Usually between 45-55 minutes prior to departure. We ask our guests to be at the dock for sighing waivers and checking-in 30 minutes prior to departure. Our office staff will arrange a pickup time that works for you
No, not every trip – but the odds are definitely in your favour. Victoria and the Pacific Northwest are becoming renowned globally for reliability in orca sightings (killer whales). If averaged over the entire season from May-October our success has been a staggering 90-95% (species specific – orca). If you calculate sightings without being species specific (that is, you count orca & grays, humpbacks and minke whales) our company’s success is over 98%. This is one of the highest success rates in our industry. Over the past 5 years, humpback whales have been sighted very consistently May through October.
Yes, almost everyone can embark on a journey of a lifetime when ‘conditions’ are perfect (weather, distance to whales, a person’s boating experience, etc.) We have taken guests ranging from 3 months to 90 years in age, pregnant women, and those with back/neck discomfort. In all cases such as these the decision is one that is made at the time of the departure with the best interest of the guest comfort in mind. But in general terms tours are not recommended for pregnant women and persons with serious neck and back problems or frail health. Our captain will make the final decision prior to departure.
Yes, all of our boats are equipped with scientific grade under water microphones that are dropped 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 the southern resident orca are a highlight of any trip – if not one’s lifetime. Because of this Eagle Wing has invested in top of the line hydrophone and broadcast equipment for your enjoyment and education.
Bring cameras, an extra memory card, extra clothing, water and perhaps something to snack on. Dry storage is available on-board all the boats to keep equipment extra safe on wet days. Feel free to bring additional protection for your camera equipment, i.e. dry bag or plastic bag. We also provide lots of extras in the way of protective clothing and equipment.
Eagle Wing Tours does allow registered service dogs on our larger vessels “Goldwing”, “4 Ever Wild” & our new vessel arriving later in 2016 “Wild 4 Whales”. On these vessels we have both a captain and at least one crew member so we are able to look after all passengers safety, both human and canine. This is at the captain’s discretion based on weather and sea conditions at the time of the tour as it would be for people with any legal disability, pregnant women, people with back and neck injuries, etc.
Eagle Wing customer experience agents are ready to assist by phone or you may reserve directly online by completing the secure reservations form. Advanced reservations are recommended so that you are assured a seat aboard one of our vessels. The peak whale watching season brings many people from all over the world who share the same desire, to see the (now endangered) Southern Resident killer whales in their own habitat.
Whale watching guidelines supported by US and Canadian authorities, top orca researchers and ourselves, members of the whale watching industry, stipulate that operators remain 100 metres from the whales in Canadian waters or 183 meters in USA waters. Exceptions are made for vessels with their engines turned off when whales have approached on their own inside these guidelines. This does not mean that we can park in their path, turn our engines off and wait for them to approach. It means that when whales change course and end up nearer than we judge leaves us room to back off, the thing to do is shut down and wait. It’s a matter of professional pride that everyone respects these guidelines. Read more about ‘Being Whale Wise’ here.
This is a very intricate process which involves casting a very large ‘spotting web’ of information. This web includes: being a member of a professional association of over 30 companies that collectively share information, shore based informants, seaplane connections, sport and commercial fisherman, and constant communication with boats actively on the water.
A combination of our fast boat style, local knowledge, superior staff experience, and a bit of luck allows most of our customers a chance to see whales. If the whales are around we will know because of our joint affiliation with an extensive spotting network. We will travel great distances to show you both the Southern Resident Killer Whale Community and many more beautiful creatures. However, unpredictability is a part of our business. Our success at Eagle Wing Tours in sighting whales is an industry leading 98% from May – October. In the rare event that whales are not seen passengers are covered by our Guarantee program (lifetime pass to come back as many times as is necessary to show you whales).
We have four high performance boats and all offer a first class experience providing ample personal space, room to move about, a private marine washroom and stowage area for personal gear. Our 3 Open air boats are: 38′ Eaglewing carries 12 passengers (and 1 captain), 38′ Serengeti carries 12 passengers (and 1 captain), & the 60′ Goldwing carries 26 passengers (with 1 captain & 1 crew). Our NEW Open air covered catamaran 4 Ever Wild carries 50 passengers (with a min. 3 crew + Captain). All vessels offer unobstructed views of the wildlife providing unbelievable photographic opportunities.
Please remember to dress warmly and be prepared for all weather conditions. Keeping in mind that the ocean air will always be cool relative to what you may be experiencing on land in the harbour. I would suggest bringing a jacket/sweater (dress warmly!) on most days, keeping in mind that jackets are available if you don’t have one, wear soft soled shoes NOT sandals (flip flops or bare feet are not suitable).
In general there is no best time of day for sighting success. Our vessel style has a greater range than our competitors, allowing us to confidently guarantee sightings 98% of the time. It boils down to what time best suits your schedule while you are here in Victoria. Sometimes it is windier in the late afternoon, yet the whales can be perhaps 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.
Yes, there are lots of parking options in either the Fisherman’s Wharf pay parking lot or parking on the street. Or you can take a short walk from downtown along the harbour pathway, take a harbour ferry water taxi. FREE SHUTTLE to and from downtown hotels, bed & breakfasts or vacation rentals.
It’s always a possibility, however, this is rarely a problem on our boats due to vessel design and resulting motion. In online reviews customers back up this claim. Our boats are very stable in comparison to our competitors’ and you have an unobstructed view of the horizon, and plenty of fresh air all around the vessels. As a precaution for those that are susceptible to this ailment, we would recommend that you take your favorite motion sickness medicine at least 1 hour before your journey.
