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. This was definitely another trip where we found bucket list animal encounters!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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. This was definitely a trip that added bucket list animal encounters!
Did you see the wildlife and whales on Vancouver Island? Did you have a favourite sighting?
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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
Omg! This looks incredible, I’d love to go someday!! You really did great capturing the wildlife by the way! 🙂
Nancy, thanks for the feedback on our photos. We had some great opportunities on this trip. Hope you get to visit one day. Linda
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.
Jenn and Ed, we were so delighted with the whale show that day. They just kept playing and ignored us. Just the way you want it. Linda
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
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!
Daniela, We were so pleased with the whale show that we got. I hope you get to see seals in the wild one day. Linda
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.
Karletta, I am glad you enjoyed our wildlife adventures. We were so happy with everything that we saw. And the whale show was beyond my expectations. Linda
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
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.
Kalyan, I hope you get to visit Vancouver Island one day. British Columbia has so much to offer and Vancouver Island is one of our favourite spots. Linda
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
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
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
Kamree, It was great to see so much wildlife when we travelled around Vancouver Island. I am glad we did not have a close encounter with a bear too! Linda
This is so thrilling! Amazing pictures and what wonderful sightings. I’d love to follow in your footsteps (wake?) You found sunshine too. Truly an incredible trip.
Elaine, It was an incredible trip for wildlife. We were so glad we added Vancouver Island to our BC travels. Linda
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
Renata, We were amazed at how much wildlife we saw. It really was great to spend some time out in nature. A bear up close would definitely be scary! Linda
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
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
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
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.
Elizabeth, Thanks for the feedback on the photos. We had some amazing wildlife opportunities on this trip. Linda
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.
Joella, The whales were my favourite too. Those views of breaching may mean we never need to go whale watching again. Memories of a lifetime. Linda
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
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!
We were amazed at how much wildlife we did see on this trip. We have not always been this lucky! So glad to share our luck with you. Linda
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
WOW – in addition to the whales, there is such a wide variety of wildlife in this region. What a great experience to see these animals in their natural habitat. The scenery backdrops are also just breathtaking here.
Mireille, We were quite lucky on this visit to Vancouver Island to see so much wildlife. And amazing scenery too. Definitely glad we went back. Linda
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!
Clarice, I am sure your family would love this trip. So many amazing moments with wildlife on this trip. Thanks for your comments on our photos. We did have a great show to capture. Linda
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!
Tami, We were quite pleased with how much wildlife we saw on this visit. Loved the chance to see them in the wild. Linda
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.
Archana, We were delighted with how much wildlife we saw on this trip. The whales were such an amazing sight. We loved that they wanted to put on a show for us. Linda
WOW! You guys have seen a wide variety of wildlife animals! The photos you captured of them are excellent. I always seem to not have my camera or can’t get it out fast enough when we see animals as well. Tell David I feel his pain! haha
Chelsea, We too were amazed at how much variety we found in wildlife. Although I was glad we did not see a real bear! But that whale watching experience did spoil us. Linda
Oh wow, this looks just amazing. I’ve seen humpback and sperm whales in another country and it was spectacular. We were due to head here this summer but will have to postpone, I’ll save this for when we rebook. Thank you
Nicole, We too have gone whale watching in other spots. But this was the best experience we have had. A lucky day for sure! Linda