FAQ

Common Questions –  general

Our whale watching tours run from May – October every year. 

Grizzly Bear Expeditions start at the end of August, and end in the beginning of October. 

Scuba Diving Adventures run year-round!

Visit the tour you’re interested in on our website for a booking calendar with availability!

We have two locations in Campbell River, BC on beautiful Vancouver Island:

We run all of our wildlife tours from both locations, except the Grizzly Bear Expedition which only runs from our Downtown Marine Adventure Centre. 

Get directions to our locations here.

We require a 20% deposit upon booking. Full payment must be received before the scheduled tour. We will send a payment request via email a few days beforehand, or you are welcome to pay the remainder in-person when you arrive for check-in.

We have a multitude of vessels available, including larger covered vessels and smaller rigid hull zodiacs. People are often surprised to learn that our zodiacs, which are the same used in large offshore rescue operations, are actually incredibly stable and comfortable in the waves. We are also fortunate to be located in a very protected part of the Salish Sea where there are hundreds of islands and narrow inlets for us to navigate in protected waters.

If you’re concerned about getting seasick, we recommend taking a non-drowsy seasickness medication 1 hour before your tour departs.

On our tours, you will see a vast array of animals and scenery. We do follow the required minimum approach distances to all marine mammals which includes 200 metres from Transient (Bigg’s) and Northern Resident Killer Whales and 100 metres from all other marine mammals, and while this provides for excellent viewing opportunities, we certainly do not discourage binoculars!

On our Grizzly Bear Expedition, we provide binoculars but encourage guests to bring their own!

Although relatively rare during summer months, rain does occur on occasion. During periods of heavy rain and/or wind we are sometimes forced to postpone tours.

With that being said, our covered vessels do allow passengers to move between the inside cabin and outside viewing deck. In the event we cancel due to weather conditions, passengers are able to reschedule for no additional charge or receive a full refund.

Campbell River:

There is free parking outside of our Campbell River Marine Adventure Centre and beside the Mark’s Work Warehouse. Please ensure you don’t park in a 30-minute loading zone. 

If you are coming with a trailer or RV, please park in the gravel parking lot at the south entrance of the Discovery Harbour Marina. 

All parking is free at our Painter’s Lodge location. 

Comox:

There is free parking at the Comox Municipal Boat Launch.

Our 4 Hour Whale & Wildlife Tours take place on our fun and stable zodiac vessels. There is no bathroom onboard, however there are plenty of opportunities to stop for bathroom breaks at interesting and historic sites in this beautiful area. 

Our 7 Hour Big Animal Encounter Tours, Grizzly Bear Expeditions, and Scuba Diving Adventures take place on our covered vessels, which all have spacious bathrooms onboard. 

We strive to be eco-friendly both on land and on the water. We work tirelessly to ensure our daily operations contribute to a greener planet.

  • We have switched our booking system to an online platform as a major step toward paper-free operations. 
  • All of our boats are updated regularly and maintained to ensure efficiency. 
  • COVID-19 has dramatically impacted our goal to eliminate single-use plastics. We are working hard to reduce our environmental footprint in this area as we move forward. 
  • All of our lunches are made by a local company and packaged in reusable containers.

Learn more about our conservation efforts here!

Zodiac Tours:

Please note: on occasion, our 4 Hour tours take place on covered vessels. This generally if the weather is too poor for our open-air zodiacs, or if our zodiac vessels are fully booked.

Covered vessel tours:

The health and safety of our guests, crew, and community is our number one priority. Following government guidelines, we’ve implemented the following measures to ensure everyone’s safety.

  • Touchless hand sanitizers are at the entrances of our marine centres
  • Extensive sanitization is done by staff on our vessels and in our marine centres between each tour
  • We have constructed a sterilization room in our marine centres for the use of ozone sterilization, which we use to sanitize our cruiser suits, hats, gloves, goggles, and dry bags that are provided during tours

Our crew work tirelessly to ensure your Campbell River wildlife tour is as exciting and comfortable as possible. If you’d like to leave a gratuity, you can leave a cash tip or electronic tip with the shore staff. 

You can also express your appreciation by leaving us a review on Google or Tripadvisor!

The minimum age is 3 years old on our 4 Hour Whale & Wildlife Tour and 7 Hour Big Animal Encounter Tour

The minimum age is 10 years old for our Grizzly Bear Expedition

There is no minimum age on our private bookings (only on covered vessels, minimum age 3 remains for zodiacs).

