The waters around Victoria offer different opportunities than those in Tofino (on the west coast of Vancouver Island) where you’re more likely to spot grey whales. Throughout the season (May to Oct) transient and resident pods of orcas (killer whales) live in the seas around southern Vancouver Island, around a hundred animals in all, so you may see these, along with minke, occasional greys and humpbacks, with Dall’s porpoises, harbour or elephant seals and California and Steller sea lions also present. Most outfits offer “guaranteed” whale sightings so if you don’t see them on your first trip, you can return again for free.
While there are many outfits to choose from, they offer almost identical trips at the same prices, typically around $100 for a three-hour outing. The only real variables are the boats used, so you need to decide whether you want a rigid-hull cruiser (covered or uncovered), which is comfortable and sedate, a catamaran, or a high-speed aluminium-hull inflatable known as a “Zodiac”, which is infinitely more exhilarating, but can offer a sometimes bumpy, chilly ride and lacks toilets.