Are killer whales seen on every trip?
Not on every tour, but from May to November we offer a Whale Guarantee—see a whale or come back for free! There are four species of whale we can regularly see in this area, depending on the time of year—humpbacks, killer whales, minkes, and grey. 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 June through December. For killer whales, the odds are definitely in your favour. Victoria and the Pacific Northwest are renowned globally for reliable killer whale sightings. When averaged over the entire peak 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.
—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 two high-performance twin-hull catamarans. 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! Learn more about our boats here.
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.
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! It’s been a tough two years in the tourism industry so your help and support are much appreciated by all!
—BOOKING A TOUR
What are your rates and departure times?
In summer there are several departures throughout the day for your convenience. In our winter season, we usually have one departure in the afternoon. The shoulder seasons are variable, depending on demand. Please see Daily Tours for more information. Charters are also available. Please be aware that we 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 a reservation?
Making your reservation in advance is recommended so that you’re assured a seat. To speed up your check-in, we encourage you to pay in full and fill out the waiver online PRIOR to arrival. As always, our customer experience agents are ready to assist by phone and live chat. Reserve your tour here.
What is your cancellation policy?
Our usual cancellation policy is 48 hours before your tour. However, we understand that unforeseen circumstances can pop up. If this happens, we kindly request that you communicate with us via phone or email as soon as possible!
What is an E-waiver?
The e-waiver is necessary because Transport Canada requires that we keep a manifest of all guests on our vessels. To make your check-in faster, we kindly ask that you fill in your waiver online PRIOR to arrival!
Can anyone go on your trips?
Anyone of any age and ability is welcome. 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.
Are your boats accessible?
Our tours are accessible to everyone of every ability and background. If you’re a guest with mobility limitations or require a disability adaptation or accommodation, we’ll do everything in our power to help you safely and comfortably enjoy your marine adventure with us! All four of our vessels are accessible. Our two semi-covered vessels, Wild 4 Whales and 4 Ever Wild, have a number of features to meet the needs of people with limited mobility. Service dogs are welcome. Our larger vessels are most ideal for the comfort and safety of both the guest and furry companion! Learn more here.
How many passengers can go on each boat?
All of our vessels offer a first-class experience with ample personal space, a private marine washroom, and a storage area for personal gear. The vessels are:
Wild 4 Whales — semi-covered catamaran with open-air seating option, up to 63 guests with a captain and 2-3 crew.
4 Ever Wild — semi-covered catamaran with open-air seating option, up to 50 guests with a captain and 2-4 crew.
Goldwing — open-air scarab; 26 guests with a captain plus one crew.
In addition, our smaller scarab, Serengeti, is available for charter tours. Maximum 12 guests with a captain.
View all our vessels here.
Are there washrooms on the boat?
Yes, there are 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?
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 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 a lot 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 our furred and feathered neighbours, such as harbour seals, river otters, raccoons, blue herons and geese!
Do I need to bring anything?
Being in the fresh air is part of the experience, so we encourage you to spend time outside for most if not all of your tour even on the semi-covered vessels. The ocean air is always much cooler than on land (we call it “refreshing”!). We strongly recommend you bring layers of warm clothing, especially an outer jacket that can cut the wind. We do supply hats (toques) and gloves, but you are welcome to bring your own (woolly hats recommended, baseball caps not recommended). We have sunglasses and sunscreen too! Don’t forget your camera and water!
How should I dress?
In short, dress warmly! Ocean air is always much cooler relative to what you may be experiencing on land in the harbour. We provide thick floater jackets for the open boats, but if your preference is to bring your own warm clothing our advice is layer up and be prepared for all weather conditions. This is true even for the semi-covered vessels. Wear soft-soled shoes, NOT sandals (flip flops or bare feet are not suitable). We do supply hats (toques) and gloves but you’re welcome to bring your own (woolly hats recommended, baseball caps not recommended!).
Can I bring food on board?
You’re welcome to bring your own food, beverage or water. Please note that we don’t provide or sell these items on board. When eating or drinking in the cabins of our semi-covered catamarans please do your best to socially distance and minimize your time with mask down. Please remember to dispose of any garbage in the appropriate receptacles on the vessel.
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 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?
We provide sunglasses and binoculars which are cleaned after each tour. We also have sunscreen on board. Ocean air is always much cooler relative to what you may be experiencing on land in the harbour. This is why we supply woolly hats and gloves if you don’t have any of your own, plus thick floater jackets for the open boats. For added comfort, we can also provide blankets on request!
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. We encourage you to stay on the outer deck anyway (hint: outside is where the whales are!), and fresh air always helps. As a precaution for those who 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 with our boat team after the trip. Or our friendly customer experience agents at the office are happy to take an electronic 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.
Are your tours longer than those of other companies?
Yes, they often are and we’re proud of it! Our regular peak season (May-October) tours are 3.5 to 4 hours, sometimes 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. Our company is well known for extending tours as needed when whales are a further distance than expected. Or when we get a new report of nearby whales late in a tour. We don’t want you to miss anything. As long as your schedule is flexible, our captains can literally go the extra mile to make sure your whale watching experience is the best one ever!
When is the best time of year to see whales?
Success rates for different species shifts throughout the year. Bigg’s (transient) killer whales, for example, are the mainstay of our killer whale sightings as they’re observed year-round. We don’t intentionally view their endangered fish-eating cousins, known as the southern resident killer whales, which in any case are no longer seen here often due to declining salmon numbers. Humpback whales are observed most months of the year, but are especially common from June through December. Grey whales are intermittent visitors as they stop off during their long migration from Mexico to the Bering Sea. During the summer, minke whales are often seen southeast of Victoria. So, the best time of year for watching whales is whenever you have the time to come out and join us!
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 November. 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 August/early September we often contend with fog as the sun rises, but it usually burns off by late morning.
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. From April thr0ugh November, in the rare case that whales aren’t seen on a tour, 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). 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, grey 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!