5 Day Basecamp Adventure
June to September
June 7th - June 28th
July 5th - September 13th
Our longest basecamp tour! This trip is for those in search of the ultimate way to maximize their chances of seeing wildlife, while enjoying the comforts of basecamps each night.
Spend 5 whole days exploring the Johnstone Strait, Blackfish Sound and the Southern/Western edges of the Broughton Archipelago by sea kayak. You can expect to spend 4-6 hours a day on the water, eat lunches on remote beaches, and paddle in areas where larger marine mammals are more likely to be feeding. You will also visit the Plumper Islands and culturally significant first nations sites in the southern Broughtons.
This unique all-inclusive tour is always led by one of our experienced, SKGABC certified guides who will provide you with an immersive on water experience, 13 delicious hearty meals, and 4 comfortable nights at 3 different oceanfront basecamps. The timing and routes of our trips are always determined by our qualified guides. This allows them to create the best possible experience based on the tides, daily conditions, and the wildlife! No two trips are ever the same.
Though we do not guarantee sightings of any kind, by joining us for 5 days you are giving yourself the maximum amount of time to allow wildlife to swim by and be sighted.
This trip concentrates not only on the areas known to be the primary summer range of northern resident orca population, but also the summer feeding grounds of an ever increasing number of humpback whales and stellar sea lions. You will also have the possibility of seeing porpoises, dolphins, bald eagles, black bears, numerous sea birds, the spectacular rugged scenery around Robson Bight and the beautiful islands of the Broughton Archipelago.
The Day Before
We recommend you stay in Telegraph Cove or Port McNeil the evening before your scheduled departure. We will have your drybags available for pickup at our office anytime before 5:30 p.m. the day before your trip. If you are wondering where you may slumber, please see our list of places to stay in Telegraph Cove!
Your 5 Day Basecamp Adventure begins at 9:30 a.m. on your start date. You will meet your guide at the North Island Kayak gathering area, at the end of the historic Telegraph Cove boardwalk. Your kayaks will be set out on our dock and all of the group gear will be already loaded.
Before helping everyone load their gear into their kayaks, your guide will spend some time ensuring you understand what to expect for the duration of the trip.There will then be a handful of onshore orientations: to the area, the gear, the kayaks, and paddling. After being fitted to your kayak you will launch and embark upon an incredible adventure in the Johnstone Strait!
We will select your first night’s base camp from one of our six, in order to provide the best experience based on the tides and currents of your trip. Your guide will ensure you are comfortable by assisting to develop your paddling technique as you paddle along the shoreline of Vancouver Island or across Johnstone Strait. As you settle into your sleek, non-intrusive double kayak, you will stop and watch for any wildlife and enjoy the rugged scenery of Northern Vancouver Island.
During the day you will poke around tidal shallows in search of intertidal critters; Watch for bald eagles at their nests; See slow rolling pods of pacific white sided dolphins and if you are lucky spot a black bear turning rocks, looking for breakfast. For fortunate groups perhaps a pod of orca or occasionally a humpback whale will swim by, or maybe not. Though the timing of any wildlife encounters cannot be predicted, rest assured there are five days of opportunity in front of you. In the early afternoon, your group will stop to stretch their legs and enjoy a picnic lunch on a remote beach before paddling the last stretch towards camp for the night. Greek salad, hummus, pita, fruit, cookies, chips and tea is an NIK classic!
A handful of hours of paddling will likely have caused you to work up an appetite, a local charcuterie board will help tie you over before your guide calls everyone in for dinner. Your guide’s homemade beachside BBQ dinner will leave you smiling, stuffed and nourished. BBQ salmon with risotto and roasted vegetables, halibut and prawn soba noodle stir-fry , chili, quinoa soup, and burritos are just a few of our favourite camp dinners.
After dinner, enjoy some card games or take a stroll and explore the beach. Alternatively you might hang around the campfire and get to know the other members of your group while you enjoy your camp’s incredible ocean front view. Your guide may open up the library and teach you about the wildlife you encountered that day when they come down from the kitchen to treat you to a sweet dessert. Watch the sunset and if you are lucky a moonrise while your cozy tent awaits. The lack of light pollution this far away from civilization allows for spectacular star-gazing on dark, moonless nights.
