The Five Star Advantage

Often imitated but never duplicated or equalled, Five Star is the original family owned and operated whale watching company. As founders of whale watching as a staple activity in Victoria and over 30 years of experience, we have some of the most hands on, passionate and knowledgeable crew in the marine industry. Guest comfort and a high level of customer service is paramount in all we do.

Our office is conveniently located in Victoria’s vibrant downtown at the renowned Fairmont Empress hotel and our tours depart a short walk from the office in Victoria’s lively inner harbour.

“Turning Heads since 1985” is much more than just our catchy tag line. It is also a description of what Five Star Whale Watching has consistently done with innovative vessel design and attention to the passenger experience. It also explains why we are Victoria’s longest running and most respected Whale Watching Company!

Our Mission

Our Mission is to Educate, Advocate, Inspire, Preserve & Protect the incredible Marine Environment. Join one of our tours and Discover why “We Like Our Whales Wild”!

Company History

Eric & Kathy, our original owners, began as operating fishing charters in 1985 but soon realized the growing attraction of watching Orcas (Killer Whales) & other Whales in their natural environment. So began Five Star Whale Watching, now Victoria’s longest running family owned Whale Watching company. In 2017 Andrew, who had been part of the Management team at Five Star since 2006, purchased the company when Eric & Kathy retired. 


The Five Star Movement

Founders of environmental movement to protect the SRKW’s with rules and guidelines surrounding West Coast whale watching – founding partner of the PWWA and avid supporters of the Centre for Whale research.

We incorporate the reduce reuse recycle motto in all we do. We live in one of the best places in the world to enjoy whale watching – let our expert staff and crew educate and inspire you with the wonders of the Salish Sea.

Join us for one of the most comprehensive educational and exciting trips you will ever experience! We are committed to environment stewardship and are part of the 1% To the Planet. Our everyday operations are conducted in the most environmentally responsible manner possible.

  1. We are proud to be Victoria’s first World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) Certified Responsible Whale Watching Operator.
  2. We fly the Whale Warning Flag on all our vessels to warn other boaters Whales are in the area.
  3. We are part of the Whale Reporting Network that provides alerts to commercial vessels that Whales are in the area and to slow down. The data also is used for research purposes.
  4. Following the mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Replenish, Restore in our daily operations.
  5. Follow and often exceed the Best Practice Guidelines for Whale & Wildlife viewing.

Our Promise

While you can never guarantee a wild animal in their natural habitat, we at Five Star are confident that over 98% of the time in peak season months we will be able to show you whales in the wild! Despite industry leading success rates in whale sightings, there is the rare occasion that our whale friends decide to play hide and seek. If this happens between May 1st – October 31st we invite you to join us again on a complimentary tour, weather and space permitting.


Where do I meet for the tour?

We require all passengers to meet 30 minutes prior to their scheduled tour time. Meet us at 645 Humboldt Street on the North side of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, next to Willow Stream Spa & Miniature World.

How long are the tours and when do they depart?

Our tours are 3 hour tours. We have multiple departures depending on the time of the year. Apart from our daily departures at 10am, 1pm & 2pm, we also have evening departures at 5.30pm from May 15th to August 31st. Our season is March 1st until December 31st.

Where do the boats depart?

Our tours depart from the “Yellow Line” on the floating docks in the Victoria Inner Harbour. This is just a short walk across the street from our offices and the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

What should I wear?

Pants rather than skirts or dresses are recommended as the weather conditions can be windy and the air may be slightly on the cooler side. Think layers! Layer your shirts, a t-shirt with a sweatshirt and or light jacket is plenty. Dress for the day and the season – and remember it is always cooler on the water.

Casual shoes are recommended on the boat.

What should I bring?

The following items will always be helpful in making your tour a happy memory:

  • Sunblock
  • Water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera or video camera and film
  • Binoculars
  • Sense of adventure and ready to have fun!
Are there any passenger restrictions?

