Discover Amazing Wildlife And Whales on Vancouver Island

Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

We Found The Best Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island

On our road trip around BC (British Columbia) we enjoyed two weeks on Vancouver Island. We travelled from south to north. And we were delighted when we found amazing wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island.

Everywhere we travelled there were signs for what David call Vancouver Island “dog deer”. We found a few. Usually in more populated areas. There were eagles on both coasts. Easy to spot settled high in the trees or as they swooped down. We saw a black bear in the most unexpected place! Our day whale watching from Campbell River provided such an amazing views of both Orca and humpback whales. And sea lions and seals too. We finished up our visit to Vancouver Island with a stop at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.

We expected to see a lot of wildlife when we visited Vancouver Island. And we were not disappointed.

The Island Deer

When we travelled on Vancouver Island, we always found island deer. The first time I spotted them, they looked like big dogs. No wonder David referred to them as “dog deer”. When we drove on the roads at dusk or dawn, we always expected to find them.

We knew they were around. But only actually saw them twice on our travels on Vancouver Island. The first time came when we were drove around Sooke in the south part of the island. The pair were quietly eating away the flowers in a neighbourhood lawn.

Island Deer - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

The second deer we found when we explored outside of Comox on the north end of the island. These two helped themselves to the shrubs on a neighbourhood house. I have been told that goats will eat anything. These island dog deer seemed to be indiscriminate in their tastes. Not the most exciting first view of wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island.

Keeping An Eagle Eye Out For Eagles

We saw eagles on many of our travels. They filled the marshes when we visited Harrison Hot Springs in BC. When we did a great wildlife excursion on our cruise to Alaska, we saw eagles by the dozens.

Alaska Eagles.jpg

We saw eageles everywhere when we toured around BC for 5 weeks. They soared high in the sky or perched on the tops of trees. So many times we wanted to stop the car to take the picture. David was sure he missed a National Geographic shot when he did not stop one day.

When we arrived to stay in Ucluelet, our B&B hosts had very large binoculars set up and pointed right at an eagle’s nest. David got many telephoto shots of eagles in the grey skies. When we hiked around the lighthouse loop outside of Ucluelet, we got many more sightings. But in Tofino, we actually caught them swooping in the clear blue sky.

Ucluelet Eagles.jpg

Tofino Eagles - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

We hoped to find eagles in the large flying cage at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, so we stopped there as we headed for the ferry off of Vancouver Island. We did not find them in flight. But did see a large beautiful Bald Eagle missing half a wing in a cage on the mend.

Bird Eagle - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

We definitely found eagles when we visited to find wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island.

Black Bears Were Around

We saw grizzly bears when we did an Alaska cruise. The excursion in Prince Rupert (actually BC) gave us grizzly bears, eagles and whales. But we did not expect to find grizzly bears where we travelled on Vancouver Island.

Alaska Grizzly Brown Bear.jpg

We expected to see black bears when we visited the Okanagan Valley. But we didn’t. When we stopped for a few days in the Vancouver suburb of Port Moody, we did not expect to see black bears. But my eyes almost popped out of my head when a small black bear crossed the road and jumped a barrier on the main road in Port Moody. Just one car in front of us. Of course, I was not fast enough to get a picture!

When we travelled around Sooke in the southern part of the island, there were signs that read “Bears in the area”. We never saw one. When we travelled across Vancouver Island 3 times, we watched the side of the road like hawks for bears. Every bridge was an opportunity to find a bear fishing in the river. We found none.

Our final bear sighting opportunity happened when we visited the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. The museum teased us with stuffed bears. And there were 2 bears at the site when we visited. One was a cub that was born into captivity and can never be released into the wild. The bears peeked out a few times and then returned to their pen. But it seemed they had little interest in us.

Arthur Knowles Museum of Nature Animals - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

Black Bear Knut - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

Black bear sightings were quite frequent on Vancouver Island. They are not playthings so we knew to be wary if we did come upon them. It would have been an exciting thing. But we found so much other wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island.

Whale Watching In Campbell River

We booked a 3 hour whale watching trip with Adventure Quest Canada. They offered a range of different tours to see wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island. Their tours provided close up views of eagles and grizzly bears. But we went to see the whales.

Whale Watching Adventure Quest.jpg

We were delighted with the small boat experience. On other trips, we have done larger boats whale watching in Monterey and have found Orca whales out of Steveston BC. We really wanted to do a Zodiac tour to be close to the water. But our boat with only 6 of the 12 spots full was a perfect size and much more comfortable.

Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada.jpg

Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada.jpg

Leigh took us out of the harbour in Campbell River. Throughout our trip, he was in constant radio contact with other boats to find where the whales were. He also watched his cell phone for texts from the whale sighting network. That contact ensured that we found wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island.

A Pair Of Orca Killer Whales

It was really not the time of year to find Orca whales at the north end of Vancouver Island. But Leigh saw them on recent trips. When he heard on the radio that a pair were sighted, we headed that way. There are two sub-species of Orca whales in this region. The local pods called resident whales are fish eaters. But the transient Orca whales tend to be meat eaters. These Orcas were in search of seals and sea lions.

We settled into place and waited for the first view. Both of the Orcas were males so we watched for the straight black fins slicing through the air. We found first one. And then the other. For Orca whales, we needed to stay 200 metres back. We got pictures of the Orcas far off with mountains in the background.

Orca Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada.jpg

Orca Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

The boats in the bay moved several times and tried to track the Orca whales. It was fun to find them. But they really were not putting on a show. And sometimes they found you!

Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

Whale Watching.jpg

Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

But we knew there was still more wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island to find.

Playful Humpback Whales

Our first humpback whale encounter was with a well known local named KC. He had specific markings from when he was hit by a boat and from several encounters with nets. KC was quite lazy on the day we found him. We did not even get a tail wave.

Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada.jpg

When we sat in the bay chasing Orcas, the group spotted a pair of playful humpback whales. We moved over for a closer look. We sat transfixed as the two whales slapped their dorsal fins repeatedly in the water. Then they moved to slapping their tails. Before they dived and waved their tails.

Fin Splash Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

Fin Splash Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

Tail Splash Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

Tail Splash Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

We should have been satisfied with this great show. But you know we hoped for a breach. I squealed the first time one of the whales jumped up and flopped down with a big splash. But that was just the beginning of the show. One after the other they breached and splashed. It was such an amazing show.

Breach Jump Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

Breach Jump Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

Breach Jump Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

Breach Jump Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

We had our engines turned off. Several boats were close by. The humpbacks seemed to be moving closer. We started well off the 100m we needed to be away. But once we were bobbing, we were stuck until we saw the whales had left the area. And much to our delight, one of the whales surfaced maybe 10m behind the boat. Of course he gave us a wave and a big splash. Leigh was worried that if they stayed close they might capsize his boat. But the whales moved off after our private show.

Breach Jump Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

The humpback whale show was truly the best whale watching experience we have ever had. We were so glad we went that day with Adventure Quest Canada to find wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island.

Sea Lions, Seals And Birds On The Water

Our wildlife adventure had more treats in store. Leigh moved us to Mitlenatch Island to see seabirds, sea lions and seals. It was immediately obvious that birds covered this island. Leigh talked about the different birds on the island. Our ornithologist daughter Erika would have been in bird heaven.

Mitlenatch Island.jpg

Cormorant Bird Mitlenatch Island.jpg

We watched the lazy sea lions on the rocks on shore. This island was referred to as a “snack bar” for Orca whales. So we kept our eyes peeled. But it was not feeding time. You can purchase a permit to land on the island and explore up close. But our boat was restricted to staying offshore.

We saw a few sea lions and seals slip in and out of the water. The other people on the boat from Nederland were quite captivated by the sea lions and seals. But we just returned from a road trip along the California coast. On that trip, we saw seal, sea lions and elephant seals all the way up the coast. So we were a bit jaded.

Sea Lions Mitlenatch Island.jpg

Stunning Scenery And History On All Sides

It was a brilliant clear day. Even had we missed wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island, the scenery was a stunning show.

On one side we saw the mountains of Vancouver Island. On the other side were the much higher snow covered peaks of the B.C. mainland. We got a great view of the Sunshine Coast from the water. A very different view than when we travelled by car along the coast. Small islands were everywhere.

Sunshine Coast mountain coastline.jpg

We even found a bit of history as we sailed around. Leigh took us to an ancient native site with petroglyphs carvings on the wall. This spot has been enjoyed forever!

Quadra Island Petroglyph Wall.jpg

Quadra Island Petroglyph Wall.jpg

We had such an amazing day on the water with Adventure Quest Canada.

A Stop At The North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre

There was one final stop on Vancouver Island when we travelled to catch the ferry back to the mainland. The North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre is just outside Parksville. This facility provided a spot for wounded wildlife to be nurtured back to health. And if possible, returned to nature.

