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Such great info on here from those who live in the area that I thought I would ask about whales. I would love to see Orcas and had planned to do a whale watching excursion in Juneau but just read Orcas are rarely seen there and better chance of seeing them in Vancouver. We will be there in mid May - are Orcas usually in the area at that time of year? Humpbacks? Any difference in departures or tour companies from Steveston or Granville Island? Many thanks!

 

 

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May through October inclusive, local companies offer their guarantees (no whales, free trips for life until you do see one). Odds are in your favour here compared to Juneau (90%+ compared to ~20% - although I believe May has reliable enough Orca sightings for special Orca-focused trips to be scheduled by Major Marine out of Seward or Whittier so if you're doing a one-way cruise that's worth looking into as well.)

 

Personally I always suggest Wild Whales out of Granville Island, not because they have better guides/boats, but purely logistically - they offer a variable trip length (up to 7 hours) as they only send each boat out once. With the ~3hour trips of all other providers you have the simple problem that wherever the local pods are MUST be within 90mins sail time of port. Even allowing for the fact that Steveston is pretty far south of Granville Island that means the WW boats can still sail further south than the Steveston guys - and going West or North they are able to cover even more bonus territory. In other words, if whales are 2-3 hours away, you will see them with WW but not with any other company out of Vancouver. Plus, you need to get to Steveston - without your own car that's either a shuttle bus (extra cost and much earlier than needed - they aim for an hour before the boat leaves which is overkill even on a zodiac that you need to get into the right size of survival suit to ride) or public transit, also at least an hour for downtown each way.

 

Qualitatively I also find that there's a definite value in the views leaving Granville Island compared to Steveston - it's like getting a free bonus water tour along False Creek, Kitsilano Beach, UBC's delightfully forested shoreline and cliffs. Just don't look too closely at the beaches below the last of these unless you're comfortable seeing an awful lot of exposed pensioner flesh (Wreck Beach is our famously-clothing-free local hangout, but it ain't like any nude beach from the movies!)

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Thanks for the info martincath. After reading your post, a tour out of Granville Island makes a lot more sense for us.

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Glad to help.

 

Re-reading your Q I did miss a response - Orcas are not the only whalewatch targets in May. Obviously for the Humpbacks to have made it up to Alaska by this point, some are still in BC waters; ditto Grays; someof both have been hanging around over the last few years deliberately to feed here rather than accidentally getting lost en route to AK waters (Google "whale sightings in vancouver" and you'll find some stories and even video footage of an assortment of very urban visits over the years). Minke whales are also found in our waters - hardest to spot of all the species (no tail flip before diving, and low spouts so even their breathing doesn't help that much at noticing them; ~Orca-sized & similarly-coloured - and when they lunge or breach folks do mistake them for Orcas despite the lack of huge dorsal fins)

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We rented a car in Juneau and drove to the Shrine of Saint Therese. You can walk the grounds and walk out by the Water. We saw the whales there and could hear their ‘breaths’. Also did a whale tour and saw humpbacks.

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