|Jun 8th - Jun 29th||Jul 6th - Jul 16th||Jul 20th - Aug 31st||Sep 7th - Sep 20th|
Spend 5 whole days exploring Johnstone Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait and the western edge of the Broughton Archipelago by sea kayak, in search of wild Killer Whales or Orcas, Humpback Whales and Steller Sea Lions in their natural environment, led by our experienced, qualified guides using top quality equipment. Opportunities to also see porpoises, dolphins, bald eagles, black bears, numerous sea birds, the spectacular rugged scenery around Robson Bight and the beautiful islands of the Broughton Archipelago
Non-intrusive wildlife observation and fun kayaking for all
Telegraph Cove, Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Canada.
Start and End Time:
Starts at 0830 on Day 1 and returns at approx. 1530 on Day 5.
Every Monday from early June until late September. Also Thursday departures in July & August.
Camping accommodation at 'wilderness paddle in' public camps & one or more of our fully equipped, waterfront wilderness Base Camps. All camp equipment provided.
Lunch & Dinner on Day 1; Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner on Day 2, 3 & 4; Breakfast & Lunch on Day 5.
None. We use stable tandem Sea Kayaks and provide all required kayaking equipment. Single kayaks may be available with experience.
This trip is restricted to those over 14 years. Family trips available.
The itinerary for the North Island Kayak Five Day Marine Wildlife Sea Kayaking Safari concentrates not only on the areas known to be the primary summer range of Northern Resident Orca (killer whale) population, the summer feeding grounds of an ever increasing number of Humpback Whales and a remote Steller Sea Lion haul out, but also probes the untouched outer western edges of the Broughton Archipelago Marine Park. We maximize the time spent in these areas by utilizing a combination of BC Park provided 'paddle in' remote wilderness camps and, when in the busier non-park areas some of our six wilderness base camps that we erect every spring. The Broughton Archipelago Marine Park camps are available on a 'first come, first served' basis so when we camp here we erect tents and utilize sleeping mats we carry with us in the kayaks.
On this trip we use our base camps as a stepping stone to the more remote areas. They are scattered throughout northern Johnstone Strait and the South-East corner of Queen Charlotte Strait with specific locations selected to provide easy access to varying localized habitats, but also to give us surety of camp availability in busier areas. Each trip will utilize different camps based on environmental factors like tides, currents and forecast weather with a mind to optimize wildlife observation opportunities and provide an enjoyable, safe and accessible kayaking experience. The base camps are each similarly equipped with comfortable facilities but each provides a different view and exploration opportunities. North Island Kayak is unique in this area in being able to provide a 5 day paddle out, paddle in nomadic tour, showcasing all this spectacular wilderness area has to offer while being able to be assured of spectacular private camps in the busier areas we need to pass through. Having our private camps already set also gives us the ability to spend longer on the water as we can be sure that there will be places for us when we reach these destinations and ensures that when we are returning from further out, we will still have a beautiful spot to camp. We will usually stay at one of these base camps for the first night and a different one for the last night and utilize the more remote BC Parks camp areas for nights two and three.
Five Day Marine Wildlife Sea Kayaking Adventure – Day 1
Your Five Day Marine Wildlife Sea Kayaking Adventure departs from the boat ramp located adjacent to our store in Telegraph Cove. You are welcome to come visit us, at your convenience in the days before the tour with any of those last minute questions or to pick up dry bags for your gear. Alternately we meet you at 8-30am on the morning of your trip. Your professional kayak guide will be here to greet you with dry bags and advice on how to pack. We recommend that you will have already had your breakfast – the Seahorse Café located right in the Cove can look after most tastes. Your kayaks will be already loaded with all the camping and group equipment with space left for your gear.
The tour starts with introductions to your fellow adventurers and a brief safety and paddling technique discussion to ensure your comfort on the water. After being fitted to your kayak you will be ready for launch. This tour is typically on the water before 9-30am while other companies are still unloading kayaks from their trailers. Never kayaked before? Within the first 10 minutes you will have grasped the basics.
Our plan for Day one is to leave Telegraph Cove and head out towards Yukusam (Hanson Island) on the far side of Johnstone Strait. The winds and tidal currents for the day will determine not only whether we pass through Blackney or Weynton Passage and into Blackfish Sound but also what time we must do so, but either direction provides access to spectacular scenery and great opportunities for Humpback, Orca and sea lion activity. Both of these narrow passages receive tidal currents of up to 6 knots (10km/h) four times a day and hence provide a rich and transient food source for all manner of inter-tidal & sub-tidal creatures, sea birds, seals, eagles, porpoises in addition to the larger mammals.
