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Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

Hong Kong
Level Contributor
331 posts
22 reviews
Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

We are a retired couple from Hong Kong in our early 60’s. We are “keen" whale watchers and have literally traveled to the 4 corners of the world for such purpose. Last 2 years, we visited Canadian high arctic twice to see the narwhals and bowheads (on board NG Explorer in 2016, and to the floe edge by Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet this June). Saw our first whale a humpback in Juneau back in 2002, blue whales in Monterey Bay, orcas in Alaska, the St Lawrence River belugas near Taudossac, sperm whales in Kaikoura (NZ), bryde’s whales in Hauraki Gulf (NZ), southern right whales in Hermanus near Cape Town, fin whales in Greenland, gray whales in Baja, and many types of whales in Antarctica.

Over the years, we learnt there is never any guarantee in wildlife watching. We always feel blessed with whatever mother nature is willing to show us. Even at times when we saw no whales on a tour, we still count our blessing just for the opportunity of being out there with nature. We heard the humpbacks often practise bubble-net feeding in the water off Juneau and Prince Rupert in summer. We are planning to spend 10-days and go out 5 times or more to try our luck. Our preliminary finding on these 2 good destinations are:

- Juneau: best timing end-Jul for bubble net feeding. Pros: more protected water. Cons: many whale watching boats and many cruises.

- Prince Rupert: best timing early-Aug. Pros: only one outfitter and hence less boats juggling for position, lower prices in tour/lodging, less cruise ships. Cons: less protected water.

They are both good and we are torn between these 2 choices. While I fully understand it will be difficult to get opinion from someone who have visited both, we are hoping that you can share your experiences on either if not both. We are posting this question on both Juneau and Prince Rupert forums in order to maximise our learning.

Sorry for the long message. But we want to give you some background as well as more details on what we are looking for. Any comments/suggestions will be very welcome and much appreciated!

12 replies to this topic
Penticton, Canada
Level Contributor
19,958 posts
28 reviews
1. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

hi

Nothing specific to your query. This is general info "just in case" you had not yet come across it during your research.

Have you looked at the Alaska Marine Highway ferries which might give you a chance to see something in both locations; the latter question might find more answers on the Alaska forum.

https:/…

Seattle is the flight hub to get to Alaska - Vancouver has a few seasonal flights out of YVR to only a few Alaska destinations.

North Vancouver Island is also a destination for whale watching; the ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy is found here www.bcferries.com Port McNeil and Telegraph Cove BC has whale watching boat tours.

http://www.vancouverislandnorth.ca/

There is a resident pod of Orcas at the south end of Vancouver Island has boat tours out of Victoria BC also same company doing tours out of Steveston BC; a suburb of Vancouver.

I follow a wildlife photographer from Vancouver Island on Flickr - she got this last week https://flic.kr/p/Y1t4ff when you join Flickr you can leave messages to make queries as I have not seen her on TA.

Edited: 18 September 2017, 04:56
Vancouver-by-the-Sea
Destination Expert
for British Columbia
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9,753 posts
1 review
2. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

I have to go with Juneau many more options & attractions for visitors since it has 3 times the population Prince Rupert just doesn't try hard enough to be tourist friendly plus it rains at least 40% more than Juneau.

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
32,294 posts
62 reviews
3. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

Sam's comment about the weather is fair, however, cbarch's suggestion to use the ferries to travel between the two locations is an interesting suggestion that would allow you to try both spots. Flight into Juneau in late July, ferry to PR, flight out of PR in early August.

I've been to both towns, but not whale watching from either. Both are cute, scenic locations.

Hong Kong
Level Contributor
331 posts
22 reviews
4. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

"Flight into Juneau in late July, ferry to PR, flight out of PR in early August"

This is a GREAT idea! I didn't realise there is a ferry going from Juneau to PR. Vancouverite67 and cbarch, can't thank you both enough for this excellent suggestion!!! Although I have not been able to get the ferry schedule from www.ferryalaska.com for Jul 2018 (it only has schedule upto April for now), this really seems to be the best solution.

I can probably squeeze in 12-13 days between these 2 destinations - 7-8 days for Juneau, 1 day on the ferry and 4 days for PR. Sam, does this split make sense?

P.S. the photos are truly awesome, thanks for sharing the link!

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
32,294 posts
62 reviews
5. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

This would allow you to consider other Alaskan destinations if you wanted to as well. I haven't looked too closely at the routing and schedules, but it might work well to stop for a couple of days in Ketchican, for example. I realize your priority is clearly whale viewing, which is a wonderful way to focus your travels, but you could use this one way route to do a bit of touring in southeast Alaska as well. Anyway, as you mention, you'll need to wait for the Summer 2018 ferry schedules to come out before you can plan too much. Folks on the Alaska forum can probably advise about how much they change year to year and what the usual routing and scheduling is for this itinerary, which would help you do some advance planning.

Penticton, Canada
Level Contributor
19,958 posts
28 reviews
6. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

hi chc

FYI

During a road trip in 2014; with our own car driving in on Highway 16 we spent 3 nights and 2 full days in PR; We did not take the Adventure boat tour. In those 2 full days we had seen everything including the Cannery in Port Edwards https://www.northpacificcannery.ca/ with 3 full days you could take the Adventure boat tour but it might be redundant if when cruising the inside passage on the AMS gives you lots of sightings. Checking the recent schedule there is a daytime sailing from Ketchikan.

