This was by far the most exciting experience i had in Vancouver! I have been interested in orcas for quite some time, watched TV specials, read books about them, but i never dreamed that i would be within arm's reach of them in their natural habitats. Turns out, i was worng. :)
Steveston is about a 30 minute bus ride south of downtown Vancouver, a lovely fishing village with some great old buldings and good seafood at the harbor. This is where the only whale watching company that operates from Vancouver is located. When you get off the bus, walk directly to the docks and you will see the sign for the whale watching tour. First you have to go to the office in a nearby building where you get into your funky orange overalls that will prevent you from the wind and salty water of the ride on the ocean.
When everyone is ready they take you to the inflatable boat (don't worry, they say it's safe :) ), and the 40 minute ride begins to the straight where the orcas like to hang out. On the way there you see eagles, seals, sea lions, and more animals. The guides are professional naturalists and they are just as enthusiastic and excited as every passenger that is there for the first time. They answer questions and tell you about the animals you see, as well as the places you see from the boat. Steveston is located at the delta of the Fraser river, and it's incredible to ride over the line that separates the sea water from the river. (I won't describe it more specifically, because it is such a unique site and i never imagined it is like that. See it for yourself!)
When we got to the straight there were already a couple of other whale watching boats there from Victoria, and we discovered a large pod of whales very soon. First they were a bit further away, you could see their fins and the water splashing but not much more. But then they started swimming towards us, they came closer and we could see them better. Then they swam further away again. We hung out there watching them for about 30-40 minutes and then started heading back to Steveston.
And then... the most thrilling thing happened. The whales came following us, and the whole pod swam around our little boat. There was a pair of whales that played their games with us, they swam towards us and then swam under the boat and came back right next to us. It was an incredible experience. I will never forget it in my life. I can't wait to go back to them!
See their official site at www.vancouverwhalewatch.com Their phone number is (604) 274-9565. Whales are in the area only May through October, so that is when you can take the tour.