Planning is key when travelling! If you’re wondering when is the best season to go whale watching on Vancouver Island, look no further! In Campbell River, we’re gifted with abundant marine wildlife, and each month has opportunities to witness different species in their natural habitat. Here’s our month-to-month guide if you’re planning to come to our beautiful part of the world for an unforgettable whale watching or wildlife tour:
January – February
Fair time – Occasional sightings of Bigg’s (transient) killer whales, harbour porpoises, seals, and seals.
This is a great time to see the natural phenomenon of the return of thousands of seals and sea lions as they prepare to feast on the herring that return to spawn around the Comox and Hornby Island area every spring. Bigg’s killer whales are often spotted, attracted by the abundance of marine mammals waiting for the herring spawn.
Decent time. Grey whale sightings possible.
March is the first month of the Vancouver Island whale watching season and offers chances to see grey whales on their northwards migration.
The herring spawn occurs in spring, and thousands of sea birds, sea lions, and seals can be seen in shallow coastal waters feeding on the abundance of herring and their eggs. Bigg’s killer whales can be spotted around these areas, as well as harbour porpoises.
Decent time. Return of the humpback whales.
April starts to bring warmer temperatures to Vancouver Island waters, which encourage a few early humpback whales to visit. Grey whales can still be seen at this time, and pods of Bigg’s killer whales might also be spotted. Harbour porpoises remain common sightings.
In May, the weather starts to warm up and Bigg’s killer whales begin to be spotted more often, as there’s more eyes on the water with whale watchers, fisherman, and pleasure crafts. Humpback whales also begin to be sighted regularly, as more individuals arrive from their breeding grounds. May is usually the last month when you can spot migrating grey whales, and you can start to see Pacific white-sided dolphins and porpoises in greater numbers.
June is when summer takes over from spring and the warmer weather can make it more comfortable to be out on the water. Humpback whales and Bigg’s killer whales are the highlights of this month, but you might also be lucky to see Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, and harbour porpoises. As the hungry bears emerge from their long hibernation, we will also often see them in the estuaries feeding on sedge grasses and small marine animals such as barnacles and gunnels.
In July, Humpback whales begin to visit the Vancouver Island coastline in greater numbers, and are viewed daily. Bigg’s killer whales are also common sightings on our trips. We will often see the broadest diversity of marine life during the summer months with harbour porpoises, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, thousands of sea birds, seals, sea lions and much more. This is also a great time to see hundreds of bald eagles in a natural phenomenon we like to call “The Eagle Show“.
August can be one of the best months to see Bigg’s killer whales in Vancouver Island waters, as they are attracted to the coast by the prevalence of seal pups. The number of humpback whales also starts to peak, and this can often be one of the busier months of the year onboard tour boats. We will often see the broadest diversity of marine life during the summer months with harbour porpoises, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, thousands of sea birds, seals, sea lions and much more.
In September, the weather is cooling down and we would say might be the best time to visit Vancouver Island. We will often see the broadest diversity of marine life throughout the late summer with harbour porpoises, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, thousands of sea birds, seals, sea lions being frequently sighted. The humpback whales remain in large numbers and we will also often spot Bigg’s killer whales in the area. September is also the best time to view grizzly bears in the rivers feasting on the returning salmon.
October is generally the last month of Vancouver Island’s official whale watching season. Grey whales and humpback whales start to migrate southwards during this time and so October is generally your last opportunity to see these species. Bigg’s killer whales are also frequent visitors to the area and may be spotted also. As the final salmon stocks make their way into the rivers to spawn, this is also the last opportunity to view bears as they get ready for the long winter hibernation.
Fair time. Some grey whales.
During November, grey whales will be migrating south along the coast and can be spotted. Harbour porpoises and Pacific white-sided dolphins are seen regularly, as are large Steller sea lions, and of course our resident harbour seals. The weather can be a bit more unpredictable so we recommend a flexible schedule if you are going to visit in the late fall.
Fair: Bigg’s killer whales, sea lions.
In December, chances to see whales around Vancouver Island can be limited, although there will occasionally be Bigg’s killer whale sightings. Porpoises and dolphins may also be spotted by those willing to brave the colder temperatures of this month. There are opportunities to witness the return of the Steller sea lions by the thousands as they prepare for the annual spring herring spawn.