What marine life is there to see?
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 unique experiences over and over. The wildlife around Victoria is spectacular, diverse, enchanting, and memorable. Marine life you’ll potentially see include: orca, gray whales, humpback whales, minke whales, fin whale (rare), Dall’s porpoise, harbour porpoise, seals and sea lions, eagles, an endless numbers of sea and shore birds for the ornithologists, and sea stars, giant kelp and other inter-tidal delights.
Do you offer a drop-off service?
Yes! Our staff are always happy to arrange for our guests residing downtown to utilize our shuttle before, or taxis after, their trip. Eagle Wing will cover the cost of these transfers.
Is your pickup service complimentary?
Yes. We pick up at all major hotels, bed & breakfasts, and hostels.
How long before my scheduled wildlife adventure will the shuttle pick me up?
Usually 45–55 minutes prior to departure. We ask our guests to be at the dock for signing waivers and check-in 30 minutes prior to departure. Our office staff will arrange a pickup time that works for you.
What is the range of your shuttle pickup service?
Everywhere in the extended downtown Victoria core. If we are unable to send the shuttle to your location for any reason, we will provide a complimentary pickup service through a local taxi company.
How many passengers can your shuttle carry?
Our van carries seven passengers. For larger parties, we can arrange taxis or a combination of our shuttle and taxis to transport your group.
How do I arrange a pickup service?
Please mention at the time of booking when you speak to our friendly office staff that you would like a complimentary shuttle pickup. Alternatively, if you are staying at a major hotel, please ask the concierge to arrange a pickup on your behalf.
Are killer whales seen on every trip?
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. 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 along with 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 five years, humpback whales have been sighted very consistently May through October.
Can anyone go on your trips?
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 three 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.
Can we hear the whales underwater?
Yes, all of our boats are equipped with scientific grade under water hydrophones 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.
Are there washrooms on the boat?
Yes, there are washrooms on board Eaglewing, Goldwing, Serengeti & 4 Ever Wild.
Do I need to bring anything?
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, e.g. dry bag or plastic bag. We also provide lots of extras in the way of protective clothing and equipment.
Do you allow service dogs on your boats?
Eagle Wing Tours allow registered service dogs on our larger vessels Goldwing and 4 Ever Wild. 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 just as it would be for guests with any legal disability, back injuries, neck injuries or pregnant women, etc.
How can we make reservations?
Customer experience agents here at Eagle Wing Tours are ready to assist by phone and live chat, 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.
How close do you get to the whales?
Whale watching guidelines supported by US and Canadian authorities, top orca researchers and ourselves, members of the whale watching industry, stipulate that operators remain 200 metres from killer whales in Canadian waters (or 200 yards in US waters) and 100m from baleen whales in Canadian waters (or 100 yards in US 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 if whales change course and end up closer to our vessel, it leaves us room to back off; the procedure is to shut down and wait. It’s a matter of professional pride that everyone respects these guidelines. Read more about Being Whale Wise.
How do you find the whales?
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.
How do you guarantee your sightings?
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 whales, be it the southern resident killer whale community, transient killer whales or humpbacks – along with 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 Whale Guarantee program (a lifetime pass to come back as many times as is necessary to show you whales).
How many passengers go on each boat?
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 three open-air boats are:
Serengeti – 38 ft; carries 12 passengers and one captain
Goldwing – 60 ft; carries 26 passengers with one captain and one crew member)
Our open-air covered catamaran 4 Ever Wild carries 50 passengers (with a min. 3 crew + captain), while Wild 4 Whales carries 63 passengers (with a min. 3 crew + 2 captains). All vessels offer unobstructed views of the wildlife providing unbelievable photographic opportunities.
How should I dress?
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. We suggest dressing in layers; bring a jacket/sweater along, 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). If you’re visiting in the summer and left your scarf and covered shoes at home, we’ll wrap you in complimentary blankets, gloves, hats, windproof pants and a jacket to keep you warm!
Is there any better time of day to see the whales?
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.
Is there parking close by?
Yes, there are lots of parking options in either the Fisherman’s Wharf pay parking lot ($9 for 6 hours) or parking on the street (free but limited to two hours max. on every day but Sunday when it’s free to park all day long). You can also take a short walk from downtown along the Harbour Pathway, take a harbour ferry water taxi. We also offer a free shuttle to and from downtown hotels, B&Bs or vacation rentals.
What about sea sickness?
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 one hour before your journey. It might seem counter-intuitive, but a light meal before heading out on a tour is advised, as marine travel on an empty stomach is likely to make you feel more sick. We also supply ginger candies to our passengers, which can greatly alleviate small bouts of nausea. Prevention is better than cure, so please speak to your captain or crew members as soon as you start to feel a little restless as 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!
What are your rates and departure times?
There are several departures throughout the day for your convenience and the rates vary according to the time of year and which vessel, please see rates and schedule.
What else is there to see?
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 paths through the islands, diverse vegetation, snow-capped mountains, rainforest 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!
What equipment do you supply?
We supply many items so that you remember the amazing experience, and not how uncomfortable you were because you weren’t 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 hoods in all sizes). We also offer wind and waterproof pants in all sizes including children’s.
What is Eagle Wing Tours
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 traveller. 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 and awe-inspiring creatures in one of the most impressive settings on earth: the Pacific Northwest. A treasure chest of diverse marine wildlife awaits you!
What is the ride like?
It’s like travelling first class! The ride is dry, smooth and 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 cancelled when sea conditions are unsafe or uncomfortable.
What kind of boats do you use?
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 and safer, with the result being we see more and do more than our competitors!
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!
Where are you located?
We are located in one of the most beautiful places on earth – Victoria! 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 Smoke & Anchor, 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.
Where do you go to see the whales?
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).
Who takes care of us on the boats?
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 worldwide. Your safety is assured aboard coast guard certified vessels that exceed all requirements for our area.
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 are motivated to provide our guests with more than just a look at the whales. We realize that most of our guests have travelled great distances at high cost to experience what we have the privilege of seeing 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.