Five tips for successful wildlife viewing

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve









killer whales
Stellar sea lions
black-tailed deer
sea stars
Parks Canada interpretation program
Black oystercatcher

Pinch me—this can’t be real!

Imagine sitting quietly on the shore when out of the water pops the head of a seal pup. It looks directly at you with its large round eyes.

It’s easy to make memories like this in the park. All you have to do is follow a few simple tips. We invite you to explore on your own or hire a guide for an eco-tour.

Tip 1: Choose the right location.
  • Black-tailed deer: Deer can be found almost everywhere in the park, except for on a few of the smaller islands.
  • Killer Whales: Want to see seals, sea lions, porpoises and Killer Whales? Head to East Point on Saturna Island, a great spot for watching marine mammals from shore.
  • Seabirds: Explore two Important Bird Areas, the lagoon on Sidney Island and the waters off Georgina Point on Mayne Island.

Learn more:  Hiking Guide 

Tip 2: Choose the right season.


  • Purple martins at Sidney Spit dock
  • Southern resident Killer Whales in all park waters
  • Frogs at fresh water lakes on Pender Island (Go at dusk to hear them croaking.)


  • Southern resident Killer Whales in all park waters
  • Harbour seal pups at East Point, Saturna Island (Keep away from the pups on shore. The mother seals are off fishing and will be back soon.)
  • Bioluminescence in all park waters (Plankton makes the ocean sparkle at night!)

Fall and winter:

  • Brandt’s cormorants at Sidney Island (fall only)
  • Steller sea lions at East Point, Saturna Island
Tip 3: Choose the right time and tide.
  • Dawn and dusk: Get up early in the spring to hear songbirds in the park. Deer browse on the roadsides at dawn and dusk, year-round.
  • Afternoon: Seals and sea lions like to climb onto small reefs and islets in the middle of the day to sleep.
  • Night: Go out at night to spot owls, bats and racoons.
  • Low tide: Explore the beaches at a low tide to find sea stars and sea cucumbers.
Tip 4: Be a detective.
  • Use your powers of observation: Listen for animal calls. Look for evidence they’ve left behind: scat, tracks and dinner scraps. When you do spot wildlife, sit quietly and observe.
  • Bring the right gear: A good pair of binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens will bring you up close and personal without disturbing wildlife.

Learn more: Participate in a park interpretation program.

Tip 5: Respect the wildlife.

View all wildlife from a safe distance:

  • If you’re affecting an animal’s behaviour, then you’re too close.
  • It is illegal to entice, approach, feed, disturb, possess or remove wildlife from the park.
  • If you see tail, fin or spray – stay far enough away.
    • Stay 400 metres away from killer whales in all southern BC coastal waters between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet, which includes Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.
    • Stay 200 metres away from killer whales in all other parts of Canadian Pacific waters.
    • Stay 100 metres away from all other whales, dolphins and porpoises (unless they are resting or with a calf, then keep 200m away)

Keep yourself and your pets safe:

Wildlife may be frightened and act unpredictably. You don’t want to get bitten and maybe catch a disease. Never approach animals and always keep your dog on a leash.


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