The experience of seeing huge animals in their natural environment increases public awareness of marine conservation issues.
Many people spend part of their leisure time watching whales, and several locations on Vancouver Island (British Colombia) provide excellent opportunities. Tofino, Ucluelet and Victoria are among the best.
Tofino and Ucluelet Whales
Between February and April the Gray Whales migrate past Tofino and Ucluelet, and resident pods remain around Clayoquot Sound until November. Humpback Whales can be seen at any time, but most pass through during the late spring on their way north, and again in the fall as they move back south. There are a number of pods of ‘Transient’ Killer Whales (Orca) – the ones that eat other whales. These are unpredictable, but come through every week or so.
There are three pods of ‘Resident’ Killer Whales that can be seen from Victoria. These are the ones that eat fish, and since their behaviour is fairly predictable (and there are over 90 of them) they are seen regularly throughout the year – whenever the weather allows! Gray Whales and Humpbacks also pass through the straits occasionally.
Zodiac or Cruiser
Wherever you choose to watch whales from a boat there will be an important decision to be made – do you want speed and flexibility, or do you lean towards comfort! Racing around in a ‘Zodiac’ inflatable is fun, but the ride can be rough and usually very wet. Cruisers give protection from the weather, but will not be able to ‘race off’ in quite the same way. Sometimes the weather will dictate the choice, but more often it is a question of personal choice (and maybe self-image!). Those of a ‘certain age’ might well opt for comfort, while the ‘alpha males’ will decide that a windswept drenching is more appropriate!
The Whale Watching Experience
All reputable companies regard the safety and welfare of the whales as paramount, equal to the comfort and well-being of their clients. (Apart from very sound conservation and humanitarian concerns, it would not make any sense to chase away the very source of income!). Seeing any animal in the wild adds a dimension to simply seeing it in a zoo, and is far removed from looking at pictures. Coming close to a huge whale that is behaving naturally in its own environment is an amazing experience – one that instils respect and leads on to a desire to ‘know more’. As more and more people become aware of the conservation issues that surround whales there is an ever-growing proportion of the general public that is concerned about the way we regard and treat the marine environment. This can only be a good thing!