The cold waters around Vancouver Island are the preferred habitat of the mighty orca, also known as ‘killer whale’. It is not uncommon to spot up to 100 orcas at a time. The best time to spot orcas on the north side of Vancouver Island (at Johnstone Strait) is from July to mid-September. On the south side at Haro Strait, the most likely period is from early May to late September.
In addition to killer whales, gray whales and humpback whales can also be spotted around the island. The gray whales pass the west coast of Vancouver Island (at Tofino) and are frequently spotted in April and May. The whales are on their way from Mexico to the Bering Sea and pause in the bays of Vancouver Island to rest and feed. Several dozen gray whales spend the summer around Vancouver Island.
Although all whale species are impressive to observe, the humpback is the favourite of most people, and with good reason. Humpback whales are known for their acrobatics and their enchanting ‘songs’. Whale watchers can often hear these magical sounds. When the humpbacks are in a playful mood, they will shoot out of the water, half turn and land back on the surface with a huge splash, creating an enormous displacement of water. Each whale can weigh up to 45 tons, the equivalent of 500 people.