Entrance - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

Arthur Knowles Museum of Nature - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

It was a peaceful stop on our travel day. We learned a little about the animals that we saw on site. As we noted above, there were both bears and eagles, albeit not in the wild.

The garden and grounds provided us with a good break. A large pond held ducks and turtles. Various educational areas kept the children entertained.

Pond Ducks and Turtles - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

Pond Ducks - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

 Indian Canoe - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

Easter Island Heads - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

The snowy white owl watched us from his perch at the back of his cage. The barn owl ignored us. But the blind black raven made sure we got a delightful show. He was the chattiest bird we have ever seen. And his bathing ritual kept us amused.

Bird Snowy Owl Elsa - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

Bird Raven Dougal - North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.jpg

The North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre plays an important role in education and care of injured wildlife. On our whale watching trip, Leigh spoke about the work done to rescue and care for injured whales. This final stop was a good way to round out our look at the wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island.

We Found Amazing Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island

We loved the chance to find wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island. While we enjoyed the city life around Victoria, we spent most of our time in more remote parts of the island.

The wildlife was close by. But we did not always see it. We spent 8 days on an Alaska cruise. And only saw a lot of wildlife on one shore excursion. Viewings cannot be guaranteed.

But we were delighted when we found the wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island. The highlight was the amazing trip with Adventure Quest Canada. It certainly exceeded all expectations. The whale sightings were the perfect way to say goodbye on our visit to Vancouver Island.

Tail Humpback Whale Watching Adventure Quest Canada - Wildlife And Whales On Vancouver Island.jpg

Did you see the wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island? Did you have a favourite sighting?

PIN To Pinterest:

WildlifeWhalesPIN1-2019-06-3-13-30.jpg

WildlifeWhalesPIN5-2019-06-3-13-30.jpg

About TravelAtWill 508 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

50 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness! What a perfect day. These are actually my favorite kinds of trips. We went on an Alaskan cruise a lot of years ago and got to see some whales. It was so exciting. After that cruise, we actually bought some land in Alaska and go every year now. I wonder how out of the way Vancouver Island would be on one of our drives up. Great post! I just loved it.

    • Kathleen, How great that you have a place in Alaska and get to go regularly. Much of the BC coast and Vancouver Island looks very much like what we saw on our Alaska cruise. I know that you can get onto Vancouver Island on the south end and then exit on the north end by one or more ferries. If you take the ferry from Port Hardy you end up in Prince Rupert. You could then keep going to Alaska from there. Hope you get to enjoy Vancouver Island one day. Linda

  2. I love the humpback encounter where the whales come to you. That is a truly beautiful experience. Whales are independent and curious creatures and they seemed interested in your little boat that day. Beautiful breach shots.

  3. Your adventures really appeal to me! I love animals. To see those bears, and to watch wild eagles fly, would be a thrill. Your photos of the whales are amazing!

    • Sharon, we were so delighted to get the whale show of a lifetime. There were so many opportunities to catch the show. We loved the chance to see so much wildlife on Vancouver Island. Linda

  4. This is amazing! You were very lucky – it wasn’t the best time for spotting whales but it looks like they gave you a good show 🙂 I’d love to see seals in the wild – I live in Scotland so hopefully I’ll spot a few one day!

  5. Oh Wow! What a fantastic adventure. I was taken with the Eagles and then the Whales. I did some whale watching last year and the enormous power they have is very touching. I love the way they respond to our human communication. Thank you for sharing with us.

  6. I’m so jealous of your whale encounters on the Campbell River! We have been on two whale-watching trips and seen no whales either time! I saw lots of ‘dog deer’ around Victoria – just grazing lazily on the side of the road!

    • Hannah, We too have done whale watching in other places. The views of tails and humps in the distance was a bit exciting. But this was so much more phenomenal. I am not sure I need to go whale watching again! Linda

  7. After reading so much about Vancouver island as also the whales, bears and different wildlife in Canada, I really wish I can visit there soon to enjoy the charming beauty.

  8. What a wonderful time you had on Vancouver Island!! I’m in awe of how much wildlife there is there. I’ve to admit, I’d be nervous to run into any brown bears!! However, I’d love to see the whales doing that spectacular show! I’ve only ever seen it in the documentaries and I’m gobsmacked then! I’ll definitely be bookmarking this for the future!

    • Lisa, We were glad we did not have a close encounter with a bear. But would have loved to find one at a viewable distance. The whale experience was so much more exciting that we expected. Unfortunately it has now set a very high bar. Hope you get to visit Vancouver Island one day. Linda

  9. Oh how fun! I usually visit Deception Pass in Northwest Washington and Vancouver Island isn’t very far off. The waters and landscapes look very familiar. But it looks like you got really up close and personal to the wild-life out there! How awesome 🙂 Great catch on the Humpback Whale with its dance and play!

