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 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.
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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