Sea Otter and Whale Watching Tours

Sea otter tours with Zeballos Expeditions

Watch sea otters frolic in the waters around Nootka Island on Canada's Pacific Coast aboard our vessel Nootka Express!

Sea otters are playful and affectionate sea mammals with the mothers carrying juvenile sea otters until they are nearly the same size.

Unlike other marine mammals, sea otters are not insulated by blubber but depend on their extremely thick fur for warmth. Their high metabolic rate is fuelled by constant feeding on shell fish, sea urchins and other marine invertebrates. Their use of tools is unique. They swim around with a rock about the size of your fist under their armpits. After finding food, they lie on their backs placing a rock on their chest and bang their shellfish until it breaks open so they can feast on their catch. Often kayakers camped on islands in Nuchatlitz tell of lying awake at night listening to the clack, clack, clack of rocks and shellfish banging together.

Sea otters can reach 100 lb (45 kilos), because of their size and dense fur, they were hunted to extinction on the BC coast. About 30 years ago, they were re-introduced in the Bunsby Islands. Since then, their numbers have dramatically increased. This has had a profound effect on the local ecology because it enabled the return of kelp forests, an important juvenile fish habitat, by removing the main grazer, the sea urchins, a favorite menu item for the otters. A welcome side effect is the increase in local humpback whales and other species feeding on small and juvenile fish.

During our tour, the boat will approach rafts of sea otters close enough to see and photograph them but not near enough to cause stress. Also, we cannot stop the boat as that will spook them. Rafts maintain sentries on the outskirts of rafts; spy-hopping is a distinctive behaviour, where the otter will rise up in water for better view. Single sea otters are often seen in Nuchatlitz Park and are less timid than the rafts.

Each trip lasts three and a half hours with lots of opportunity to see the otters but there is more -

At low tide, during late spring, you will often see our beach bears - large black bears foraging along the beaches. On occasion, you may spot wolves and cougars swimming between islands. Sea lions, porpoises and whales are frequently seen. Fall months bring the many migratory birds heading south while eagles and marine birds are present year round.

Sea otter tours take place during morning hours when the sea is calmest; aboard our 28 ft flat bottomed skiff. Great for photos and video shoots!

Warm, waterproof clothing and a sense of wonder are necessary. Bring your binoculars and cameras too.

Price: $900
Group size: up to 12 passengers; 5 hours, lunch included

Whale watching

During the past few summers, lots of humpback whales have been showing up in our inlets. We suspect they are following the pilchard [herring] schools. The best months are August and September and October. They can be observed breaching, bubble netting and trapping their prey next to rock walls. Vocalizing is common, especially when a infant whale is in the group.

Gray whales, minkes and orcas are also frequently spotted. West Coast transient orcas are different from the more commonly seen East side resident Orcas. Rather than eating fish, they feed on other sea mammals such as Sealions, sea otters and other whales. Be warned! Their feeding behaviour is not for the faint of heart!

Price: $900
Group size: up to 12 passengers; 5 hours, lunch included

Yuquot Special

For an additional $150 per boat trip, we are offering the option to visit Yuquot (Friendly Cove) rather than Nuchatlitz. This is the site of an ancient Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations village and the spot of the first European settlement of British Columbia. This tour has a 12 person limit.