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Ocean wildlife spotting by zodiac

IMG_8790-004 Tofino wildlife cruise

By Lille Carter-Pound

Click here to achieve your own Tofino whale watching experience, curated by Tours of Exploration.

My boyfriend Brandon and myself didn’t know what to expect on our ocean wildlife tour. We were hoping to see whales common in these waters between the months of March to October,

but lowered our expectation and decided to open ourselves to the experience of just being on the Pacific Coastal waters. We started out the journey by being fit into our full-body survival suits and being briefed on safety measures. Our 30’ inflatable left Tofino wharf with six other passengers (capacity 10). We were first struck by the beauty of the western coastline. We were silenced by the scenes of temperate rainforest, rocky beaches, inlets, and distant mountains. Ron, our guide, was helpful and informative before, during and after our departure.  

 canada tofino mackenziebeach 840x546 l cpound

We made our way North and our first sighting was a group of Harbour seals. We continued North and stopped beside Cleland Island Ecological reserve, a bird sanctuary island. Several bird species could be spotted in the water, on the cliffs, and flying over the island. We felt blessed with a rare Tufted puffin sighting, neither of us had ever seen any species of Puffin before. The island was used by more than birds, and we saw about thirty very large Californian sealions. We watched them sunbathe, fight, swim and make loads of noise. As we travelled up the coast, we encountered many sea otters floating on their backs, a beautiful first-time sight for the both of us.   

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Ron drove the zodiac further North to Flores Island. It was here that we started to see blow hole spraying about a half kilometer away. We approached slowly and stopped a safe distance from the sprays, and far enough for the whales to not be affected by our presence. Over the next half an hour we watched Gray whales breaching, and blowing, and feeding and diving. It was an incredible sight; the whales were breaching every one-to-two minutes. Each year tens of thousands of Gray whales migrate between California and feeding areas along the BC and Alaska coast. Two of the passengers were from the Tofino based company SIMRS, a non-profit marine research society. They were very knowledgeable and were taking tons of photos to see how healthy this pod of whales was. They were a complement to our already amazing trip.  

canada tofino sealions

As this was my birthday, it was my best one yet. I highly recommend Ocean Outfitters and will be suggesting them to everyone I know. They made this trip one I will never forget! 

For planning tips, and travel advice on visiting click Tourism Tofino here

Are you inspired to go whale watching after reading this? Be sure to check out Tours of Exploration's customizable Vancouver Island itineraries, with choose-your-own-adventures available in Tofino, Port Renfrew, and Port McNeill. 

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Toll Free: 1.800.690.7887
or 604.886.7300

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