We will most likely stop at one of the six remote base camps we have in the area for the first night. This gives an opportunity to familiarize you with wilderness camping while providing camp location certainty. We will ensure you are comfortable as we paddle in the direction of our remote beach camp site. As you glide along in your sleek, non-intrusive Kayak, we stop and watch for any wildlife and enjoy the majestic scenery of Northern Vancouver Island. The timing of any wildlife encounters cannot be predicted but there are five whole days of great opportunities in front of you. We will stop to stretch our legs and enjoy a picnic lunch on a remote beach.
You will likely reach camp in the mid afternoon. This ensures we miss getting caught in the afternoon winds that frequently come out of the North and gives you a chance to get settled in and explore. Just because we are on shore does not mean that spectacular wildlife encounters are over for the day. Of the many creatures that abound in the vicinity, the killer whales, stellar sea lions, eagles and seals will frequently hunt along the kelp forest just in front of camp. Keep your eyes and ears open.
The days paddling and the fresh air will likely have caused you an appetite, which will be satisfied by our healthy and filling dinner. After dinner, take a stroll and explore the beach or hang around the campfire and get to know the other members of your group. If weather permits, an evening paddle may be on the cards. If not there is always tomorrow! At bedtime, snuggle into your sleeping bag and enjoy the feeling of sleeping under the stars that only a camping experience can provide.
Five Day Marine Wildlife Sea Kayaking Adventure – Day 2
If you are not already up to see the sunrise your guide will call you to coffee and breakfast. Our plan for the day will have us heading up Blackfish Sound, along the outer edge of Swanson Island and into the lower reaches of the Broughton Archipelago.
The tidal currents are one of the factors that contribute to the diversity and quantity of marine wildlife in the area. It is not uncommon to see Humpback whales feeding on the krill and bait-fish, Sea Lions or Orcas gorging on Salmon along with an abundance of seabirds. During the course of the day, we will either stop for lunch on another remote beach. We always carry at least one research grade hydrophone on our sea kayaking tours. When we find ourselves in the vicinity of a pod of Orca, your guide will deploy the hydrophone so we may hear them communicating. We use an external amplifier and speaker so all may hear. If you have a video mode on your camera, this can allow you to capture the sounds as well as the sight of these spectacular animals.
Once over the top of Swanson Island, you will enter the western gateway of the Broughton Archipelago. A region of hundreds of islands and passages, it almost seems as though it was created as a kayak paradise. Rich in marine and land animals it is a place that is still the ancestral homeland of six Kwakwaka’wakw tribes.
Evidence of their ancestors’ existence is still found to this day. Abandoned ancient village sites and harvest areas have beaches made up of white shell from countless shellfish harvests. Black soils known as middens lay testament to occupation by the Kwakwaka’wakw within the forest just off the beach. The beaches in many locations have boulders pushed to the side leaving a clear path so that cedar canoes would not be damaged through the centuries. These sites make for great areas to land kayaks to this day. We will pitch camp on one of the multitude of small islands that populate this area, where your guide will again prepare a great dinner for you.
Five Day Marine Wildlife Sea Kayaking Adventure – Day 3
Almost as soon as you fall asleep, the third day of your tour will dawn. After breakfast we will most likely leave our camp set and head to your kayaks and out through narrow island channels and passages that offer great shelter in summer winds to probe deeper into the wilds and head towards a remote Sea lion haul out to see what they are shouting about today.This part of the Broughtons will likely have some fog in the morning which can make for surreal echos and spectacular surprises as we come across wildlife and see the sea birds you will of heard all around.
From witnessing the jaw-dropping beauty of this part of the world, you may start to understand why people choose to live out here in the wilderness. Throughout the day there will be opportunities to observe a multitude of creatures and paddle between tiny islands with a new and even more breathtaking view around each corner. Your guide will once more surprise you with their culinary skills to ensure you do not go to bed hungry. On a clear night, be sure to sit up late as the lack of light pollution this far away from civilization allows for spectacular star-gazing on dark, moonless nights.
Five Day Marine Wildlife Sea Kayaking Adventure – Day 4
After breakfast on day four we will break camp and head out between the islands en-route to our final campsite of this adventure. Exactly where we choose to camp for the night will depend on the weather forecast and the direction of the tides, however you can be sure that the scenery will be second to none and that we will encounter all sorts of wildlife. We will stop on another beach for lunch before paddling to our campsite for the night and our final dinner of the tour. Our destination lies back through the narrow passages surrounding Hanson Island so we can be sure of reaching Robson Bight, the killer whale sanctuary before heading home tomorrow. Remember to watch for humpback whales, Orcas and sea lions as we meander back towards Johnstone Strait. The ecological reserve of Robson Bight is deemed as so sensitive to human encroachment that only those with special research permits may enter. We may paddle its boundaries and gaze at this untouched area of wilderness and be thankful that there are still a few places in the world where the wildlife comes first.
