A Porpoise-ful Whale of a Time

The number one reason visitors come to British Columbia’s ocean coast is to view marine wildlife.

Or inquire at any coastal community Visitor Information Centre.

Whales and other marine mammals can be seen year round. Resident orcas (killer whales) are consistently sighted April through November. Transient orca sightings are less common and occur throughout the year. Sightings of humpback whales increase every year as the population grows. Humpbacks are spotted almost any time of year, with August though January the peak period. Grey whales migrate between Baja, where they birth their young, and the coast of Alaska, where they feed. These migrations are fairly predictable. Minke whales are seen occasionally from May to September.

The odds of seeing whales on whale watching tours are very high. The pods are tracked, so the operators know where to find them. In remote regions, they are not tracked, but their abundance makes successful viewing likely. Other marine mammals that are common are Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoise, harbour porpoise, harbour seals, elephant seals, California sea lions and Steller sea lions. Sea otters, once eradicated by over-hunting, are again common and seen near shore frequently.

If you are beside the water for a couple of days or take a kayaking excursion to near-shore islands, you will likely spot dolphins and porpoises and possibly whales. They are part of the super, natural British Columbia coast.

Look Up and On Shore, Too

Look to the sky for bald eagle, belted kingfisher, marbled murrelets, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, storm petrels, surf scoters, and osprey. The marine tour operators and Adventure Tour Charters include bear watching. If you want to be sure to see black and grizzly bears, we recommend you book tours on the coast between the Broughton Archipelago and Northern Passages sub-regions. In the middle is the Great Bear Rain Forest, home of the fabled Spirit Bear. Haida Gwaii is another great place to see bears roaming the shoreline or fishing in rivers.

Show respect, be safe

Tour operators follow protocols that minimize the disturbance to wildlife from human viewing. Marine mammals are curious and sometimes they choose to come close. It is not uncommon to suddenly be surrounded by hundreds of dolphins. To ensure you practice respectful and safe wildlife viewing, we invite you to visit our environmental stewardship ethics page.

Or inquire at any coastal community Visitor Information Centre.

Main image at top of page: whale of a time, credit Tourism Prince Rupert