You will spend the night with one other person from your party in one of our spacious 8-man tents, permanently fixed atop a flat and sturdy wooden tent pad. Our sleeping pads are triple the thickness of a typical backpacking sleeping pad, and pair perfectly with a day of activity, a cozy sleeping bag and the sounds of the ocean to ensure you have a comfortable slumber in our backcountry wilderness setting.
Day 2 - 4
Your second, third and fourth days will allow for a wealth of possibilities depending on the conditions, interests of the group and your camps. You may explore the southern Broughtons, or paddle to the Sofia Islets, or perhaps the stars align for an outing to the Whitecliffs for lunch. Trust your guide and you will enjoy 5 days of spectacular paddling, vistas and wildlife in a dynamic coastal environment.
If you are not already up to see the sunrise your guide will call you up to the smell of hot coffee and sizzling breakfast. Mornings will be dictated by the guide depending on the daily conditions, but on favourable days breakfast will be served around 7 - 8 a.m., with plenty of time to get organized afterwards. This part of the coast often has some fog in the morning which can make for surreal coastline experiences and spectacular surprises as we come across wildlife after hearing it approaching in the abyss.
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 herring, or sea lions and orca gorging on salmon. During the course of the day, we will stop for lunch on another remote beach. Our guides always carry at least one research grade hydrophone. If your group finds themselves in the vicinity of a pod of orca, your guide will deploy their hydrophone and you may be able to hear the orca’s unique and magical calls through the speaker.
Over the top of Swanson Island is the western gateway of the Broughton Archipelago. A region of hundreds of islands and passages, it is truly a kayak paradise. Rich in marine and land animals it is a place that is still the ancestral homeland of first nations who have existed here for thousands of years. Depending on the conditions of your trip, a day trip around these islets is a possibility!
Evidence of the Kwakwaka’wakw 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. These white shell deposits, known as midden beaches, lay testament to the presence of the Kwakwaka’wakw and other first nations groups.
Your second, third and fourth evenings will be spent at another one of our remote basecamps, different from your other nights (Though you will likely spend 2 nights at one of the camps to allow for a fuller day on the water). There you will enjoy another homemade dinner from our beach-side BBQ while you reminisce about all the day’s activities and fun. Explore our library to identify and learn more about any creatures you may have seen on your excursion. If you manage to stay up past 10:30pm in August you may be able to see blooming plankton's bioluminescence by throwing rocks into the water! ...and you may ask yourself, “am I in Avatar”?
While witnessing the jaw-dropping beauty of this part of the world, you may start to understand why people choose to live their lives out here in the wilderness.
You will wake up once again to the sizzle of breakfast cooking and the smell of hot coffee. After the kayaks are packed you will slowly start the homeward journey. The route home will vary depending on the weather forecast but our focus will remain on wildlife viewing.
Your final picnic lunch will be had on another remote beach before beginning the last leg towards Telegraph Cove. Your group will return to the cove by 3:30 p.m.. After a quick debrief with your guide at their chart, you may simply grab your belongings and be on your way, we do the entire cleanup! However, many guests prefer to 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 Interpretive Centre’s incredible collection of skeletons before departing the cove.
This is a sample itinerary. In order to provide the best chances of exposure to wildlife and scenery we plan to camp at three of our six base camps in the area, however on some occasions we may need to make changes due to weather or tidal considerations; Our goal will always remain to provide you the best possible wildlife and kayaking experience.
It is important to understand the seasonal nature of the ecosystem we operate in. The Queen Charlotte and Johnstone Straits attract an abundance of marine mammals in the summers, but are much quieter in the winters. Because of this seasonality, we ask guests to pair their wildlife hopes appropriately with the dates of their visit. Please see our wildlife seasonality graph below:
Wildlife seasonality graph coming soon
Over 200 Northern Resident Orcas call this area home for the summer. These oceanic mammals travel in family pods and forage in the Johnstone and Queen Charlotte Straits for their favourite food, chinook salmon. They reside in the Straits for two months on average, typically arriving around mid July and staying until early September.