Camping options become more limited as we approach this area so we will most likely stay at another of our wilderness base camps for the night, however on occasion it may be better to just pitch camp on a desolate island and watch the sun go down. Having the option to do either is part of what makes our tours special and unique.
Five Day Marine Wildlife Sea Kayaking Adventure – Day 5
Coffee and breakfast will again greet you, on this our last day exploring by kayak. After the kayaks are packed you paddle, once more among the marine mammals of the Pacific Northwest. The route home will vary depending on our afternoon weather forecast but our focus will remain on wildlife viewing and photo opportunities. Your guide will always have the hydrophone at the ready so no opportunity to listen in on whale talk will be missed. Lunch will be had on a remote beach before the last leg towards Telegraph Cove. On arrival around 3-30pm and after the group photo has been taken, you can just grab your belongings and enjoy the rest of your vacation.
We do the entire cleanup! Many guests stay a while, reliving the adventure with new friends and exchanging contact information so pictures can be shared. Be sure to take time to visit the Whale museum before leaving this pristine wilderness haven.
We typically follow this itinerary; however on some occasions need to make changes due to weather or tidal considerations; Our goal will always remain to provide you the best possible experience. On some occasions it will not be practical or desirable to change camp every day.
Over 200 Northern Resident Killer Whales call this area home for the summer. These fish-eating mammals forage Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait for their favorite food the Chinook Salmon, the largest of the salmon species.
An increasing number of Humpback Whales also inhabit these waters, feeding on the abundant krill and herring Queen Charlotte Strait & Johnstone Strait provides. These giants arrive in the Straits in late May and stay until October.
The Stellar Sea Lion, the largest of the sea lions, calls the area home year round as does the Harbor Seal, Bald Eagle (and many other sea birds), Pacific white-sided dolphin, Dall’s porpoise, Black bear, mink and salmon while the cold, nutrient rich waters create an incredible inter and sub-tidal invertebrate ecosystem to explore.
A few times a year we will see Minke whales and on rare occasions Fin whales or Cougars.
See our tour Wildlife Tab for further details.
The Best Start Location – Telegraph Cove, British Columbia
Telegraph Cove is the departure and return point of choice for killer whale sea kayaking tours and North Island Kayak is based in Telegraph Cove – No time wasted on a bus transfer – Be first on the water. Relax and unwind in the peaceful haven.
Visit the Whale Interpretive Center at the end of the ‘old time’ Telegraph Cove boardwalk. You will frequently see Bald Eagles, Mink, River Otters, Black Bears or even whales before we even leave the dock!
Wonderful food – You will not go hungry
Picnic lunches, hearty breakfasts and spectacular dinners plus delicious deserts, snacks, coffee, tea, various juices and water. Our menus have been specially developed to provide great taste and variety while being safe to carry and nutritious.Don;t worry, we bring some chips and other snacks too.
Ingredients are sourced first from our local communities.
We provide all of the camping and kayaking equipment. Come with the clothing and personal items noted in ‘What to Bring’ and we do the rest.
We even provide you with quality dry bags to keep your clothes and gear dry.
What do I need to bring?
Kayaking is an outdoor activity and the part of the world you will be visiting is identified as being within a Temperate Rainforest. Our summer daytime highs are rarely much over room temperature and our nighttime lows can be described as cool. It Also rains on occasion, sometimes for extended periods.
If you are familiar with spending time outdoors then you are likely already equipped with most of the clothing and accessories that you will need to bring with you. Likewise you are aware that cotton is not your friend when there is any chance of getting wet.
We recommend that you bring two sets of clothing for your kayaking tour. One set that you will primarily wear while in the kayaks. This should consist of layer-able clothes that will cope well and remain comfortable should they get damp or even wet. The second set of clothing is for around camp and should be selected to keep you warm and cozy during the evening. Again layers provide maximum flexibility. Avoid jeans and cotton shirts or sweaters,as once they get damp they can be very tough to dry and provide you with minimal residual warmth. If you can stick with synthetic quick dry materials or wool for your clothing, you will likely have a much better experience in our wilderness.
What you need while on The Water.
- For your head; A hat, cap, or tuque.
- For your upper body; A base layer and a long sleeved mid-layer. A light fleece is also a good idea.
- For your lower body; Non cotton underwear, synthetic shorts or long pants that can be rolled up.