If you have mobility limitations or disability requirements, our crew will do everything we can to help you safely and comfortably enjoy your tour with us. 

Please contact us if you have any questions or if you’d like to discuss further!

Due to the extremely high and volatile pricing of fuel, we have had to make the difficult decision to add a fuel surcharge to all tours. The well-publicized increase in gas prices has hit everyone hard across the country, and we are no exception. We can’t thank our guests enough for the continued support and we look forward to sharing this special part of the world with you!

COMMON QUESTIONS – WHALE WATCHING

Viewing opportunities vary throughout the year. The best time for whale watching in Campbell River is whenever you’re available to join us!

  • Bigg’s (transient) killer whales are sighted year-round in our area.
  • Humpback whales spend the summer months feeding in our area, and can be spotted from May – October. However, some individuals stay year-round. 
  • Grey whales are typically found on the west coast of Vancouver Island, but some individuals travel near Campbell River briefly from February – April.

There is no best time of day for whale and wildlife sightings! We use reports from an extensive network of other whale watching companies, fishermen, water taxis, and the public to ensure our guests receive the best wildlife viewing opportunities. The best time of day ends up being whatever fits best with your schedule.

In the morning, there are less reports due to less eyes on the water. Finding the whales and wildlife can be more of a searching game, which is all part of the adventure! 

In the afternoon, there are more reports, so it can be easier to find the whales and wildlife. However, the whales can travel great distances and can disappear if they want to! 

Campbell River is quickly becoming known as the hot spot for wildlife viewing on Vancouver Island, and whales are certainly no exception. Because of the large tidal currents, abundance of glacial inlets and rich algae-filled waters, the conditions are ideal to feed a wide range of marine mammals that call the Discovery Islands home. On a nearly daily basis we can see Humpback Whales, Orca (Killer Whales), Dolphins, Porpoises, Sea Lions and Seals.

Check out our Instagram and Facebook stories for daily wildlife sighting logs from our tours!

It’s always better to bring more layers than you think you’ll need! It can be 10 degrees Celcius colder on the water than on land, so come prepared.

Zodiac tours:

We provide appropriate cruiser suits, warm hats, gloves, and goggles.

  • When it’s hot outside, we would suggest light pants or shorts, a light short-sleeved shirt, and bring an extra sweater just in case it gets chilly while the boat is underway. Also feel free to bring sunglasses and sunscreen, but we will supply these as required.
  • When it’s warm or cold outside, dress in layers: pants, short-sleeved shirt, a sweater, and shoes. Also feel free to bring a warm hat, gloves, and sunglasses, but we will supply these as required.

Covered vessel tours:

On our covered vessels, passengers are able to move between the outside deck and inside cabin, so we suggest simply dressing in layers and being prepared for the weather conditions.

If you’re not sure what to wear, feel free to ask us! Send us an email at explore@biganimalencounters.com or call at (250) 914-3483

Killer whales are an iconic species of the west coast of Canada, and we fully understand that everyone wants to see them. We want to see them too! However, they are not found on every tour. 

The ecotype we regularly see in Campbell River is the transient (Bigg’s) killer whales. These are the marine mammal eaters, and they are always travelling in the perpetual search for food. They do not stay in one area very long, so as to go undetected by their intelligent prey, and can travel up to 100km per day. This makes them hard to find, and easy to lose.

However, there are a lot of eyes on the water, and if any killer whales are in the area, chances are they’ll be found. We work together with a wide network of other whale watching companies, fishermen, water taxis, and the public to ensure our guests have the best viewing opportunities of wildlife. 

 

The west coast of Canada is one of the best places for whale watching on the planet. Canada’s laws and regulations help ensure our whales and marine mammals can still be enjoyed, but at a safe distance. We are dedicated to education, conservation, and responsible wildlife viewing, and our priority is the safety of our passengers, crew, and resident marine wildlife.

At all times, we are required by law to keep a minimum distance of:

  • 100m from most marine mammals, unless the animal is with a calf or resting, then the distance is increased to 200m
  • 200m from Transient (Bigg’s) Killer Whales and Northern Resident Killer Whales, opposed to the standard vessel approach distance of 400 metres, as per our agreement with the Government of Canada

We also participate in programs that reduce the threats the whales face. Learn more about our conservation efforts here!

