Are you curious about what a whale watching experience is like from Vancouver Island with Eagle Wing Tours? Our priority is of course to show you whales. But there’s a lot more to see and hear about on our tours.
Here are the top 10 “unexpected” reasons to go whale watching with us from Victoria.
Some of them may surprise you!
Sea otter in bull kelp / Photo by Valerie Shore, Eagle Wing Tours
Other marine wildlife
Sure, the whales tend to hog the spotlight. They’re so big and charismatic. But they don’t live in isolation. They share this spectacular inland sea with almost 3,500 species of mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates. No, we’re not going to show you all of them, although we would if we could! But seeing the interconnectedness of everything—from nesting seabirds and resting sea lions to frenzied bait balls and swirling kelp beds—helps us all appreciate the whales within the bigger ecological picture.
Speaking of kelp beds, our guests frequently ask us about those long rubber hose-like thingies floating in clumps around rocky reefs. Bull kelp is amazing stuff. Above water, it looks like a crazy tangle of giant, golden-brown lasagna noodles swaying in the current. But underwater, it’s a thriving forest community, sheltering and nourishing hundreds of marine critters—from snails and crabs to seals and sea otters! How many forests have you seen that can grow up to a foot a day?
Learning about sustainable seafood
While watching the food chain in action on our tour, you may get a craving for seafood. But now that you’ve learned more about ocean sustainability from our naturalists, what are the smart seafood choices to make? We can help you with that. We’re partnered with Ocean Wise and Seafood Watch, two conservation programs that make it easy for you to make informed seafood choices and ensure the health of our oceans. Don’t be shy to ask us more!
Tufted puffin / Photo by Brendon Bissonnette, Eagle Wing Tours
Our tours can hold some wildlife surprises that even the crew aren’t expecting. We gush along with our guests at everything, but especially rare favourites such as clown-faced tufted puffins, goofy-looking brown pelicans, dapper Bonaparte’s gulls, the enigmatic coastal wolf and enormous fin whales. And then there’s the bizarre exotic wildlife of Spieden Island. After all, who expects to see mouflon sheep on a marine wildlife tour?
They’re a beacon for mariners on the coast and they’re also a beacon for your camera and your eyes! There are lighthouses of many shapes and sizes sprinkled throughout the Salish Sea and all are photogenic and rich in history. The jewel in the crown in our neck of the woods is Race Rocks, BC’s second oldest lighthouse, which was activated in December 1860. It’s also the site of an ecological reserve and is rich in marine life, including sea lions, harbour and elephant seals, a sea otter, bald eagles and many other species of birds. And oh yes, bull kelp!
Naturalist Brendon and a picked-up balloon / Photo by Valerie Shore, Eagle Wing Tours
Picking up balloons
We fervently wish this wasn’t on the list. But sadly, our boats pick up hundreds of released balloons and other pieces of human garbage from the water every year. Released balloons don’t go to heaven. They fall back to land or into the ocean as litter, where wildlife ingests them or become entangled and die. As we tell our guests when we do the pick-ups, stray balloons are the easiest thing to prevent. Don’t let them go. Don’t even buy them! Read more about alternatives.
The sounds—and smells!
You’re thinking what an odd thing to include. But we like to give our guests the full sensory experience—whether it’s the excited whines, whistles and squeals of socializing killer whales, the piercing shrieks of a black oystercatcher, the bawls and barks of restless sea lions, or the soothing sound of humpback whale exhalations. And how many people can say they’ve experienced the pungent, fishy breath of a minke whale or the eye-watering aroma we call “eau de sea lion”?
Sea lions and Race Rocks Lighthouse / Photo by Valerie Shore, Eagle Wing Tours
If the whales are the stars of our tours and the other marine animals are the supporting cast, then the spectacular Salish Sea scenery is the set. And it’s an elaborate one—from majestic Mt. Baker and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains to the maze of straits, channels, islands, inlets and estuaries that make up the Salish Sea. It’s a feast for the eyes. Suddenly, all those stresses of daily life will seem like they’re in a galaxy very, very far away.
We laugh. We cry. We dance with joy. We speak with passion. We’re all shameless whale and wildlife geeks. Talk to us. Tap into our brains and get the most out of your tour. We have so much knowledge about this region crammed into our noggins it’s just bubbling to get out—everything from whale family histories and bird behaviour to geographical landmarks and marine navigation to whale and salmon conservation issues.…you name it, we’re more than happy to share what we know! Especially with the kids!
You’re making a difference
Just by coming out with us, you’re making a difference. We were the first whale watching company in the region to add a wildlife fee surcharge to every ticket sale. By buying a seat, you’re directly supporting key conservation organizations committed to endangered southern resident killer whales and the Salish Sea. Since we led the way with this fee in 2013, many other companies have followed suit. Find out more about our many conservation initiatives and what you can do in your daily lives to help.