Larger more nomadic transient orca (Bigg’s) are seen sporadically in the waters as well. They travel and behave less predictably but occasionally pass by in a typical quiet, stealthy fashion. (Unless a porpoise crosses their path…).
An increasing number of Humpback Whales have been returning to these waters since the whaling industry ultimately eradicated them from the area. Though whaling ended in BC in 1967, even 35 years later in 2003 only 7 Humpbacks were documented in the Queen Charlotte and Johnstone Straits. In 2019 however, 95 individual humpback whales were documented feeding on the abundant krill and herring of the straits... they back! These solo giants arrive from Hawaii and Mexico in late May and stay to feed until October.
Steller Sea Lions
Some Steller sea lions, the largest of the sea lions, call this area home year round. However, many more arrive in August and can be seen, and smelled, hauled out on their favourite rocks in groups sometimes larger than 40. Sea Lions are curious creatures and we can often be joined for short whiles by friendly pairs when we are paddling in Blackfish Sound.
Year Round Wildlife
Harbor seals, bald eagles, pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoise, black bears, minks and salmon are spotted year round in the straits. The cold, nutrient rich waters create an incredible ecosystem. Beyond mammals, the abundant intertidal life in the straits is often underrated: sea stars, chitons, barnacles, limpids, anemones and urchins thrive in the straits and are often easy to find at low tide. Their alien forms and behaviours are both interesting and illuminative as some intertidal creatures’ physical structures have remained relatively unchanged for over half a billion years.
Historic Telegraph Cove, British Columbia
Telegraph Cove is a community of around 20 year round inhabitants, on Northern Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. It is approximately 200 km northwest of Campbell River by car. It was formerly home to a cannery, a mill for the Canadian Air Force, a telegraph post, and now serves as a starting point for many forms of eco-tourism.
Telegraph Cove is the departure and return point of all our trips. Because we are based in the cove we have priority access to boat launches, allowing you to be first on the water.
Telegraph Cove and its nearest neighbouring community Port McNeill, have multiple accommodation options available for you to use prior to your trip. Please see our list of recommended accommodations in the area. In addition to kayaking, a variety of other adventures are available during your stay in the cove including: grizzly bear tours, boat assisted whale watching, hikes, an art gallery, beach access and excellent dining options. Please see our list of things to do in Telegraph Cove.
The incredible Whale Interpretive Center, located beside our shop, is home to over 30 marine mammal skeletons. It mustn't be missed! Finally, you will frequently see bald eagles, mink, river otters, black bears or even whales before we leave the dock.
Experienced SKGABC Certified Guides
Our outstanding team of SKGABC certified guides is the backbone of our company, facilitating your experience with us from start to finish. On trips our guides fill the roles of group leader, paddling instructor, naturalist, risk-manager, weather forecaster, chef, wildlife tracker, and your new best friend. Our team is made up of an incredible group of people, all with unique stories and backgrounds and inescapable passions for the outdoors and the area we operate in. This passion brings our guides back to the Strait summer after summer. Our average lead guide has spent 3 years at NIK, and Brad has been with us for 21!
Our team of returning staff means your guide knows the area well. This allows them to craft your day around the local forecast, currents and wildlife patterns from a position of knowledge and experience. Whether the fog is rolling in, the wind is picking up, or the sun is shining on down, your guide knows how to make the most of the day. We fully trust our guides to manage your experience with a focus on safety, comfort and wonder.
We provide all of the camping and kayaking equipment on all of our tours. Come with the clothing and personal items noted in ‘What to Bring’ and we do the rest. Some of the equipment we provide on our trips includes:
Seaward Passat Double Kayaks
All of our multi day trips use double kayaks from Seaward. These touring kayaks are as professional as it gets. They have over 250 litres of storage, are made of light and durable fiberglass and have comfortable seats and backrests.
We will provide you with a 10 litre and 20 litre dry bag for your personal belongings. Dry bags are the best way to store your clothes if you want them to stay nice and dry! Drybags are leak free 99% of the time, everytime. Because of this small chance they might leak, we recommend storing electronics in a more rugged container.