Yes! We carry a hydrophone on every tour, and it can be lowered into the water when in the vicinity of whales. Wildlife we often hear through the hydrophone includes the whistles of Pacific white-sided dolphins, songs of humpback whales, and even the clicks and calls of killer whales!

After 28 years of exploring BC’s coastline, we are proud to have an impeccable safety record. We operate to the strictest of standards to keep our guests, crew, vessels and resident marine wildlife safe. If our equipment, crews, or weather is not meeting our high standards, we are never afraid to postpone or cancel a trip.

At all times, we are required by strict guidelines and laws to keep a minimum distance of:

  • 100m from most marine mammals, unless the animal is with a calf or resting, then the distance is increased to 200m
  • 200m from Transient (Bigg’s) Killer Whales and Northern Resident Killer Whales, opposed to the standard vessel approach distance of 400 metres, as per our agreement with the Government of Canada

Our zodiac vessels are repurposed RCMP and Coast Guard Rescue Vessels. They are extremely seaworthy and stable vessels designed for rough water operations. Our covered vessels are also locally built and sea-worthy aluminum coastal cruisers. 

All passengers are shown a safety video given a safety briefing by their captain before the departure of their tour. All safety equipment onboard is up-to-date, and our vessels and crew are Transport Canada certified and operate at the highest possible standards.

We are dedicated to education, conservation, and responsible wildlife viewing. During your tour, you will learn about the wildlife, their environment, and the threats that they face. Our well-educated captains and naturalists will inspire you to care about the whales, how to and translate that care into action.

We are pleased to welcome thousands of visitors from around the world every year. We continue to receive notes from a vast majority of our guests telling us that this is some of the most beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife experience of their lives. This is why we do what we do, we enjoy being on the water day after day showing you why we are excited to call British Columbia home.

COMMON QUESTIONS – GRIZZLY BEAR EXPEDITION

Before the departure of your tour, all guests will watch a safety video and are given a safety briefing by their captain. Upon arrival at Orford Bay, the Homalco First Nations guides who run the land-based portion of the tour give an in-depth safety briefing before departing into the viewing areas. The Homalco guides are certified by the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of British Columbia and their priority is the safety of guests, crew, and resident wildlife.

From safe, enclosed viewing platforms and elevated ground-based viewing areas, you’ll be able to witness the magnificent grizzly bear, undisturbed, in its natural habitat. The Homalco guides have an impeccable safety record in their 20+ years operating.

We are proud members of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of British Columbia which was formed to promote sustainable bear viewing and aid in the protection of wild bears and their ecosystems. The CBVA works closely with conservation groups, scientists, and the government to work toward conservation efforts and keeping wild bears safe.

The Conservation Fee on your tour supports the Homalco Salmon Hatchery in Orford Bay in rebuilding native wild salmon populations to enhance healthy grizzly bear habitat, while also protecting the Indigenous roots, culture and food source of the Homalco First Nation. It also supports the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of British Columbia, developed to promote sustainable bear viewing in British Columbia and aid in the protection of wild bears and their ecosystems.

The minimum age is 10 years old. Because we are in prime grizzly bear habitat, all guests must remain quiet and respectful while viewing the bears so as to not disturb them.

This tour is conducted on our heated covered vessels, and the land-based portion of the tour includes a bus ride to and from the bear viewing areas. Dress appropriately for the weather, and we recommend bringing layers, sunglasses, and a hat. Closed toe shoes are highly recommended.

All participants must be physically capable to walk off vessels onto land, and up/down stairs. Our crew are more than happy to assist you! Feel free to contact us if you have any concerns.

Our Grizzly Bear Expeditions start at the end of August and run until the beginning of October every year.

The grizzly bears move into the Orford River valley in Bute Inlet starting in August, and stay there to feed on salmon until mid-fall. Viewing opportunities are ideal from safe viewing platforms and elevated ground-based viewing areas. In the end, the best time for a grizzly tour is whenever works best with your schedule during this time! 

Because these are wild animals, we cannot guarantee the number of bears to be seen.

Bear spray, bear bangers, and other noise deterrents are not permitted aboard our vessels or on the land-based portion of your tour. 

The Homalco guides who run the land-based portion of your tour all carry bear spray, noise deterrents, and VHF radios.