Eagle Wing Whale Watch Review #2
(Orange City, FL)
I can see why Eagle Wing Whale Watch is the #1 attraction in Victoria according to Trip Advisor. Although a bit pricey (about $400 for our family of 4 with 2 small kids -- don't forget the tip!) it was well worth it.
Our trip lasted 4 hours -- it left late, came back even later -- a real bonus over the 3.5 hours you pay for, if you're not in a hurry. I really appreciated the expertise of both the captain (Dave, I think) and the naturalist on board. They answered any and all questions and are clearly both passionate and knowledgeable about their subjects -- not just whales but also seals, birds, island history and even kelp.
We stopped to explore, touch and taste the kelp for about 20 minutes, including finding a little shrimp that lives inside. Who knew kelp could be so interesting?
Basically, it's fair to think of this as a naturalist tour of the Puget Sound ecosystem, with whales being the main (but not sole) focus. Capt. Dave is quite a character -- he has some strong opinions (that I tend to share) about people and the environment. He was intelligently funny (but not clownish) but most importantly VERY informative. Oh, and he handled the boat quite well, too!
Whales: yep, we saw plenty, all Orcas. Probably 20 far away (100-200 yards or more), 10 fairly close (closer than you're supposed to be, but when there are 10 whales on all sides of you and many moving TOWARD the boat, you get the bonus of seeing them pretty darn close!)
Of course, you'll see more of an entire whale and see them closer at Sea World, but that's not really the point or spirit of the whale watching tour. They are magnificent creatures, and a very different experience to see them in their natural habitats.
It's exciting to spot one, note its direction, then guess where it will come up next, and get your camera (and kids) ready for a close-up.
We went on the Goldwing -- the bigger of the two boats -- with the understanding it would be smoother. I have no point of comparison with other whale watching operations, but as someone who is susceptible to seasickness, I'm happy to report that my gamble on not taking Dramamine (it was in my pocket, but I hate how sleepy it makes me the rest of the day) paid off, and I was not even slightly seasick, nor was my son (who often gets carsick).
When the boat is moving it really does "eat waves" and provide a smooth ride. But even when going slow or when stopped, it seemed very stable and smooth (thankfully the water was also very calm). Of course, when it comes to seasickness, your mileage may vary, but they say they very rarely get people sick on these tours.
I think we could have handled the faster, smaller boat (the Eagle Wing goes 60 mph, the Gold Wing 40) but it was plenty fast enough to get out and spend tons of time with the whalies. Very well equipped -- they give you jackets (which are also life jackets but feel like nice thick coats), hats (knit pullover), sunglasses (not the greatest, so don't forget yours), and gloves and pants (no one took them up on those on our tour except a guy wearing shorts).
They even provided binoculars (one per family in our case, so if you have a pair you like and plan to be glued to them, bring 'em).
One tip for those taking the 11:00 -- obviously this cuts right into lunch. We stressed about finding sandwiches in town somewhere to take on the ride, but there are several places right on Fisherman's Wharf (within 10-30 feet of where you check in for Eagle Wing) that serve sandwiches, wraps, pastries/breads, etc. I'd suggest grabbing something there after you check in. Or eat an early lunch right there.
Apparently there is a shuttle that will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. There wasn't one the day we were there (they offered a cab, unclear if there was a voucher or if we would have paid) but it was only a 10 min. or so walk from inner harbor (where our and many hotels are).