- For your feet; Water shoes or sandals with a heel strap. Do not bring thongs or flip-flops.
- Wool or synthetic socks as your feet will get wet!
- Consider thermal underwear, both top and bottoms for cooler months. Synthetic or wool – No cotton!
- A pair of quality, light-weight rain pants are great to keep you dry when sitting in the kayak.
What you need while at camp.
- Your normal outdoor camping clothes will work fine, but remeber it is always cooler near the water.
- A base layer, a long sleeved mid-layer and a warm sweater, sweatshirt/hoody or outer layer fleece. Warm pants!
- Light hikers, or runners and warm socks for your feet. Do not bring thongs or flip-flops.
- A waterproof jacket, consider waterproof pants too.
- Warm PJ’s and socks to wear to bed.
- A warm synthetic sleeping bag – we can supply this, if required.
Comfort and convenience items.
- A small towel for drying feet, etc. when getting changed.
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm
- Head-light or small torch; It gets very dark once the sun goes down.
- A book or magazine; writing materials or other personal entertainment.
- Personal toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, biodegradable soap, feminine hygiene products, etc.)
- Camera and binoculars.
Things to consider while packing.
- Avoid cotton – We cannot overstate this! Once it is wet it stays that way and give minimal residual warmth.
- If you are bringing your own sleeping bag, make sure it contains no cotton and will be good in our cool climate.
- Look for one rated to below 0C or 32F.
- It needs to have a compression bag so it can fit in small spaces.
- We can provide a suitable sleeping bag if requested.
- Do not over pack – Space is limited.
- Do not forget to bring one extra set of any medication or corrective lenses.
While tipping is not mandatory it is very much appreciated. Your guide works very hard to make sure you get everything you hope for from your trip. Go ahead - make their day.
While tipping is not mandatory, if you think you were well looked after a suggested guide tip is 10% of your trip cost.
Ocean touring sea kayaks are surprisingly stable and comfortable, especially the tandem kayaks we use for our less experienced guests. A pre-launch training session will give you some of the basic skills that will help keep you safe while your guides are well versed in paddling, the area and general safety. They are right there with you the whole time to ensure your safety and enjoyment.
Our average group size is 5 people, however we conduct our tours with as few as 2 and as many as 12.
Our customers come from all over the world. They may be younger or older than you but you can be sure they are just as excited to be here as you are. We have found that those traveling without children tend to prefer to kayak with adult only groups. In order to try and ensure all of our guests get the maximum enjoyment from our tours we run separate tours for families.
The amount of time on the water will vary but will typically be in the region of 5-6 hours per day.
It will be a fully enclosed Sea Kayak from one of a variety of manufacturers including Seaward Kayaks, Boreal Designs, Necky Kayaks and Current Designs. We prefer to use tandem (2 seater) kayaks for our kayak tours as they provide maximum speed and stability along with plenty of room for the gear. Single seat kayaks are available to appropriately experienced kayakers on request for a small supplement.
Of course you may. We do require it be an appropriate kayak for the type of trip you are undertaking and we will need to utilize space within it for the group gear. Contact us, identifying kayak make and model and we will see what we can do. We do reserve the right to inspect the kayak prior to departure and have you paddle one of our kayaks if necessary.
We choose guides based on many variables. Naturally they must be appropriately qualified and able to kayak, provide instruction and keep you safe on the water, but we demand much more than this. We employ guides from Canada; Many of them have grown up around our coast or have migrated to BC as they have grown up. We employ guides who can interpret our environment; They need to be able to identify our local fauna and flora and communicate their knowledge to you. We look for language skills; Many of our guides are fluent in both English and French, while others bring Spanish or German to the mix.
North Island Kayak has been providing sea kayak tours on northern Vancouver Island since 1991. The current owners took over in 2006.
Yes! To legally conduct these sea kayaking tours, one needs permits from many different organizations including BC Parks, to operate in any of the local marine parks; The BC Ministry of Natural Resource Operations, to utilize any of the government owned lands, Private Individuals and businesses to utilize launch sites, water, etc. and our many North Island First Nations in order to utilize their lands and traditional homes. You can be assured that we have covered all bases. This is a great question to ask anyone who you intend to book a sea kayaking tour with. Permits are time consuming and expensive and not everyone you find on google bothers to adhere. Not only can operation without appropriate permits void any liability insurance they may have but it can also ruin a vacation if ejected from a park or other location.
People of all ages and fitness levels enjoy kayaking as it can be a very low impact activity. You need only be in average physical condition – For our multi-day sea kayak tours, if you can manage an easy day hike, you will likely be able to participate comfortably. Should you have upper body conditions affecting arms, wrists or hands, please contact us.