There are no restrictions for our Expedition Catamaran vessels. Guest confined to a wheel chair should check with our office about accessibility. For our vessel Salish Shadow, we do not recommend this vessel for guests with knee, neck or back injuries or for children younger than 6 years old.

Will I get seasick?

On occasion it can happen. However, our twin hull catamarans are one of the most stable vessels in the industry and thereby minimizes motion sickness. Salish Shadow is a faster vessel but still very stable. If you find yourself more susceptible to motion sickness we recommend you take your preferred medicine at least an hour prior to departure. Please feel free to check with our office the day of to find out what the water conditions are like that day in anticipation of tour.

Do you provide safety equipment?

Although floatation suits are not required to be worn on our vessels, coast guard approved floatation jackets are provided for our passengers’ comfort.
We also have coast guard approved lifejackets onboard for all passengers in the event of an emergency.

Our vessels are also equipped with all necessary safetyequipment required by Transport Canada.

Do you provide storage for my belongings?

There is storage space available at the office for larger items such as suitcases. Smaller bag/day packs can be taken on-board the vessel. Please talk to our office if you need any items storing.

Are there restrooms on the boats?

Yes, all vessels are equipped with a full restroom for the comfort of our passengers.

How do you find the whales?

We facilitate and are part of an extensive spotting network by air (Float planes), sea and land that covers the Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle area.
Information is shared and disseminated to partners in the industry. When there have not been reports before a trip, our expert captain and crew use their knowledge of the area and the whales to do educated searches, typically resulting in success!
In the peak summer months we have at least a 98% success rate of “finding” whales.

How close do you get to the whales?

We adhere to a strict set of regulations set out by the whale watching network (PWWA) of which we are a part of, and by US and Canadian regulatory authorities.
The guidelines stipulate that all vessels must maintain a distance of at least 100 meters from the whales in Canadian waters and 200m fromOrcas. In American water it is 100 yards for any Whale except Orcas which vessels must maintain a distance of 200 yards.
Five Star Whale Watching follow Respectable Whale & Wildlife Viewing Practices.

Why should I choose Five Star Whale Watching?

We have been offering tours in the Salish Sea longer than any other whale watching company in Victoria, in fact we like to call ourselves the pioneers in the industry.
As leaders in experience, innovation and knowledge, we have been showing guests the wonders of the Salish Sea for over 30 years.
Our captain and crew are highly educated and passionate about what they do, and know these waters like the back of their hand.

We practice and promote ethical & responsible Wildlife viewing, follow all Be Whale Wise guidelines and a finding member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

We are proud to be Victoria’s first World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) Certified Responsible Whale Watching Operator, which shows our commitment to ethical and responsible wildlife viewing.

Do you offer guaranteed whale sightings?

While you can never guarantee an animal in their natural habitat, we at Five Star are confident that over 98% of the time in peak season months we will be able to show you whales in the wild! 

Despite industry leading success rates in whale sightings, there is the rare occasion that our whale friends decide to play hide and seek. If this happens between May 1st – October 31st we invite you to join us again on a complimentary tour.

What are the most commonly seen whales?

Orcas, Humpback Whales, Minke Whales, and Gray Whales.

What is the best time of year and is there a better time of day to go whale watching?

In the waters around southern Vancouver Island, we’re most likely to see killer whales from April to October.  We have had a great resurgence in Humpback sightings as well! Our season is from March 1st until December 31st. 

Unlike people, whales are not on a 24 hour clock, and so thetime of day does not influence the likelihood of sightings – We always advise to chose the time thatsuits your schedule and other plans during your visit to Victoria.

What is included in the tour?

We offer complimentary coffee and hot chocolate, coast guard approved water proof floatation jackets, hydrophones to hear the whales, and expert marine naturalists narrating your 3 hour tour. If you would like to bring your own snacks or drinks you are welcome to bring them on board.