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Whale-watching from Victoria

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The waters around Victoria are not as whale-rich as those in Tofino (on the west coast of Vancouver Island), but there’s still a very good chance of spotting the creatures in season (May to Oct). Three pods of orcas (killer whales) live in the seas around southern Vancouver Island, around a hundred animals in all, so you may see these, though minke are the most common whale spotted, with occasional greys and humpbacks also present. Few outfits offer guaranteed sightings, and many cover themselves by telling you that if you don’t see whales you stand a good chance of seeing Dall’s porpoises, harbour or elephant seals and California and Steller sea lions.

While there are many outfits to choose from, they offer almost identical trips at the same prices, typically around $100 for a three-hour outing. The only real variables are the boats used, so you need to decide whether you want a rigid-hull cruiser (covered or uncovered), which is comfortable and sedate, a catamaran, or a high-speed aluminium-hull inflatable known as a “Zodiac”, which is infinitely more exhilarating, but can offer a sometimes bumpy ride and lacks toilets. The two companies below are long standing; the visitor centre has details on others.
Five Star Charters 651 Humboldt St t 250 388 7223, t 1 800 634 9617, w 5starwhales.com. Has been in business since 1985 and in the past claimed the highest percentage of whale sightings out of all the tour operators. It runs two daily 3hr trips from April to mid-October ($105). Trips are in forty-passenger catamarans.

Seacoast Expeditions Coast Victoria Harbourside, 146 Kingston St t 250 383 2254, t 1 800 386 1525, w seacoastexpeditions.com. Victoria’s founding whale-watching company, Seacoast has been in the business for over two decades and offers between four and six 3hr Zodiac trips daily between April and October ($95), and two to three covered boat trips ($95).

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