Ecotours and Wildlife Viewing

Given a temperate climate and forest, mountain, and marine environments teeming with life, it's no surprise that wildlife-watching is an important pastime and growing business in and around Vancouver. Many people walk the ocean foreshores or park and mountain trails, binoculars or scopes in hand, looking for exceptional or rare birds. Others venture onto the water to see seals, sea lions, and whales—as well as the birds that inhabit the maritime world.

Bird- and Eagle-Watching

Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. Between mid-November and mid-February, the world's largest concentration of bald eagles gathers to feed on salmon at Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, near Squamish, about an hour north of Vancouver on the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway. The Brackendale Art Gallery has a teahouse that's a good place to stop along the way. 41950 Government Rd., off Hwy. 99, Brackendale, British Columbia, V0N 1H0. www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/brackendale_eagles.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. More than 280 species of migratory and nonmigratory birds visit this nearly 350-hectare (850-acre) site on Westham Island, about an hour south of Vancouver. A seasonal highlight is the arrival of 50,000 to 100,000 Lesser Snow Geese, from early fall through winter. 5191 Robertson Rd., Delta, British Columbia, V4K 3N2. 604/946–6980; www.reifelbirdsanctuary.com. C$5. Daily 9–4.

Whale-Watching

Between April and October pods of orca whales migrate through the Strait of Georgia, near Vancouver. The area is also home to year-round pods of harbor seals, elephant seals, minke whales, porpoises, and a wealth of birdlife, including bald eagles. Other migrating whales include humpbacks and grays.

Prince of Whales. This established operator runs half-day trips from Vancouver's Coal Harbour waterfront across the Strait of Georgia to Victoria, in season. The Westin Bayshore, 1601 Bayshore Dr., West End, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6G 2V4. 888/383–4884; www.princeofwhales.com.

Wild Whales Vancouver. Boats leave Granville Island in search of orca pods in the Strait of Georgia, often traveling as far as Victoria. Rates are C$135 for a three- to seven-hour trip in either an open or glass-domed boat (trip lengths depend on where the whales are hanging out on a particular day). Each boat leaves once daily, April through October, conditions permitting. 1806 Mast Tower Rd., Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6H 4B6. 604/699–2011; www.whalesvancouver.com.

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