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Go on a whale watching safari with Discovery Marine Safaris

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By: Jackie Chow


A wonderful way to see orcas and other marine mammals in their natural habitat is a whale watching safari with Discovery Marine Safaris, located in Campbell River on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

Our tour started with a 1 hour bus ride to Kelsey Bay, which is the ideal location to start searching for resident orca pods, which travel back and forth through the Johnstone Straight in search of fish. During the bus ride, Mark, our very knowledgeable naturalist guide, had lots of fascinating facts to tell us about these intelligent and highly social sea mammals. He told us about the differences in behavior and feeding habits between resident and transient orcas, and about their complex matriarchal family structure. He was clearly fascinated with killer whales and very passionate about his job of educating people about them, and creating awareness of the need to protect these wonderful creatures and to keep them in the wild, instead of in captivity.

The boat had a covered and heated lower deck, as well as an outdoor upper deck, which is of course where you need to be for the best viewing and to take the best possible shots. Captain Sean was in frequent contact with other whalewatching boats in the area, to exchange information about where the closest orca pods had just been sighted.

We were super excited when we had one sighting of a humpback whale, but we didn’t wait around for him to surface again, since Sean and Mark had their sights set on an orca pod farther north. For a while we ended up in very thick fog, and it took some time before we spotted the first dorsal fin above the water, and then a few more. Suddenly the fog lifted, and we were well rewarded for our patience with quite a few appearances, sometimes just one, but also three or four of them at the same time.

For lunch, we had some delicious sandwiches with hot drinks and cookies. It can get quite cold on the upper deck when the boat is cruising along at higher speeds in search of the orcas, and the hot chocolate was just what I needed.

I was amazed at how quickly time flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to head back to Kelsey Bay.

Tours are offered from mid July until the end of September. Departures are twice daily, at 8:30 am and 1:00 pm, and each tour lasts about 6 to 7 hours.

Tip: Bring a warm jacket/wind breaker!