Subtidal Adventures Ucluclet-9

Raise your hands if you’ve ever been awed by a whale sighting, or ever been captivated by a Bald eagle gliding majestically in the sky. We are spoiled here on the West Coast with an abundance of wildlife! Ucluelet’s Subtidal Adventures has been in the business of taking visitors out to spot wildlife for 40 years now.

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There are two types of tours offered: The faster Discovery (zodiac-style) boat, and the slower Dixie IV cabin cruiser. Both tours depart from Ucluelet Harbour and run between three and four hours with daily departures.

Subtidal Adventures is fully onboard with COVID-19 safety measures. Between tours, all boats are sanitized. Upon check-in and waiver-signing, all guests must be free of COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days and have not been in contact with anyone infected by COVID-19. Face masks are worn by all staff and guests during the tour.

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Their season begins with the Gray whale, mammals who breed and calve over the winter in warm Mexican waters then migrate up the coast towards Alaska in search of food. Grey Whales typically spout three or four times in a minute, then arch their backs, a signal that they’re about to dive.

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Humpbacks mostly migrate from Hawaii to Alaska and have become a more common sighting in Barkley Sound over the past two decades. Orcas, on the other hand, are less predictable. Grey whales can also be spotted here; they tend to spend winter in Mexico and then migrate to the Bering Sea (as well as our local waters) in summer. As far as food, Grey whales feed off herring eggs while Humpbacks prefer the actual herring.

You may also spot black bears (depending on the season), sea lions, sea otters, Bald eagles and Blue Herons on any given day.

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The Zodiac’s an eight-metre (27 foot) long inflatable craft with padded seating to accommodate up to 12 passengers. They’re coast-guard approved and provide a fast and exhilarating ride on the water. The Dixie IV, a former Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue boat, was built in 1950 and is 11 meters (36) feet in length.

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Up until 1972, she was part of Tofino’s Coast Guard lifeboat station, and later with the Pacific Ri National Park. In 1980, Subtidal Adventures acquired the Dixie IV and modified its cabin to seat nine guests inside (with an open deck viewing area and small forward cabin containing a marine toilet). This cute little boat is geared towards a slower-paced tour and perfect for wildlife photography enthusiasts.

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Once we’ve been fitted with our “exposure suits” and been given a briefing by captain Brian, we make our way out of the Ucluelet Harbour and immediately spot a Blue Heron and a pair of Bald eagles circling overhead.

We learn that Ucluelet is a First Nations word that translates to “people with a safe landing place”. We spot several buildings along the dock, where fish are kept on ice then brought to Vancouver for processing.

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Along the way, Brian points out a colony of California sea lions getting a handout of fish scraps at one of the fish processing plants along the harbour.

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We’re lucky to see several spouts in the distance; but it’s a lone humpback whale that captures our attention for some time during our tour.

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As it’s only feeding close to the water’s surface, we don’t get to behold the classic tail dive however this whale does stick close by and we enjoy several great moments of this majestic creature before making our way to a community of Stellar sea lions sunbathing on the rocks and playing in the water while a Bald eagle and Peregrine falcon look on.

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Cute little sea offers like to hang out by the seaweed and wrap themselves in it, in order to avoid drifting away!

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This is an exhilarating experience and ideally suited for nature lovers and photographers alike. We return with a rekindled love of our province’s natural beauty.

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Find Subtidal Adventures at 1950 Peninsula Road in Ucluelet, and visit them online for booking and tour info. Pricing is $129 (adults 19 and over), $119 (youth 13-18) and $99 (children 4-12).

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Note that as a safety protocol, Subtidal is not accepting international travellers on their tours until the Canadian border re-opens.

Our whale watching tour was provided courtesy of Subtidal Adventures for the purpose of this feature. Opinions, as always, are our own.

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