“We think of it as an extreme privilege to view these animals in their natural habitat!”
– Spirit of the West owner Rick Snowdon
Our philosophy is to not interrupt the natural behaviour of the wildlife. We think of it as an extreme privilege to view these animals in their natural habitat and to catch a glimpse into their daily lives and behaviours.
The Orcas, humpbacks and other marine mammals spend their days foraging, playing and socializing, and we want to keep it this way. We strongly believe that we should do everything that we can to minimize our impacts on their natural behaviour and habitat. We follow the Be Whale Wise Guidelines, which have been established to protect both the whales and kayakers and boaters from any negative interactions as well as long term, cumulative effects.
Abiding by the Marine Mammal Viewing Guidelines means the following for kayakers:
- We never approach killer whales (orcas) closer than 200 meters and all other whales closer than 100 meters
(this may mean repositioning our kayaks as they approach).
- We position ourselves out of the path of the whales.
- We ensure that we are tight to shore or well offshore if the whales are feeding in and around the kelp line.
When travelling by motorboat (like our water taxi):
- We slow down immediately when we encounter whales
- We stay out of their path
- We do not approach from in front or behind
- We stay on the offshore side of the whales
- We put the engine into neutral or turn it off completely, and turn off all sonar and depth sounders
- We never stay with a group of whales for longer than 30 minutes.
While 200 meters may seem like a significant distance to put between yourself and an Orca whale, it is amazing how close and large they can seem when you see a six-foot tall dorsal fin from a kayak. We must also remember that these guidelines have been established using years of research examining the distances at which Orcas have been shown to be negatively impacted.