    • Adonis, We were so happy with our wildlife experiences on Vancouver Island. You will have to pop up when you are in Northwest Washington. It is an easy ferry ride to get you to Victoria. Linda

  10. Seeing all of these animals up close must have been an incredible experience! I think I would be a little scared if I saw a bear only a short distance away! xo – kam

  11. What an amazing experience. It always overwhelms me when I’m blessed to witness the wonders of nature. However, some of the greatest things – like an encounter with a bear – also scary me….a bit

  12. Love this post! And your photography is simply STUNNING! Thank you so much for sharing your adventures! We’ll definitely bug you guys for tips when we decide to take the trip to Vancouver Island!

    • I am so glad you enjoyed this post. We were delighted with our adventures on Vancouver Island. When you are planning your trip, just let us know. David lived on the island for awhile so he has lots of experience. Linda

  13. I’ve been looking for a really good excuse to go back to Vancouver Island, and I think I just found it, to be honest. I’m stuck back in Toronto right now, and this sure beats the big city right now!

    • Christopher, We were glad to spend some time in BC in May and June while it was still quite miserable in Toronto. It was great to spend some time on Vancouver Island. Hope you get to visit. Linda

  14. OK, we spent a few weeks on Vancouver island about 5 years ago and we didn’t see a third of the wildlife you guys saw. You were either lucky, or smart….or both. And that whale watching you had, was some of the best whale photos I have seen….so awesome!

    • Mike, We keep booking whale watching trips to see that breach shot. And this was the first time we got this amazing view of the whales playing. I would have watched for hours. Our tour guide was very diligent about listening to the sighting reports to get us to the right place. Linda

  15. Wow, there is a lot of wildlife on Vancouver Island! That must have been exciting to see the black bear in Port Moody that popped out in front of you on the road. You got some really good views of the whales too. Great photographs! I have only went whale watching once in Iceland and found it hard to get good shots.

  16. A nature and wildlife adventure like this would be a dream come true. So amazing to see all these animals in the wild. The eagles are so regal. And you really got such great shots of them. But my favorite I think are the whales. The shots you got of them breaching are magnificent. How lucky that you got to see them like that.

  17. You have spotted some of best wildlife animals during your Vancouver island visit. That is great that you saw a black bear in the most unexpected place. Even your day whale watching from Campbell River looks amazing trip due to spotting of Orca, seals, sea lions and humpback whales. Not only wildlife even the whole place is very scenic, especially the Sunshine coast.

    • Yukti, We certainly were delighted with our wildlife experiences on our last visit to Vancouver Island. Sometimes it is hard to find them. And sometimes you get the views of your life. Glad this trip got us the later. Linda

  18. We have been to Vancouver Island twice but had no chance to see this wildlife. I’m shocked you had so much luck! It’s good to know that island deer can remind a dog – never encountered them. Your pictures of bald eagles are lovely. I was photographing them in Alaska only. Black bears are not surprise to me – I have seen thousands of them on Alaska Highway and sideways of Canada. I love this post because we love wildlife and photography!

  19. I have been to Victoria and Busch gardens but clearly did not spend enough time on Vancouver Island! I would love to see Orca and humpback whales and the small boat experience sounds perfect. I’m so jealous of your tail waves!

    • Sherianne, We were so glad we spent more time on Vancouver Island on that trip. The whale watching was so amazing that we may never have to go again. Tail waves and breaches definitely delighted us. Linda

  20. Happy to know that you weren’t disappointed with your trip. My family would also be thrilled to amazing wildlife especially my daughter who’s really into animals. Personally, I would love to see killer whales since I haven’t seen one yet. Good job on your amazing shots. They’re really awesome especially the photos of the whale!

  21. I love traveling to places where the wildlife is abundant, especially if you can spot the wildlife in their natural environment and not just in a cage somewhere. I would love to see eagles flying in the sky like you did — I did see two in a tree once in Washington state. And the orca sightings you enjoyed — how exciting!

  22. I am huge wildlife and whales lover. Your trip looks epic. So many beautiful animals you saw. Although I have seen whales quite a few times before but I had never been to Vancouver. So, I would absolutely love to see humpback whales. It must be a surreal experience. You were so lucky that they came so close to your boat. And, I would also love to have the eagle sightings like you had.

Leave a Reply