Here are a few examples: Lighthouses, tidal rapids, active commercial shipping lanes with freighters and naval vessels, wind surfers, shallow water environments, secluded coves, rocky outcrops, channels of water carving a meandering path through the islands, diverse vegetation, snow-capped mountains, rain forest valleys, sunsets, estuaries and lagoons, ecological reserves, a defunct leper colony (!), buoys, tide lines, tall ships under sail, tide rips, feeding frenzies (birds), sea life on a scale exceeded only in the polar regions and much, much more!
We supply many items so that you remember the amazing experience, and not how uncomfortable you may be if you are not prepared. We offer complimentary usage of: sunglasses, 45 spf. sunscreen, toques (warm knit hats), binoculars, gloves, on-board wildlife identification cards and Transport Canada certified ‘optional’ waterproof flotation jackets (these are very warm ‘bomber’ style jackets with polar fleece lined pockets and hood in all sizes). We also offer wind and waterproof pants in all sizes including children’s.
Located in Victoria BC, Canada, Eagle Wing Tours is a locally owned and family operated company offering an exclusive, educational, eco-friendly experience for the discerning traveler. Our marine-based guided expeditions explore the San Juan and Gulf Islands in search of killer whales and other marine wildlife. Eagle Wing Tours offers you a chance to bear witness to one of nature’s most majestic & awe inspiring creatures in one of the most impressive settings on earth, the Pacific Northwest. A ‘treasure chest’ of diverse marine wildlife awaits you.
It’s like traveling first class! The ride is drier, smoother and more exhilarating! As you may know Mother Nature can certainly kick it up a notch and when she does it is absolutely crucial that you are as comfortable as possible during your personalized whale watching experience. If you are not comfortable your memories of the wildlife will most certainly be overshadowed by how (windblown, smashed around, wet, bruised) unhappy you were. Comfort is a prime directive at Eagle Wing. Simply stated: if you are not comfortable you will not enjoy yourself as much as you could have, and that is not acceptable with us. Trips are canceled when sea conditions are unsafe or even uncomfortable.
Providing a premium marine adventure means utilizing premium vessel design. As such, Eagle Wing uses two different versions of an ‘offshore hull design’ (scarab), and a high performance twin hull catamaran. These styles of vessels have been utilized all over the world for search and rescue operations, high performance offshore racing, and military applications because of their unique ability to blend safety and comfort with stability and speed. We are the originators of these vessel styles within the whale watching industry. They are simply more comfortable, more exciting, more safe, with the result being we see more and do more than our competitors!
Every tour really is an original experience. Much like purchasing an original piece of art, the experience is solely your own. Surprisingly, anticipation of the unknown and wondering just what will be discovered around each approaching point is where much of the magic comes from. Nature is forever changing and unveils a movement and rhythm that is captivating. Our captains remain wonderfully in tune with these rhythms and so can reliably provide thrills and ‘once in a lifetime experiences’ over and over. The wildlife around Victoria is spectacular, diverse, enchanting, and memorable. The possibilities are endless: orca, gray whales, humpback whales, minke whales, fin whale (rare), Dall’s porpoise, harbour porpoise, seals & sealions, eagles, endless numbers of sea and shore birds for the ornithologists and sea stars, giant kelp and other intertidal delights for everyone.
Success rates for different species shift throughout the year. Southern Resident orca, especially J pod, are sighted reliably from May to October. K and L pod show up in late June and are observed quite regularly in our area from then until October as well. Transient orca are observed all year, though not as regularly as residents due the smaller traveling group sizes and the distance they travel looking for prey. Humpbacks have been observed regularly for the last several years, especially during high summer (late Aug.) through October. Gray whales are intermittent visitors as they stop off during their epic 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 when the sun is shining and you have the time to come out and join us!
We are located in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada! Our floating office and whale interpretive centre is located at historic Fisherman’s Wharf. We’re easily spotted by the colourful mural of whales and wildlife covering our floating building – look for our lighthouse! 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 Grilligan’s BBQ, across from Jackson’s Ice Cream. 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.
The entire Salish Sea is our ‘playground’. Our operating area stretches from Victoria, to Vancouver, to Seattle, and out to Port Renfrew (west coast Vancouver Island). Often the location of the whales is determined by the whales’ prey availability (food), which is delicately intertwined and linked with the natural spawning cycles of this food source (in the case of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, salmon).
A talented collection of experienced Captains, marine biologists and their families make up the Eagle Wing team. All of them take their responsibility for your safety and enjoyment extremely seriously; sharing a passion for the west coast ecosystem while delivering a heartfelt wilderness experience is a profession few are privileged to enjoy. Canada holds professional captains and crew to a standard recognized as one of the highest world-wide. Your safety is assured aboard coast guard certified vessels that exceed all requirements for our area.
Pay a bit more, get a lot more! As passionate stewards of a world renowned marine environment we are motivated to provide our guests with more than just, “a look at the whales”. We realize that most of our guests have traveled great distances at high cost to experience what we have the privilege of doing daily. We respect, and ultimately are grateful for this and so with every departure we go above and beyond – maximizing guest satisfaction, overall comfort, and delivering the “WOW” factor! The truth is, not all whale watching tours are created equal. Comfort aboard many competitors is sacrificed in order to ‘get bums in seats’. Not at Eagle Wing; Our vessels offer walk-around comfort, accessible washrooms, and are designed to offer the smoothest ride possible. You will be offered waterproof jackets and pants if necessary, hats and gloves, supplied sunscreen, protective glasses and even binoculars. Every detail has been considered and taken care of.