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This is one of the questions we get asked most often. The short answer: there isn’t one! Or, at least, the best time depends on a variety of factors that are your own personal preference. For example: what types of whales would you most like to see? What is your availability? What temperature or time of year you are most comfortable in? Any combination of these questions can influence what the best time for your visit is.

If your trip hinges on a burning desire to see a certain type of whale, you may want to plan according to that. For example, if you mostly want to see humpback whales, you are likely to have the best luck. Humpbacks can sometimes be found around Vancouver Island year-round, but they are often most visible when they return to their feeding grounds in March and again in the fall. They are also the most playful in September and October when they have an abundance of krill and herring to feed on. 

If you are mostly hoping to see orca (also known as killer whales,) you should know that there are two kinds: salmon feeders and mammal feeders. The salmon feeders, our southern resident killer whales, are unfortunately endangered, and so the majority of our Vancouver Island orca are mammal feeders who primarily eat seals, porpoise and sea lions. The critters they prey on are in our waters year-round, but the migration of sea lions tends to make orca sightings peak in the spring and again in the late summer and early fall. We have occasional and unpredictable sightings of groups of gray whales (known as ‘Sounders’) who are heading to or from their feeding grounds in the Puget sound as well. 

If you don’t have any kind of preference for what you’ll be seeing on your tour, check out our other suggestions for choosing the right time to book with us. [And then link the following post, I think: ]

Works consulted and further reading

“California Sea Lion” (2018). Discover Vancouver Island. https://www.discovervancouverisland.com/wildlife-on-vancouver-island/california-sea-lions/

“Humpback Whale Migration” (n.d.). BC Whales.org. https://www.bcwhales.org/humpback-whale-migration 

“Southern Resident Killer Whales” (2023). Marine Mammal Commission. https://www.mmc.gov/priority-topics/species-of-concern/southern-resident-killer-whale

“Transient (Bigg’s) Orca” (n.d.). BC Whales.org. https://www.bcwhales.org/transient-orca 

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