Words: Eagle Wing Tours
Explore. Inspire. Conserve.
These three words underlie everything we do at Eagle Wing Tours, a 23-year-old whale and wildlife watching company based in British Columbia’s beautiful capital city of Victoria. We’ve recently joined the WCA family, and are thrilled to add certification with this worldwide marine conservation organisation to our growing list of credentials.
Allow us to introduce ourselves.
Our mission is to protect whales and other marine wildlife species, as well as their habitat, through supporting conservation initiatives, running educational programs and by operating an environmentally responsible business.
We’re an active and vocal member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) which is a collective of 28 whale watching and ecotourism businesses in the region dedicated to conservation, education and responsible whale watching.
Our big blue backyard is a region known as the Salish Sea. We share it with killer whales, humpback whales, minke whales, grey whales and (every now and then) fin whales. Our tours also feature harbour seals, sea lions, elephant seals and an occasional sea otter, as well as bald eagles and a wide variety of seabirds.
Healthy habitats and the interconnectedness of life are fundamental messages we convey to our guests. Fulfilling a wildlife bucket list is one thing, but we go much further. Our goal is to engage our guests, to connect them to this special place on an emotional level. To make them care enough to make responsible environmental decisions in their daily lives, no matter where they live.
The current global pandemic continues to be a challenge to our operations, but in normal circumstances we operate year-round with four vessels, multiple daily departures and a peak season (May to October) sighting success rate of over 95 per cent.
After a three-and-a-half-month shutdown this spring due to COVID-19, we reopened on July 1 with three vessels in operation and extensive safety protocols in place.
Environmental stewardship and sustainability have always been core values of our business. We’re Canada’s first and only 100% carbon-neutral whale watching company. We’re also the first whale watching company in the country to be certified “platinum” with Sustainable Tourism 2030 (formerly Green Tourism Canada).
In 2011, we were the first whale watching company in Canada to join ‘1% for the Planet’. In 2013, we were the first PWWA company to implement a special “wildlife fee”, with 100% of the funds going directly to conservation initiatives in the Salish Sea. Other companies have since followed our lead.
We’ve won multiple awards for our commitment to sustainability and our tour experience, including Top Sustainable Tourism Business (Canada), Top Tourism Business (Vancouver Island) and Ecostar Awards for Experiential Tourism and Environmental Leadership. In 2019, our company was profiled in Commonwealth at 70, a commemorative book published by St. James’s House in partnership with the History of Parliament Trust in the UK. As the only ecotour company in the book, we were selected for our “unique credentials in conservation, education and carbon reduction”.
We’re especially proud of our “floating classroom” education program: a partnership with teachers and marine educators in the Greater Victoria School District and the Royal BC Museum. Established in 2018, the program offers children in Grades 4-8 a three-part interactive module to learn about and experience the ocean first-hand.
Eagle Wing marine biologist Sydney talks to the kids about kelp during an education program tour in 20. Photographer: Valerie Shore
To date, more than 2,200 “marine biologists in training” have learned about the cultural and natural history of the Salish Sea. A highlight is a tour on board one of our vessels to view seals, sea lions, eagles, bull kelp ecosystems and (on some tours) whales! Poignantly, some of these children have never even been on a beach before, let alone a boat.
“We’re thrilled that our students are getting the chance to truly explore the Salish Sea and experience the diversity of living things that call it home”, says Aaron Maxwell, vice-principal of Central Middle School. “The opportunity to connect with local experts, to physically get out on the water and to witness the diversity of this area for themselves, helps the students build a connection with this incredible place”.
“An education program such as this has been a long-time dream of our company”, says Brett Soberg, Eagle Wing co-owner and captain. “It’s a tremendous success, thanks to visionary partners equally committed to a common end goal—to foster and inspire the next generation of Salish Sea stewards.”
Find out more about Eagle Wing Tours and book your next excursion here: https://www.eaglewingtours.com/
Banner Image: One of our two semi-covered vessels, Wild 4 Whales, with transient killer whales. (Please note that this photo was taken in 2019 before COVID-19 and social distancing! Our boats are capped at half- capacity now.) Photographer: Valerie Shore