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Frequently asked questions

How can I make a reservation?
lunge feeding whale

To ensure you get a seat on the boat, reservations are accepted and may be secured with full payment using VISA, MasterCard, or American Express credit card. You may use our secure “Book Now” page on our web site, email, fax, or telephone our office between 0600 hrs. and 1700 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*:

 

1. * The date, boat and sailing time you want.
2. * Number of adults (19+), youth (13-18), children (1-12).
3. * Name as it appears on your credit card – VISA, MasterCard or American Express.
4. * Credit card number and expiry date.
5. * Security number on the back of the credit card (AmEx - on front).
6. * Mobile phone number if you will have one while on holiday.
7. * Name of your accommodation while here.
8. How did you hear about us?

 

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What is your cancellation policy?

We have a “two-day” cancellation policy. Cancellation is permitted and your deposit will be refunded (subject to a 5% service charge) up to two days (48 hours) prior to your sailing time. If cancellation is within 48 hours of sailing time, you will be refunded (subject to a 5% service charge) only if we can resell your seats. If we cancel a trip due to weather or other unforeseen circumstance, you will be fully refunded. If you fail to arrive at our ticket office by check-in time, 30 minutes prior to departure, your reservation may be cancelled with no refund, and your seats may be sold to standby passengers.

Do I really need to make a reservation or can I just come to your office the day of the trip?

If you have limited time here, we recommend reservations so you will be sure to get a place on the boat, time and day you wish. Our advice is to make it for your first day here so you have an option available should, for example, we need to postpone due to weather. If you will be here for a few days and have not made a reservation, we recommend you come to our office or phone us as soon as you can so we can discuss boat availability, departure times, 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. You must be at our office at least 45 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.
Highway road safety improvement project possibly through to the end of 2022. Expect delays. About 20 minutes away from Ucluelet, or about 70 minutes from Port Alberni, is ongoing major road work involving up to 30-minute delays with single lane alternating traffic. An assortment of longer full closures are also scheduled from time to time. Updated schedules are available at www.facebook.com/eac.bc.ca.kennedy.hill/ or www.discoverucluelet.ca/kennedyhill

Faster zodiac style or Slower cabin cruiser

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 exposure suits are provided to keep you warm and shed the possible sea spray. The suits are a Coast Guard approved "personal flotation device" so they also serve as your lifejacket 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 lifejacket 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). Children under 4 years old are not permitted on the zodiac. 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.

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, although it may be difficult to access for those of a more robust stature.All passengers 16 years and older will wear a comfortable inflatable lifejacket, and those under 16 years old will wear a comfortable regular lifejacket. Those lifejackets are on the boat in addition to the Transport Canada legally required life jackets. Maximum 9 passengers.
At check-in, all passengers will be required to sign a liability waiver form and COVID-19 declaration.. See the last question below.

Do you guarantee whale or bear sightings?
bear cub

We are dealing with the natural environment which we cannot control, so there is no guarantee. However, most years the sighting percentage for bears on a bear tour and whales on a whale tour is about 95%.

Our extensive experience (over 40 years) nature cruising in Barkley Sound has given us intimate knowledge of the yearly and daily movements of the wildlife; which can change from one year, month, week, day, or hour, to the next. Our boats are in constant communication by two-way radio. Whales and bears though, are only part of the magic of Barkley Sound. The beauty of the coast is stunning and on almost every trip we see Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Bald Eagles, numerous Sea Birds and quite often a Sea Otter.

During recent summers, our most dependable whales have been further away, which means our faster “Discovery” zodiac style boat has a higher chance of encountering a whale and our slower “Dixie IV” cabin cruiser has a lower chance. We therefore do not offer a summer “Whale Watching” trip on the Dixie IV. Instead, in addition to a Bear Watching tour, we have a general marine mammal nature tour called “Islands and Sea Things”.


Is it better in the morning or the afternoon; and what about the fog?

Generally, the seas are calmer in the morning and more choppy in the afternoon – not always, but generally. For us, morning light makes finding a whale a little easier. It makes no difference to the whales; they will be where the food is. 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. We will not cancel a trip due to fog.

How close to wildlife do you get?

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. For Gray and Humpback whales, we are not permitted to approach closer than 100 metres. We will 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”. For Orcas, we will maintain a 200 metre distance; or 400 metres if it is the Southern Resident population.

What kind of whale behaviour can we expect to see?

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.

 

I’ve heard bear watching is best at low tide. Is that true?

Our Bear Watching tours are scheduled around low tide which exposes areas the bears can look for crabs and worms hiding under rocks. It is our experience though, that bear sightings are also possible at medium tides, but like all wildlife, we do not see them on all trips, no matter what the tide level.

What other kinds of wildlife are commonly seen on your boat tours?

During the spring northern migration of the Gray Whale, that is the species we see. We also see, on occasion, Orca, and we usually see Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Bald Eagles and many sea birds. On the whale and marine mammal cruises, we may get lucky with a bear 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.

Where is Ucluelet?

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 into the Comox or Nanaimo airport, it is about a three-hour drive to Ucluelet.

Ucluelet (population 2000) has all necessary services and a variety of accommodation from luxurious to basic. The name, “Ucluelet”, comes from an indigenous First Nations word meaning “people with a safe harbour”. Phase one of the world famous 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 eight 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.

Highway 4 construction

Highway road safety improvement project possibly through 2022. Expect delays. About 20 minutes away from Ucluelet, or about 70 minutes from Port Alberni, is ongoing major road work involving up to 30-minute delays with single lane alternating traffic. An assortment of longer full closures is also scheduled from time to time. Check current schedule: www.facebook.com/eac.bc.ca.kennedy.hill/ or www.discoverucluelet.ca/kennedyhill

Where is your office?

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’.

Highway road safety improvement project through to near the end of 2022. Expect delays. About 20 minutes away from Ucluelet, or about 70 minutes from Port Alberni, is ongoing major road work involving up to 30-minute delays with single lane alternating traffic. An assortment of longer full closures are also scheduled from time to time. Updated schedules are available at:"http://www.facebook.com/eac.bc.ca.kennedy.hill/" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/eac.bc.ca.kennedy.hill/ or www.discoverucluelet.ca/kennedyhill

Where can I park my RV?

We have ample free parking for cars and RV’s at our ticket office and it is a short, five minute walk to the boat dock. There is also free parking for cars at the dock but in the busy summer months parking space is limited.

What should I wear for clothing?

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.

Can I bring my camera?

Yes. Even on the open boat, 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.

 

Do you still go out if it is rainning?

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, unless it is heavy 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 we cancel a trip, you will be refunded.

Sea sickness

If this is a concern, our advice is to choose the “Discovery” (zodiac style). 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. Sea sickness is not an issue for our Dixie IV Bear Watching tour which is less likely to leave the harbour.

Do you have a fuel surcharge?

We adjust our pricing once a year, if necessary, to reflect our costs. We do not normally have a fuel surcharge 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, which will depend on the prevailing price of fuel.

Is it necessary to sign the Liability Waiver Form?

It is a requirement of our insurance company that all participants sign our Liability Waiver form. A parent or guardian must also sign if the participant is under 19 years of age. This can be done at our ticket office, at check-in, when you get your boarding pass. Click here to read the Waiver Form.