbour porpoise, seals and sea lions, eagles, countless types of sea and shore birds, as well as bull kelp and other intertidal delights.
What else is there to see on tours?
Phew, where do we begin? Here are a few examples: snow-capped mountains, sunsets, rainbows, rainforest valleys, estuaries and lagoons, ecological reserves, secluded coves, kelp forests, lighthouses, feeding frenzies (birds), giant freighters, submarines, tall ships, wind surfers…the list goes on. All this, in addition to sea life on a scale exceeded only in the polar regions!