When in Vancouver, I would highly recommend not only that you take a flight with a seaplane, but also that you take the time and effort to get on a boat in the hope of seeing some Orcas, Humpback Whales and other Canadian maritime wildlife.
Though I saw a lot of wildlife, the first time I went out to see in search for whales, I didn’t find any (big) whales such as Orcas or Humpbacks. So the tour company was kind enough to give me a second ride for free in the following week, and sure enough, we were able to follow around several Orcas through the fjords of British Columbia.
The tours set of in the harbour of Steveston, at the southwestern end of Richmond. Steveston itself is very well worth a visit, as it is an almost cliché fishing town complete with fishing vessels that are waiting patiently at the dock, ready for their next trip, and seaside restaurants that sell pretty mush the freshest fish – including Slamon – that you can get. The fishers will often even sell some of their catch off the sides of their boats in the port.
There are two options for tours: you can either go out in a more comfortable and closed-off boat with a passenger cabin and platform on the roof, or you can take the more adventurous option which comes with a lot of spray:
For the sake of photography and the survival of my camera equipment, it was probably good that I chose the former option, though without a doubt it would’ve been a lot of fun to dash across the sea in one of those dinghy-like boats.
I’ve kind of spoiled the surprise already, but: there was a ton of wildlife all around. First and foremost, I was dumbfounded by the sheer number of seals that were all along the coasts of – no, actually all over – many sand banks.
Seals were all over the place, even very close to the Stevenston harbour at the mouth of the Fraser river itself.
Also accompanying us along the way were a number of bald eagles, one of which was especially patriotic for the neighbouring country in the south, it seems:
When there weren’t seals or eagles to be seen, chances were good that you were passing by a colony of sea lions. These creates are massive, and they are massively loud as well; you can hear their odd sounds, which sound like this , over the boat’s engine from quite a distance. They are massive, but also massively impressive animals and worth seeing up close, albeit from the safe distance of being up on the boat.
The stars of the show, though, are without a doubt the orcas, or killer whales, or whatever name you may want to give them. They hunt in groups through the fjords of British Columbia, and when one group is spotted, word is quickly passed on from boat to boat via radio, so that soon a group of boats will form around them. They are notoriously difficult to get a good photo of, however, and a combination of patience, being trigger-happy and a good telephoto lens are of great advantage.
Even without the animals, the boat ride is quite an experience, with some truly breathtaking views as the experienced pilots navigate through the Strait of Georgia and occasionally even venture into US territory. Lush green forests run right up to the ocean in this part of the world.
In conclusion, it is safe to say that no matter what wildlife you see, the day on a boat from Stevenston harbour is without a doubt a day well spent. And who knows, if you’re lucky, you may end up seeing a group of Orcas, or maybe even a blue whale or two.