To ensure you get a seat on the boat, reservations are accepted and may be secured with VISA, MasterCard, or American Express credit card. You may use email or fax, or telephone our office between 0600 hrs. and 1800 hrs. Pacific time. If emailing, use two or more emails for better security. We will then email you a confirmation letter. To confirm your reservation we require the following information:
• The date, boat and sailing time you want.
• Number of adults, children (4 – 12 years), children (3 & under).
• Name as it appears on your credit card – VISA, MasterCard or American Express.
• Credit card number and expiry date.
• Security number on the back of the credit card.
• A phone number should we need to reach you for any reason.
• Name of your accommodation while visiting our area (if known).
If you have limited time here, we recommend reservations so you will be sure to get a place on the boat at the time you wish. If you will be here for a few days, we recommend you come to our office or phone us as soon as you can so we can discuss boat availability, the weather and your schedule. Of course, you can come to our office the day you want to go, but remember, “Departure Time” is “Departure Time”; not what time to be at our office. Please be at our office at least 30 minutes before departure time (earlier if possible). Quite often we can accommodate last minute passenger additions to our sailings, but to avoid disappointment please come in as early as possible.
We have a “two-day” cancellation policy. That means you may cancel up two days (48 hours) prior to your sailing time without penalty. If you do not cancel and fail to show up, we will process payment. If you wish to cancel within 48 hours of sailing time you will be charged only if we cannot resell your seats. This is assuming we have filled the boat and turned away customers. If we have not filled the boat by the time you cancel, you will not be charged.
The trip is essentially the same on both boats. The faster zodiac is a shorter trip length. In some cases the faster boat may be able to react and go to a whale in a place that a slower boat may not be able to get to within its time frame. The slower boat, however, allows one plenty of time to thoroughly look over an area without going past a whale while it is under water.
Our zodiac, the “Discovery”, is an eight metre (27 foot) rigid hull inflatable. Maximum 12 passengers. Fast and fun open boat. Warm overall floater suits provided to keep you warm and shed the possible sea spray. The suits are an approved "personal flotation device" so they also serve as your life jacket and must be worn. Children too small for a suit will be given rain gear, if they do not have their own, to break the wind and shed spray. They will also get a normal life jacket to wear. We suggest parents supply extra warm clothing for those children not getting a suit. No toilet on this boat, but we have a bucket for emergencies (open air privacy at the back of the boat and everybody just looks the other way). There is no minimum or maximum age. Babies are quite often in a "snugli" on a parent's chest. No charge for babies. Most parents prefer to take babies on the cabin cruiser (see below). Because this boat ride can be a little bouncy at times (although we try to avoid it as much as possible) we advise people with back problems, a heart condition, or expectant mothers not choose this boat. If a guest insists on going anyway, we suggest they choose the back seat which is less bumpy than the front seat. All persons riding on this boat are required to sign a liability waiver form.
Our cabin cruiser, the “Dixie IV”, is an 11 metre (36 foot) former Coast Guard search and rescue boat converted to include warm and comfortable indoor seating or open deck viewing. A marine toilet is located in the forward cabin. Standard legal life jackets as well as comfortable, wearable life jackets are available on the boat. Maximum 8 or 9 passengers (private group maximum can be 10-12).
We do not guarantee wild animal sightings. That’s what a zoo is for. Our extensive experience (over 35 years) in nature cruising in Barkley Sound has given us intimate knowledge of the yearly and daily movements of the wildlife. Our boats are in constant communication by two-way radio. Our whale sighting record on actual whale watching trips is about 98% (bear sightings about 80%). Whales and bears though, are only part of the magic of Barkley Sound. The beauty of the Broken Group Islands is stunning and on almost every trip we see Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, Seals, numerous Sea Birds and possibly a Sea Otter.
Generally, the seas are calmer in the morning and more choppy in the afternoon – not always, but generally. It is true we may get fog in the morning during hot weather spells (especially in August), but it is rare for it to be foggy the whole trip and it quite often provides some unique scenery. Even the most experienced boat captains prefer mornings.
