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Whale watching - time of day?

Barendrecht, The...
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Whale watching - time of day?

Most whale watching companies offer 2 or 3 departures per day.

I understood that they go wherever they had reports of wildlife activity. But I was wondering if there is any difference in the chance of seeing whales/killer whales between morning/afternoon/early evening?

For example, if you go on safari, the animals are most visible and active early morning and at dusk. (of course I understand: different animals/different continent, but just to explain where my question comes from)

Or if the whale watching company relies on reported activity, is the likelihood of report lowest on the morning departure, when nobody has gone out yet?

As I only have 1 or 2 chances at most to go out on a whale watching trip, I would like to grab the best chance to actually see whales, This has been a lifelong wish. ;-)

Any advice is highly appreciated.

Vancouver-by-the-Sea
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1. Re: Whale watching - time of day?

There is no better time to see Whales since they move & feed @ will and that depends on where tides have moved the baitfish and indeed if Whales are feeding or just travelling you may only see a glimpse of them in the distance as they power along.

Edmonton, Canada
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2. Re: Whale watching - time of day?

i like going in the afternoon just because it's usually warmer

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: Whale watching - time of day?

Whale watching isn't like a land safari - time of day has no impact on better sightings or whale behaviour. But you're right - the first tours in the morning usually don't know where the whales are yet, so it's more of an expedition and a "where are they?" mystery, which every single whale watching operator is playing. Once spotted, all the tour companies radio in to each other so they all benefit. And then once they've spotted the whales in the morning, they usually continue tracking their movements all throughout the day, so they know the direction they're travelling in by afternoon. Whales (orcas, specifically) travel VAST distances in the span of a few hours, so we're talking geographically vast areas where they could potentially be located.

Usually on the afternoon trips, you spend less time travelling on the water searching the various potential locations, and instead, you just go directly to the location they estimate the whales to be located in, based on the direction and speed they were last travelling. Because there are strict time limits for how long boats can be next to the whales (I seem to recall the maximum limit is 20 minutes), the afternoon trips don't actually spend more time with whales - it just means you don't spend as long on the water searching for them, so the trips can sometimes be shorter in length.

This is the context of whale watching out of the southern Vancouver Island/Gulf Islands area.

Edited: 1:18 pm, March 29, 2014
Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: Whale watching - time of day?

I should also mention, having been on both morning and afternoon whale watching trips, if you love nature and being out on the water, there's something sublime about being out early in the morning on the water. I used to enjoy the search for the whales, because it meant we would travel all over the place, exploring the nooks and crannies of the San Juan Islands and the Gulf Islands, often spotting other wildlife (seals, sea lions, bald eagles, porpoises, etc.) along the way. We'd geographically see more. Again, this is in the context of tours departing from Vancouver, heading across the Strait of Georgia, into the dozens of channels between the various Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands.

The afternoon trips also have their own set of pros, as already mentioned, it is usually warmer by afternoon, and another factor, depending on the whale watching company, is that usually the afternoon trip is the last trip of the day, so the boats don't have to rush back to the port for another tour... it can be more of a relaxing trip.

Edited: 1:25 pm, March 29, 2014
Barendrecht, The...
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5. Re: Whale watching - time of day?

Thank you for the very useful replies.

Always nice to see how people are willing to help total strangers.

Vancouver, Canada
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6. Re: Whale watching - time of day?

I've been out in July on an afternoon tour. Mainly because the time can be spent watching whales, not looking for them. The boats are all in radio contact with each other, so they all find the whales once one boat spots them.

But it is at least 5C colder on the water. Unless you want to be sitting in the cabin, you will be putting on your jacket, hat and gloves. Some of the pax tied down their jacket hoods so tightly, they could have been taken for rugby heads. If the wind from the boat moving doesn't get you (and it will move if it has to make time out into the Strait or is late leaving the whales back to port) the spray from the bow up and over the gunwales will.

7. Re: Whale watching - time of day?

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