During the warmer months, Victoria's streets teem with Big Bus Victoria's fleet, making their daily stops around the city's sites. Customers hop aboard for 90-minute hop-on-hop-off tours that trek down a route that wends past Victoria's most compelling attractions, enabling guests to create flexible sightseeing outings that proceed at a convenient pace. Tour captains take passengers past city landmarks such as Empress Hotel, Legislative Building, and Craigdarroch Castle, letting passengers spring out of their seats before picking up ticket-holders and tumbleweeds eager to make their way across the city.
The Salish Sea hosts one of the largest killer-whale gatherings on the planet. From its three large pods of fish-eating resident orcas to the pods of transient orcas that hunt for larger mammalian game, the Salish's waters often churn with a flurry of activity. Five Star's captains give passengers a glimpse of this underwater entertainment by charting courses through the sea's whale-filled waters atop stable catamarans outfitted with four separate viewing platforms. From these lookouts, guests may spot the black and white behemoths, as well as mink, gray, and humpback whales and other marine life. Between sightings, crews keep parties comfortable within the heated cabin by supplying them with complimentary coffee, hot chocolate, and liquefied Herman Melville novels.
The month of May kicks off the peak of orca-sighting season, a time when land lovers float out to experience the enchantment of killer whales and avoid the temptation to shamelessly reference freeing Willy. As the captain's log reads, 90% of Western Princes's tours encounter orcas, and 100% of orcas are absolutely adorable when imagined with a bowler hat on their head. Additional sightings of porpoises, harbor seals, sea lions, and bald eagles are common along with occasional celebrated guest appearances by minke whales, lush gray whales, and paparazzi-swarmed humpback whales.
When the producers of Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home were casting for the roles of coastal marine patrollers, they didn't look to the scores of hopeful actors in Hollywood, opting instead to find boating professionals with real experience. Their search led them to Orcas Island Eclipse Charters founders Dan and Denise Wilk, whose extensive knowledge of aquatic wildlife made them a serendipitous choice for sharing the camera with Hollywood's most famous orca.
Aboard their 56-foot vessel, Dan and Denise continue to share the passion that led them to the big screen in the first place. Their enthusiasm shines through to passengers while they guide tours into the habitats of killer whales and harbor seals. Occasionally, expert guides direct passengers to look up from the water to spot deer on nearby land or bald eagles soaring through the sky above. When asked how they happen upon so many natural specimens on their trips, Dan and Denise would tell you they don't leave their tours up to chance, coordinating excursions with a whale-watching service that pinpoints where the underwater mammals are feeding.
Outer Island Expeditions' fleet of kayaks and boats safely cruises at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour through frothy crests ebbing amid the striking sights and wildlife of the San Juan islands. Venturing as far as 50 miles into Canadian waters, whale-watching excursions foster personal rapport between patrons and boat-side orcas, gray whales, or humpback whales trying to learn human etiquette for future espionage missions. Tours of Stuart Island's Turn Point lighthouse begin aboard a 22-foot Kodiak skiff, which buoys patrons through 16 miles of waters inhabited by sea lions and porpoises before they disembark and hike to the lighthouse's historical museum. Fishing charters set sail in search of ocean creatures and potable salt water from all of Outer Island Expeditions' four launch points: Smuggler's Villa Resort, Semiahmoo Resort, Lopez Island, and The Willows on Lummi Island.
If there’s a whale breaching on the protected waters of the San Juan Islands, there’s a good chance a passenger on Mystic Sea Charters’ 100-foot vessel will see the splashy spectacle. The company’s five- to six-hour tours have an impressive track record when it comes to spotting the gargantuan mammals, introducing tour-goers to different species of whale up to 99% of the time. Onboard the ship, a naturalist divulges facts about ocean life as passengers watch for whales from the heated cabin or from the deck, which has 4-foot railings so guests can hold on if whales start singing and dancing to the hit song “Rock the Boat.” The company promises that voyagers will see at least one gray, orca, humpback, or minke whale, depending on the season. If not, they’ll receive a follow-up whale-watching tour for free.