Private Charter Marine EcoTours & Nature Photography

Vancouver Island British Columbia Marine Ecotours personalized for your group of up to 8 passengers

  • Prime viewing California & Northern Sea Lions at Race Rocks September through January
  • Orcas , Grays, Minkes and Humpback whales April through October - we do NOT offer private whale watching tours, only public ones shown here
  • Seabirds are varied by season and seen year-round
  • Nature photography charters

Tuffted Puffin

The Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Canadian Gulf islands and the American San Juan Islands are rich in  wildlife which are best observed in their natural habitat from the water.

While southern Vancouver Island is best known for it pods of resident and transient Orca killer Whales, Minke, Gray and Humpback whales are being seen in increasing frequency.

Minke whales or Balenoptera acutorostrata are commonly seen in the currents just off Sea Bird Point Lighhouse on Discovery Island.

Humpback whales are often see in the vicinity of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve Marine Protected Area in Metchosin just out of Pedder Bay Marina.

From September through April local nature reserves become home to hundreds of Stellar and California Sea Lions. Elephant and Harbour Seals share these reserves with the sea lions.

Pelagic birding in the Victoria area offers a variety of seabirds which frequent our shores and local waters. Some examples include Bald Eagles, Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, Mergansers, Harlequin Ducks.

Dahls Porpoise San Juan Islands
Dahls Porpoise San Juan Islands - Photo Credit Jeff Lorton

Marine EcoTours & Soft Adventures

The ocean straits off Vancouver Island are internationally renowned for our resident pods of Orca killer whales. The surrounding areas are also abundant in many species of marine wildlife and pelagic-seabirds. Both recreational, and naturalist guided tours are available for private charters. Gray, Humpback and Minke Whales are also often spotted here.


 Fin of male Orca which went on to pass under the Zodiac

Quicktime Movie 2.1 MB

wmv movie with audio 1.43 MB


  • Pelagic Birding - discover nature all around you
  • Whale watching - Orcas, Humpbacks, Minkes and Greys
  • Protective Cruiser Survival suits supplied for all weather excursions
  • Marine toilet in center-consol Helm cabin

Orca killer whales just off Victoria

Actual photographs from our Zodiac Marine EcoTour Outings August 2004

Orca killer whales just off Victoria

Charters are booked exclusively for your group - no one else is invited along - up to 10 passengers in total. Rates are published here. Some tours not suitable for children under 6.

Marine eco tours can include whale and bird watching, wildlife observation along shores, lagoons and in harbours, or just general island hopping in the Gulf Islands. If you wish to go boating and/or swimming in any one of a number of nearby lakes such as Shawnigan lake, or in one of the many "secret" warm ocean currents our boat is also equipped with a swim ladder.

Departure points can be from anywhere on Vancouver Island since we can easily trailer the boat. On southern Vancouver Island we commonly depart from Victoria, Metchosin, Sidney, Sooke, Mill Bay, Cowichan Bay and Chemainus.

The Gulf Islands provide superb opportunities for birding, with sea birds nesting throughout the southern islands. Species include cormorants, gulls, tufted puffins, guillemots and the great blue heron. Loons are most populous in April and May when they are flying north on the Pacific Flyway to their northern nesting grounds. The king of Gulf Island birds is the bald eagle. Eagles are common on the islands, and you’ll see their huge stick nests atop many trees along the shorelines.

Much of the shoreline of the southern islands is rocky and rugged, often with cliffs, which the sea erodes. Vegetation on the islands is primarily Douglas fir, with groves of Madrone (arbutus) and some Garry oak. There is also some western red cedar. Salal is the dominant plant in the underbrush, along with salmonberry and huckleberry. Like the San Juans to the south, the Gulf Islands are composed primarily of sandstone and shale. Only the southern part of Salt Spring Island is volcanic in nature.

California Sea Lion at Race RockThe Northern and the California Sea Lions are two types of Sea Lions that are quite prevalent in the southern Vancouver Island area. Stellar adult males measure an average 2.8m (maximum 3.2m) in length, and weigh an average 566kg (maximum 1,120kg), while females are smaller at 2.3m (maximum 2.9m) in length, and 263kg (maximum 350kg) in weight. Pups are born measuring about 1m in length and weighing 16-23kg. Females reach sexual maturity at 3-8 years of age, males at 3-7 years of age. Most territorial bulls are between 9-13 years of age. A Steller sea lion has been observed diving to a depth of over 400m. Females can live up to 30 years of age, males up to about 20.

Adult male California sea lions measure up to 2.4m in length and weigh an average of 275kg (maximum 390kg), while adult females measure an average of 1.8m (maximum 2m) in length and weigh an average of 80-91kg (maximum 110kg). Galapagos sea lions are generally smaller in size than California sea lions. Pups of the species measure about 70-80cm and weigh 6-9kg at birth, male pups being born heavier than female pups. Both males and females of the species reach sexual maturity at about 4-5 years of age, but males may not achieve territorial status until approximately 8-9 years of age. A California sea lion was observed diving to a depth of 376m, and the longest dive yet recorded was for 8 minutes. It is thought that members of both subspecies can live for 15-24 years.

Kelp greenling by Race RocksBlood Star fish








Kelp Greenling are one of the most abundant bottom or demersal fish in the shallow benthic community at Race Rocks. Males and females are sexually dimorphic, the females being a distinct orange color, while the males are bluish in colour.

Blood stars are seen frequently by divers in the 0-15 meter depth at Race Rocks. They are planktonic feeders.

Cruising for nature

Humpys, Orcas, Stellars and California Sea Lions all in one afternoon

Every day is a unique adventure out on the Salish Sea but today’s trip stood out. We launched at Pedder Bay Marina in Metchosin to place us close to Race Rocks. As the California and Stellar Sea Lion bulls were entertaining us from their perches on the rock formations we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a dozen or so of these mamoths swimming, diving and porpoising. Then the incredible happened. One of the stellars suddenly sprang out of the water not 40 feet from us with a huge salmon which it had just caught as it breached the surface. The salmon was squirming it the sea lion’s mouth. Just as quickly as the stellar had surfaced he dove again and repeated this motion 2 more times. All the while a dozen or so of his very excited mates were porpoising almost in unison as a group. In 12 years being out here on the ocean that was a first for me. This was just the begginning of our adventure. We had heard reports of 4 to 6 humpbacks in the general vicinity over the past week. As we networked with our colleagues we heard 6 transient orcas were nearby. We spent a bit of time enjoying the orcas before heading out in the direction of the shipping lanes where soon we spotted 4 humpbacks. They put on quite a show for us including some excellent tail flukes. The humpbacks were also very vocal. All this in the space of 4 hours on one of those special autumn days when the seas were calm and the sun was out.