Orca whale watching in British Columbia is quickly becoming one of the favorite year-round attractions in the whale watching areas of Victoria, Campbell River, Barkley Sound and Tofino on Vancouver Island.
And even though the whales aren't generally found in the Vancouver area, several orca whale watching BC tours depart from the Vancouver area and take visitors over to Vancouver Island during the best whale watching in BC months of May to October.
Our nutrient-rich waters, which provide for some of the world's best scuba diving adventures, also make for one of the world's best locations for Orca whale watching.
With our moderate year-round climate, beautiful scenery, and the large number of Orcas, Greys, Humpbacks and Minke whales that either live in the area or migrate through our waters on their journey between the Baja Peninsula and Alaska and Siberia, we are ideally situated for viewing marine wildlife year round.
And while some viewers ask us about how they can scuba dive with the Orcas, most are happy to include a whale watching adventure as part of their scuba diving vacation package.
Orcinus Orcas - Killer Whales in British Columbia
Orca whales, with their trademark black and white markings, are actually the largest member of the dolphin family.
There are three types of Orcas that have been identified in our waters, the residents, transients, and off-shore whales, and at any time there are usually over 300 Killer Whales in the waters surrounding Vancouver Island.
Resident Killer Whales in British Columbia
Thanks to our population of over 300 Resident Killer Whales, you are almost guaranteed an Orca whale watching experience each time you go out.
And if you don't, most companies will give you a voucher to try your luck again.
Resident Killer Whales travel in large groups, generally made up of several pods, and usually frequent the same area and swim the same routes.
Our Resident Orcas are broken into two groups or communities:
- Northern Residents with over 200 whales in 16 pods
- Southern Residents with over 100 whales in 3 pods (J, K and L pods)
They mainly feed on fish and love British Columbia salmon.
It is the Southern Residents that are most frequently sighted by whale watching tours.
Transient Killer Whales in British Columbia
British Columbia has roughly 160 Transient Orcas in 30 smaller pods that frequent our waters, but they travel throughout and don't stay in the same areas or follow the same routes.
Some call these Orcas the 'tigers of the sea', since they are great hunters and will eat almost anything - including seals, sealions, marine birds, other whales, salmon, other fish, squid, etc.
None have been known to attack or eat humans though.
Click on the painting to the right and see if you can find all 25 whales in the picture by wildlife artist Judi Wild?
Offshore Killer Whales in British Columbia
The Offshore Killer Whales typically swim far offshore and as a result not much is known about them yet.
There are roughly 30-60 of these whales, and they are not encountered often.
Some Facts About Killer Whales in British Columbia
- While the three types of Orcas may appear to look the same to some, they are genetically different and are distinguishable by different characteristics
- The three types don't inter-mingle and in fact try to avoid each other
- They have different diets and thus live and travel in different areas
- The male Orca averages around 27 feet long and weighs around 11 tons
- The female Orca is slightly shorter at 23 feet and weighs around 8 tons
- They are fast swimmers, and can swim up to 30 kilometers per hour
- They breach often (where the whale leaps almost completely out of the water and falls back with a large splash)
- They like to spy-hop (where they push themselves vertically out of the water and appear to look around for between 10 and 30 seconds)
- When they spout (exhale the air water vapour and water drops from their blow hole) they can blow almost 10 feet high and it sounds like a mini explosion
- They are intelligent, caring animals and generally stay in their pod (of between 5 and 20 whales) for life
- Make load sounds similar to clicks, screams and whistles
- Once the femaales reach maturity, the gestation period is around 15 months and can bear calves every three years
Watching these majestic creatures as they glide through the water, leap in the air or breach meters from your boat is an amazing experience.
Most of our excellent orca whale watching boat charter companies follow Whalewise practices to ensure the safety of the whales as well as the viewers.
Follow the link for information and recommendations for orca whale watching tours in British Columbia.