It has always been our policy to respect the wildlife we are viewing. Regulations prohibit the disturbance or harassment of marine mammals, which means no interference with the animal’s ability to hunt, feed, communicate, socialize, rest, breed, or care for its young. We are also not permitted to approach closer than 100 metres. We always try to maintain that distance; but if it appears the whale is not happy with that, we will stay further away. The whales, however, do not know about this 100-metre limit so they may turn or drift closer to us. On rare occasions, a whale may come over to the boat and do a little “people watching”.
Depending on the species of whale, weather and sea conditions, and whale activity (feeding, travelling, resting) we could see anything from a blow off in the distance to fluking, spy hopping or breaching. Most often we see the blow, then part of the whale’s back, then the tail if it does a deeper dive.
BLOW: Warm, moist whale breath condensed in the cool air and combined with water from around the blowhole to form a spray rising four to six metres into the air.
FLUKING: When the whale does a dive and shows its tail flukes.
SPY HOP: The whale slowly lifts its head straight out of the water as if to look around.
BREACHING: The whale launches itself clear out of the water and lands with a huge splash.
TAIL LOB: Multiple tail slapping of the water surface.
FEEDING LUNGE: Humpback whale feeding on a school of small fish. Similar to a spy hop but with the mouth wide open to scoop up a large amount of fish.
Low tide certainly attracts some bears to the beach sometimes but it is our experience that bear sightings are almost as common at higher tides but, of course, we do not see them on all trips.
During the spring northern migration of the Gray Whale that is that species we see. We also see, on occasion, Killer Whales (Orca) and we almost always see Sea Lions and Bald Eagles and many sea birds. On the summer cruises we take time to watch bears, which quite often are seen feeding on the Vancouver Island shoreline. Humpback whales are now our most common whale species in the summer and Sea Otters are making a remarkable comeback so sightings are not so rare.
Ucluelet (pronounced: U-CLUE-LET) is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, on the west coast of Canada. If you are driving, take the ferry from Vancouver to either Nanaimo or Victoria on Vancouver Island. From Nanaimo it is about a two and a half hour drive through Port Alberni to the West Coast. It is about five hours driving from Victoria. If you fly in to the Comox airport, it is about a three-hour drive to Ucluelet.
Ucluelet (population 1800) has all necessary services and a variety of accommodation from luxurious to basic. The name, “Ucluelet”, comes from a First Nations word meaning “people with a safe landing place”. Phase one of the Wild Pacific Trail is near Amphitrite Point lighthouse. It is about a one-hour easy hike through the rain forest and ocean coastline offering spectacular views from sunrise to sunset. Another six kilometres of trail are complete and there are future plans for more. Also in Ucluelet are a couple beautiful small beach and picnic areas, a lovely walkway bordering the boat harbour, and numerous gift shops to visit.
As you enter the Village of Ucluelet, go just past the “Welcome to Ucluelet” sign about 100 metres and look for the large brown building with the blue roof on the right side of the road. It is in the “West Ucluelet Mall” building. The street address is 1950 Peninsula Road, Ucluelet, B.C. Latitude: 48°56.666’, Longitude: 125°33.382’.
Even on warm days in the summer it is quite cool on the water so we recommend warm clothing, and in layers. That way you can remove or add clothing as required.
Yes. Even on the open zodiac, the “Discovery”, with the chance of spray, your camera can be well protected around your neck and tucked inside your suit, placed inside your seat or in a dry bag we can give you to use.
Trips will be cancelled only if wind and waves are such that it would be unsafe or very uncomfortable to go. We will not cancel due to rain. A rainy day does not necessarily mean rough seas, just as a sunny day does not necessarily mean calm seas. It’s all about the wind and waves. Since weather conditions are changeable, certain elements of the trip may be changed or omitted to avoid, or take advantage of, changing sea conditions.
If this is a concern, our advice is to choose the “Discovery” (zodiac). You are less likely to experience sea sickness because it is a different kind of ride than the “Dixie IV” (cabin cruiser). Motion sickness medication can be purchased at the local pharmacy.
We have adjusted our pricing for 2013 to reflect higher costs. We do not anticipate a fuel surcharge at this time, but with fuel prices so unpredictable, we may add a fuel surcharge from time to time. If we feel it is necessary, it will be a floating, per-person fee, that will depend on the prevailing price of fuel.