We were lucky and picked 3 sunny days for our stay in PR; we were prepared for the rain. these are pics we got from that trip https://www.northpacificcannery.ca/

what we still remember (-:

The Breakers Pub in Cows Bay even though not inviting from the outside is an amazing space on the inside and had great food. We are not great museum visitors but I would go back to Museum of the North.

The garden behind the courthouse was worth browsing through. The murals around town were amazing.

to note:

the commercial flights out of PR all go to Vancouver which is the hub. The regional airport which has more destinations is in Terrace.

BC Ferries goes to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island (16 hrs) and; there is one that goes between Haida Gwaii and PR; but that is another adventure (-: http://www.gohaidagwaii.ca/

www.bcferries.com As the sailing are not set for next year and; we have a new government; sailings and routes may vary in the new year.

Prince Albert, Sask.
Level Contributor
90 posts
172 reviews
7. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

We whale watched in Juneau in early September and saw many whales. Truly amazing experience! Haida Gwaii is suppose to be also a great place for whale watching. I have heard May is best. Not sure about August.

Level Contributor
177 posts
637 reviews
8. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

Hi chc9533, that's an impressive number of places you've seen whales. Both Antarctica and Pond Inlet? Those places have to have drained a large part of your pocket book.lol. I've looked into Pond Inlet and Antarctica, not to mention Hermanus in the past. The last one is reasonably priced. The other two mentioned about made me fall off my chair when I saw the price. I've read reports about bubble net feeding near Juneau and would say late July into August are the best months to see it. What I plan on doing to save money to find out if they're doing bubble netting or not is going down to the dock and talking to fisherman about if they've seen it or not in the last day or so. If they say yes, then go out later that day or the next day or two. The whales have a tendency to do it for two to four days consecutively it appears. Have you looked at visiting Taku Lodge through Wings Airways? I did that excursion during my time in Juneau and LOVED it😀. Another thing I was curious about is if you have ever thought about visiting Loreto, Mexico or La Paz, Mexico on the Sea of Cortez side. Those two areas are AMAZING for snorkeling with whale sharks, sea lions and seeing an astounding variety of whales. Loreto area is considered one of the best if not the best areas in the world to see blue whales. The company I tried to find at the pier early in the morning told me when I found them out on the water they had seen seven in less than two hours. Wow!! There is a mesmerizing number of species of whales you can see in those areas. We saw a pod of over 100 dolphins swimming and diving. Amazing!! You can swim with the whale sharks and sea lions not too far from La Paz harbor. In both areas you can see the blue footed boobies and magnificent frigates, birds found almost exclusively on the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador. The best time, of course is December to early March.

Penticton, Canada
Level Contributor
19,958 posts
28 reviews
9. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

@tiigerman777

i gave up reading because there are no paragraphs. The return/enter key does not send your post but creates a space so the text is much easier to read.

Hong Kong
Level Contributor
331 posts
22 reviews
10. Re: Whale Watching - Prince Rupert or Juneau? Please help!

"Flight into Juneau in late July, ferry to PR, flight out of PR in early August"

Vancouverite67 and cbarch,

Just want to report back on our travel plan. Unfortunately the above plan didn't work out - surprisingly NOT because of the AMHS ferry. The ferry schedule actually works well, but out of the 4 days in PR, we can only go out once with Adventure Tours - not a productive use of time to us. The AT people were super nice, but some of their summer schedule are reserved entirely for the cruises hence only limited sailing is available for travellers like us. Also, they suggested late August is a better timing for seeing bubble feeding. As such, we decided to spend our entire 10 days in Juneau in late July going out on small boats with Harv & Marv's. We will fly back to Vancouver via Seattle from Juneau. However, we will still make it to Prince Rupert in the later part of August taking a detour from our 6-week road trip to Dempster Hwy! We will only stay for 2 nights in PR and go out once with AT. Whether or not we are fortunately enough to see bubble net feeding, we will undoubtedly have a great time in both destinations.

Tigerman777,

Thanks for your note. Yes, we have actually visited Baja twice. First time in 2014 visiting San Ignacio and Lopez Mateos for the gray whales, then Loreto for the blue and dolphins. We had a pair of mom&calf spending an entire hour with us alone. They swam all around and under our small skiff, it was magical. We returned in 2016 with friends but skipped the more famous San Ignacio as we had better experience in LM. However, while our group still have a great time, there were many more boats in LM this time and becoming like San Ignacio. Yes, we saw many blue whales in the Sea of Cortex off Loreto, and as you said, the sighting there were fantastic and even better than our past sighting in Monterrey Bay. We also went to swim with the whale sharks in La Paz Bay in 2016. This was a great place to meet the world's largest fish because they were closed to town and water was shallow hence the whale sharks wouldn't dive too deep from us. All and all, Baja is just a wonderful place for marine life where you can see the world's largest creature and the world's largest fish all in one trip. The local people were very friendly, helpful and pleasant. We felt so very sorry to hear the latest drug wars - the wonderful locals really don't deserve all this!

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