Paddles, Spray Skirts, PFDs, and Safety Equipment
After we dress you up for your adventure you will be ready for the runway! We have PFDs, paddles and sprayskirts that will work for all shapes and sizes. Safety and comfort are our highest priorities.
Even when you are at remote beaches for lunch you will enjoy the luxury of plates and cutlery to eat your lunch from and mugs to sip hot coffee out of. We have wash systems at all of our camps to ensure your dishes are cleaned before every meal.
Our network of basecamps allows us to offer a completely unique experience. Our trips include guaranteed accommodations each evening which means we may arrive at camp whenever we like without the possibility of it already being claimed by another group. Our camps include enough 8-man tents, permanently fixed upon wooden tent pads, so that no more than 2 people need to share a tent each night. Our 2 people to 1 tent ratio allows you lots of space to stand up, get changed, bring your gear inside and relax. Each of our camps features a tarped dining area with picnic tables and a wilderness kitchen complete with a full size BBQ.
We maintain outhouses at all of our sites so you may enjoy some privacy and comfort while going to the bathroom at camp. We stock all our camps with a small but hand picked library of books, which allow you to learn more about the wildlife you see each day. Each of our camps has its own uniquely beautiful geography, but all have their own beach where you can enjoy some peace and quiet or gather around a crackling fire at sundown.
Delicious Homemade Meals
You will not go hungry on an NIK trip!
Our kitchen team prepares food for each trip based on quantities proven over 20+ years of operation. We provide made from scratch breakfast, lunch and dinner each day plus appetizers, desserts, granola bars, coffee, tea, water, and if you are still hungry after all that, your guide can put together something else to fill you up. Our menu is designed to be nutritious, delicious, substantial, locally sourced, environmentally friendly, and flexible to dietary restrictions. We can safely manage food allergies as well as cater to gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian diets upon request.
The safe handling and storage of food is an important part of our risk management at NIK. All our guides are Foodsafe Level 1 certified in addition to our kitchen team’s careful consideration of what ingredients are safe to carry for days at a time.
We guarantee your guide will surprise you with their culinary skills. Our meals are designed to keep well and provide you with the calories and nutrition you need to paddle each day, but that won’t stop our guides from wowing you with restaurant quality flavours and presentation.
Our delicious backcountry meals will surprise you in the best kind of way, here are just a few examples of what you could be served on your trip:
Frittata, shakshuka, breakfast burritos, granola and fresh muffins, pancakes/ french toast and fresh fruit.
Greek salad with hummus and pita, chickpea salad, sandwiches, bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon. All lunches include fruit, cookies, and chips
BBQ salmon with risotto and roasted vegetables, halibut and prawn soba noodle stir-fry , homestyle chili, quinoa soup, and burritos are just a few of our favourite camp dinners.
No two trips are the same! We pride ourselves on our fluid itineraries. The weather, tides, wildlife, and the interests of groups are different every trip. Because of this, we both trust and empower our guides to adapt the trip as they see fit so you can have the best experience possible!
What to bring
What do I need to Bring on my multi-day kayaking adventure?
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 paddling. 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 – something with a peak or brim is ideal in the rain.
- For your upper body: A base layer, a long sleeve mid-layer and a light Fleece or other warm non-cotton sweater.
- For your lower body: Non cotton underwear & shorts or long pants – long synthetic or wool underwear under shorts can be a great combination.
- For your feet: Wool or synthetic socks – bring a few pairs, your feet will get wet. Water shoes or sandals. Rubber boots can also be good unless you have big feet.
- For your hands: Gloves – Look for paddling or cycling gloves to keep hands dry & blister free.
Consider a pair of quality, light-weight rain pants. Frequently you will sit on something wet.
What you need while at camp
- Your normal outdoor camping wear will typically work fine but remember it is always cooler near the water. Synthetics and wools are again better than cotton.
- We provide you a jacket for paddling but bring rainwear or other outdoor jacket to wear at camp.
- A base layer, a long sleeved mid-layer and a warm sweater, sweatshirt/hoody or outer layer fleece. Warm pants. Bring one layer more than you think you need!
