Here at the Visitor Centre, we get quite a few questions on wildlife viewing. Where can we see wildlife in Nanaimo? Well, depending on what wildlife you want to see, there are many different places and ways to do so!
To see marine wildlife you can sit back in one of Nanaimo’s numerous parks to get your fill, or, if you’re more adventurous, get right in there and get wet and wild! You can kayak or stand-up paddle board in Ladysmith, which is just a 20 minute drive from Nanaimo, where Sealegs Kayaking is located on Transfer Beach. There are sea lions and seals in the harbour which are in abundance during Herring season. You can be as close as 10 feet away from them while kayaking! There are also many Bald Eagles, and a couple of Golden Eagles which are rare to see, and amazing when you do!
About an hour drive south of Nanaimo there is Whale Watching in Cowichan Bay, at Ocean EcoVentures. They see many Resident Orca Whales, as well as Transient Orcas, Humpbacks, Grey and Minke Whales. Not only will you spot whales, you’ll also see Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Dalls, Harbour Porpoises, and many different birds! Don’t blink an eye—or you might miss something!
Now, if you want to get up really close and personal, go diving! Just a little 15 minute boat ride over to Snake Island, Sundown Diving will take you ‘Snorkeling with the Seals’, whether you’re certified or not. Some days if you are lucky, they are extremely friendly and brush right by, other days when they are feeling a little shy they hold back a bit. Either way, it is an amazing experience! If you’re already certified and just need the equipment, head over to Nanaimo Dive Outfitters and get started!
If you’re looking to sit back and relax to view wildlife, there are tons of parks to do so. If you’re looking for birds there are many different places to seek them out. You can head to Buttertubs Marsh, Morrell Sanctuary, Westwood Lake, and Colliery Dam or for seaside options, check out Piper’s Lagoon and Neck Point; the list is endless!
For something a little different, check out Morning Star Bison Ranch! You can go check it out either un-guided, a pre-booked bus tour, or hop on their “train ride” lead by Buffalo Bob! Bob will take you on a ride into the fields where you can snap some photos and feed the bison some “Buffalo cookies”! You can even purchase many different cuts of Bison afterwards. Can’t make it down to the ranch? Pick up some Morning Star bison meat at the Bowen Farmer’s Market on Wednesday nights.