It can happen – but it is not likely on a guided sea kayaking tour. Part of your pre-launch training session is instruction and demonstration of what to do in the event of capsize. Should it happen, your qualified guides have had extensive training in rescue and have the skills to deal with any situation that may arise. Their focus is on prevention rather than cure.
There have been no incidents involving wild whales and humans or kayaks. On occasion they have come very close and even under our kayaks but we have never had one actually touch us.
You multi-day tour will be returning to Telegraph Cove typically between 3 and 4 pm, however it can occasionally be earlier or later due to weather or logistical reasons. Should you have tight connections to be made on the day of return, please let us know at booking or prior to departure so we can try to meet your expectations. After your trip, why not visit the Whale Museum or relax on the deck of the Old Saltery and watch the comings & goings of Historic Telegraph Cove.
We welcome children on the tours, however we try not to mix adult groups and family groups on the same trip. We can accommodate your children in a number of ways; triple kayaks or paired up in a double with a strong paddler. It is a safe and wonderful experience for kids and as family! We offer discounted rates for children on some tours. For multi-day kayak adventures we have found it is typically best to schedule small family groups, please contact us for further information.
We recommend that you bring two sets of clothing for your kayaking tour. One set that you will primarily wear while in the kayaks. This should consist of layer-able clothes that will cope well and remain comfortable should they get damp or even wet. The second set of clothing is for around camp and should be selected to keep you warm and cozy during the evening. Again layers provide maximum flexibility. Avoid jeans and cotton shirts or sweaters,as once they get damp they can be very tough to dry and provide you with minimal residual warmth. If you can stick with synthetic quick dry materials or wool for your clothing, you will likely have a much better experience in our wilderness. Please take a look at our “What to Bring” page.
As with all wildlife, the Orcas, Humpback whales & other animals keep their own schedules. The best way to increase chances of seeing these animals is to spend longer in their environment and to visit when they are most plentiful. Each of our tour descriptions has a detailed section called 'Wildlife', it provides a good indication of what we see, when we see it and how frequently.
A base camp is an area in the wilderness that we prepare to host our guests throughout the summer. Each spring we set up the tents, kitchen, tarps, BBQ, picnic tables, hammocks, etc. This provide a level of comfort which is not possible, on an expedition style kayaking trip, when we have to carry everything in the kayak with us. Having camps already set up reduces the amount of time we have to spend packing and unpacking equipment each day and allows us more time on the water. It is ideal for you if you only have a couple of days to spend with us as it enables us to really explore the area in light kayaks. It is also great if your only previous camping trips have been from ‘the back of a car’ as a base camp can provide a similar level of comfort. We have made is easy if this is your first time in a tent, or away from permanent campsites?
One of the most frequent questions we are asked is - Will I see Orcas? The table below details the animals we see and a color coded description of when they are most regularly seen on our sea kayaking tours.
|Green||Expect multiple sightings during your 4 day tour.|
|Blue||Expect to see the animal on maybe 2 of your 4 days.|
|Yellow||If we are lucky we will see it on one day|
|Orange||50/50 - Do not count on it|
|Red||This is a once a year occurance|
|June||Early July||Mid July||End of July & Early August||Mid to Late August||September|
The calendar below shows the departures dates for our Four Day Orcas and the Humpbacks Sea Kayaking Adventure. Please select the date you are interested in and click the "Book Now" button. You will not be requested to provide a credit card at this time as, to avoid disappointment, we need to double check these spaces are still available. You will be taken through some forms that will gather required information. Please complete them as fully as possible. If you are unsure about any questions, please provide you best guess as yours is most likely better than ours!
On completion of these forms, your Booking Request will be forwarded to us, we will double check spaces and send you an email with a link to our Secure Credit Card gateway where you can pay the required Deposit. If we are sold out of the tour you specify, we will suggest any alternatives we may have. If you need immediate confirmation of space, please call us on (250) 928-3114 or 1-877-949-7707.
You should wait until you have received confirmation and payment instruction from us before you commit to related travel expenses.
Hanson Hide-Away Base Camp featuring the ‘Orca Lounge’
Spy Hop Point - Johnstone Strait
Square Notch Bay - Blackfish Sound - Hanson Island
Broughton Archipelago Marine Park
Robson Bight - Johnstone Strait
The Robson Bight Ecological Reserve was established in 1982 as a protected area for the Northern Resident killer whale, or Orca population. The area hosts a couple of beaches that have been traditionally used by this poulation of whales as rubbing beaches. Not only is the water surrounding the area protected to the extent that entering it is prohibited, but the upland area has been protecetd from logging in an attempt to preserve this unique area.