- Hiking shoe or running shoe & warm wool socks. Do not bring thongs or flip-flops.
- Warm nightwear & a Pillow Case (to stuff with clothes, etc. for your pillow)
- When we have campfires, they frequently emit sparks; consider bringing an old top layer.
Comfort and convenience items
- A water bottle.
- Camera and binoculars.
- Small hand towel and a face cloth.
- Sunscreen, lip balm & bug repellant.
- Sunglasses and a retainer
- Head Light (for reading in your tent and to light your way to the washroom)
- Book/magazine, writing materials or other personal entertainment.
- Personal toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, biodegradable soap, feminine hygiene products, etc.) – A packet of Wet Wipes works great to help personal hygiene.
- If bringing any electrical/ electronics, bring spare batteries or a portable recharging unit. There are no power outlets.
- If you must bring your phone, consider investing in a waterproof case for it.
- If you have allergies for which you carry an EPI Pen – Bring it!
- An extra set of any essential medication and correctional lenses.
- Alcohol and/or Pop. We do not supply this and there are no stores after we leave Telegraph Cove. The general store in Telegraph Cove sells beer, wine, spirits & pop.
Please try to avoid bringing too much as space is limited.
If you do not have your own sleeping bag or prefer not to bring it, we have one pre-packed for you to use at no charge. Our bags are cleaned after every use and are rated to 0°C (32°F) or lower.
If you choose to bring your own sleeping bag, please make sure it has no cotton in the lining and that it has a compression style stuff sack. Place a garbage bag inside the compression sack and stuff your sleeping bag inside the garbage bag, inside the compression bag. Squeeze out the air, twist the neck of the garbage bag to keep out any moisture and close the compression stuff sack.
Did we mention to avoid cotton?
Honestly and joking aside, we cannot overstate this. Once cotton gets wet it stays that way and provides minimal residual warmth. Synthetic materials and better yet wool, are your best bet.
Do not forget to check the label on your underwear, virtually everything you choose to sit on will be damp. Wet cotton next to your skin will become very unpleasant very quickly; ask any toddler.
How to Pack for my Multi-Day Kayak Tour
We provide you two dry bags; one 10 and one 20 litre bag per person. When you arrive in Telegraph Cove before your trip, please feel free to come pick them up so you can pack in the comfort of your room.
The 10 litre dry bag will be your day bag, in other words the bag you will have access to on the water. We suggest you put the following items in your day bag:
- Small camera and/or binoculars - If bringing a large or expensive camera, see below.
- Extra sweater
- Sunscreen & lip balm
The 20 litre dry bag will be your overnight bag, put things in here that you will want once you get to camp and won’t need access to on the water.
- All camp clothes and spare clean, dry paddling clothes
- Personal toiletries.
- Towel, book/magazine
- Head light, spare batteries, car keys, money & travel documents, etc. Place these items in zip-lock bags for extra protection.
- Do not put shoes, rain jackets, drinks, etc. in the dry bag.
Do not fill the dry bags more then 3/4’s full in order to properly close them, squeeze all the air out, roll the top over itself 3 times and do up the buckles. Your bags will now keep your belongings dry!
How to pack my Camera
Salt water & DSLR can spell trouble if not looked after. What to carry it in becomes a compromise between ease of access and security. The most secure way to carry it is in a hard shell waterproof case; an otterbox for instance, however this can be difficult to stow and awkward to open while on the water. Next best would be a good quality dry bag. Take your camera with the lens you expect to use to a good outdoor store and find a dry bag that fits your camera well, but leaves enough room for you to get your hands in and around it. There also needs to be enough room to have a small super absorbent cloth so you can ensure your hands are dry when inserting and removing the camera. Both these options would have the camera and case strapped to the deck of the kayak under bungee lines. Consider adding a carabiner or similar locking mechanism to ensure the container remains secure.
When you want to take a photo, you remove the camera from its protection, take the photo, replace the camera and reseal it. Never put it down on the spray skirt or kayak deck. We usually recommend against changing lenses while on the water.
It is also worth checking your home or travel insurance policy. Most camera equipment can be covered for loss or damage by this policy. You may need to register serial numbers, etc. with the insurance company.