An Exceptional Orca Whale Watching Vacation by Sail
Vancouver Island, B.C.
"Some nights I hear whales in my dreams. Some nights I wake …and find it hasn't been a dream at all."
- Alexandra Morton,
Listening to Whales
(in the Great Bear Rainforest)
Northern Vancouver Island and the Broughton Archipelago is the "Serengeti of the sea": rich in wildlife, home to a complex orca / killer whale community, addictive cruising and ancient human cultures.
It is the best place on earth to see killer whales
Board the classic B.C. schooner Maple Leaf for a five-night, educational whale watching cruise
that takes you beyond the spectacle of just seeing whales, and lets you learn about their communities, and natural and human history of the entire area they inhabit.
Expect to spend hours with whales
for several days. Expect to wake at anchor in the wilderness, where mists may be rising up the mountains, and to spend your day in nature
Islands of Natural Bounty
Among the 200+ islands of the Broughton Archipelago, the orcas have come for millennia to eat salmon. The salmon support the Kwakwaka'wakw peoples, too, and a colourful frontier culture.
On Maple Leaf's Whales and Totems whale watching cruise, discover this island world, where people live in houses that float on water, where it's possible to listen to whale song as you dine, and where white beaches turn out to be the shell middens from thousands of years of human villages.
In the forests grow ancient cedars, and in the shallow water constellations of colourful sea stars and other intertidal life flourish. (We may even catch some of the succulent crabs for dinner.)
Orcas/Killer Whales, Dolphins and Other Wildlife
This area is the seasonal home to 275 killer whales known as the Northern Residents. Here, they socialize and gorge on salmon. Stand on deck and watch these whales deftly fish or raise their heads out of the water to look at you.
Keenly intelligent, killer whales have a complex, matriarchal society and an appetite for play.
Huge groups of pacific white sided dolphins and Dall's porpoises also feed here, often streaking across a channel to play in our wake. You'll be able to look them in the eye just inches away as they leap from the sea.
Humpback whales are also on the comeback in the area. Seals and sea lions share its bounty.
Thousands of seabirds - common murres, mergansers, harlequin ducks, scoters, cormorants and scores of eagles - abound.
Occasionally we'll see a grizzly or black bear fishing or eating intertidal life.
This trip is rich in variety and colourful villages.
At Alert Bay, home to one of the most impressive First Nations cultural centers on the coast, you'll learn from local residents the stories of the Kwakwala speaking peoples, see their world-renowned art and enter the world of the potlatch with a special guided tour. This tour includes the potlatch paraphernalia confiscated by the Canadian government in an infamous 1921 raid and, decades later, returned due to the work of the community.
We may also explore an ancient village site, where original carved poles and house posts still rest.
At Telegraph Cove, a turn-of-the-century hamlet of wooden homes on a boardwalk, you can see the whale museum.
Some trips visit orca researchers on a remote island, some visit a remote floating community.
Sailing on the Maple Leaf
Fresh autumn breezes make for great sailing and, depending on fate, we may find our selves at sail in the company of a whole family of killer whales.
Learn from Our Naturalists and Long Experience of Whale Watching
As you explore the area aboard Maple Leaf, our expert naturalists will help you learn about all you see.
Maple Leaf has been operating tours on the coast since 1986. Our crew's knowledge of the area and strong relationships with whale scientists will bring you your best travel experience ever.
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