Whale Watching


It was when an icy jet of saltwater slapped me across the face and I discovered that I could no longer feel my fingers that I finally understood the difference between Americans and Canadians. When an American tour company gives you an anti-exposure suit and tells you that things may get a little chilly, you anticipate that yes, you may at some point have to slip a cardigan on. When a Canadian says that, what they actually mean is that you will have your Helly Hansen suit zipped up to your eyeballs to keep warm. When it comes to understatement of wild nature, only the Australians have the Canadians beat.


We'd left at 11am from Granville Island, right in the heart of downtown Vancouver. I'd shopped for lunch at the artisan market there and anticipated eating it onboard later, but as we ploughed through the waves, freezing saltwater spray hosing down the open-water boat, I decided to leave lunch for when the water got a little calmer. Nice though that sandwich looked, I didn't fancy seeing it coming back up again. I'd picked an open-water boat trip as it felt more adventurous than pootling along in the child-friendly covered craft. Yes, I was cold and I was getting pretty wet as the wind tore through my waterproof poncho, making it flap behind me like superman's cape, but this was fun and like nothing I'd experienced before.


We left Vancouver far behind, past giant tankers moored out in the sea, through the Strait of Georgia down through the Gulf Islands National Park. Three pods of resident Killer Whales live around the waters out to Vancouver Island along the Pacific Coast, numbering 80 whales in total, who have all been identified thanks to their unique dorsal fin shape. We'd been told before we left that we'd be out for a while as the residents had been sighted far out in the waters past the Gulf Islands around Washington State. I found a protected nook at the back of the boat and curled up, watching rainbows in the wake of water behind us. Vancouver Island's lazy sloping hills were wrapped in a pine tree pashmina, here and there I'd spot houses nestled in the trees, fisherman-style shacks and the occasional Bond villain-style lair.


There's no getting away from it; after 3 hours non-stop racing across the waves I was getting bored. I was cold, the roar of the engine made conversation impossible and I'd started to think that maybe we wouldn't see anything. Just as I was glumly wiggling my toes to keep warm, the engine cut and I looked up to see six other ships gathered around. I got up, stretched my aching limbs and there they were; a pair of Killer Whales dancing through the waves. Then two, three, eight - our onboard marine guide exclaimed with delight, "It's a super-pod!" which is when different pods of whales (the family that they swim with) combine. We stayed there, slowly following them for almost an hour. The sun sparkled on the calm water and the whales played in front of us. I saw two breech - when they flip right out of the water - and around 12 whales in total. After a while I put my camera down. We were surrounded and it was incredible. All thoughts of the cold and the long journey back forgotten, the magic of the whales took over.


Nikki went whale watching courtesy of Wild Whales Vancouver Tel: 604 699 2011

You can stop in Vancouver with the Discoverer RTW

We also have some great hotel and tour deals here