6 Day Broughton Archipelago Nomadic Expedition
June to September
June 12 - June 30
July 1 - September 5
September 6 - 11
This trip is perfect for those who want to go on a one-way nomadic expedition through the incredible Broughton Archipelago.
This one-way 6 day trip is assisted on either its first or last day by a water taxi, allowing the trip to start in one location and end in another. You will carry all of your own gear, set up camp on remote islands in the Broughtons each night and explore areas far beyond the reaches of our basecamp network. You can expect to spend 2 of your days in popular orca habitat (The Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound), and 4 days within the incredible geography of the Broughton Archipelago. This magical trip is designed for the physically fit: those who feel comfortable setting up / tearing down camp and kayaking 6 full days in a row.
This all-inclusive trip combines spectacular wildlife and the ancient history of those that have lived here for thousands of years. We go in search of wild orca and humpback in their natural environment, before leaving the deep water behind to explore ancient village sites with white shell beaches and discover sheltered coves to camp in. Our experienced, SKGABC guides will facilitate your experience from start to finish using top quality equipment and preparing outstanding meals day after day. Opportunities also exist to see sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, bald eagles, black bears, raccoons, numerous sea birds and the spectacular rugged scenery of Vancouver Island.
The Six Day Nomadic Adventure will use a water taxi on either its first or last day, determined just a few days before departure depending on the tides and the weather forecast. The following itinerary is just an example of a possible trip plan. This trip is designed to be incredibly flexible, which allows your guide to provide you with the best experience possible!
This trip’s ideal route is an immersive meandre from Telegraph Cove to the northern islands of the Broughton Archipelago. However, depending on your group’s interests it may be more enjoyable to cover less distance and explore certain areas more deeply. Each night you will camp at a new remote beachfront site. You can expect to spend 1-2 days paddling in orca territory and 4-5 days in the incredible geography of the Broughton Archipelago.
You will paddle for 5-6 hours each day and stay at campsites with varying types of facilities. You will stay at both rough leveled areas in the forest with no facilities and at more established sites with composting outhouses and rustic kitchen shelters. None of these sites are accessible by road!
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 nearby, please see our list of places to stay!
Your 6 Day Nomadic 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 setting off, your guide will spend some time ensuring everyone knows what to expect for the trip, has packed the appropriate gear, and will then help everyone load it all into their kayaks. 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.
Never kayaked before? Within the first 10 minutes you will have grasped the basics.
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 4 - 6 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 - 5
If you are not already up to see the sunrise your guide will wake you 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 a.m., with plenty of time to get organized afterwards.
The plan for the next 4 days will be to head northward, towards the mainland. Your route will depend on the weather but you will likely head through Blackney Passage, into Blackfish Sound, past Swanson Island, through the islets surrounding Bonwick Island, and possibly up as far as Insect Island and the Burdwood Group! The tides and weather forecast will be the driving factor of this journey, but your guide will manage them and ensure your journey is as pleasurable as can be.
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 orcas gorging on salmon in tidal passages near Blackfish Sound. During the course of each of these days, you will stop for delicious picnic lunches on different remote beaches.
Your guide carries a research grade hydrophone so that if you find yourselves in the vicinity of a pod of orca you may attempt to listen in on their unique and magical calls through the speaker! Recently humpback whales in the area have been recorded singing in the early fall. This is a new and exciting development as humpback singing was thought only to occur in warmer waters!
Other points of interest you may visit on your trip include:
An ancient rock painting on a cliff adjacent to a traditional burial site. This is an important site to the Mamalelaqala Band and other Kwakwaka’wakw, so we only enjoy this spot from our kayaks.
Perhaps local legend Billy Proctor will be around to open his museum when you paddle by the village of Echo Bay. He has lived in the Broughtons for more than 80 years and has plenty of stories to share.
The monstrous Deep Sea Bluffs across Tribune Channel from the Burdwood Group are the closest part of the mainland to Telegraph Cove. ‘Slap the wall’ and you will have completed a magical self propelled journey all the way from Vancouver Island to the Mainland!
If you are lucky enough to make it all the way to camp in the Burdwoods you will again see ancient evidence of those that have called this beautiful area home. The island group is home to a modern wall painting completed by the local first nations in 2019. We respectfully enjoy the privilege of making camp at such a historic, beautiful, and culturally rich site. We visit these islands only with the understanding that we leave no trace of our stay and offer a conscious respect towards the ancient culture of the local first nations. We will camp on one of these islands for our final night in the wilderness and sleep where many thousands of people have slept before us.
The Broughton Archipelago: a region of hundreds of islands and passages, a true kayak paradise. Rich in marine and land animals it is a place that is still the ancestral homeland of six first nations tribes. Ancient village sites and harvest areas have beaches made up almost entirely of white shells from countless shellfish harvests. These white shell deposits, known as midden beaches, lay testament to thousands of years of first nations presence in the area.
Depending on the weather forecast, your guide will opt to take you through the western islets of the Broughtons on the edge of the Queen Charlotte Sound, or into the more sheltered eastern channels. Either way you will be exploring remote clusters of islands, each section with its own beauty and interesting history which your guide will acquaint you with as you go. The remotest reaches of the Broughtons are incredibly beautiful and often have porpoises, dolphins and sometimes even whales sneaking through their narrow passages.
Each night you will set up camp on one of the multitude of small islands that populate the Broughtons. After you have set up your tent your guide will once again surprise you with their culinary skills, perhaps preparing a homestyle chili with warm garlic bread, or maybe a hot bowl of pesto gnocchi with sundried tomatoes, broccoli and, you guessed it, warm garlic bread. 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. After dinners you can gather around the fire, enjoy the stars or, in August, If you manage to stay up past 10:30pm you may be able to see blooming plankton's bioluminescence by throwing rocks into the water! ...you may ask yourself, “is this Avatar”?
On your final morning you will wake up to another sizzling breakfast paired with hot coffee and the companionship of your wonderful guide. No matter how many days you spend in this area there always seems to be one day too few. Your final day can be structured at the leisure of the group, do you want to take it slowly and enjoy the long morning sun sipping coffee on the remote shell beach? Or are you keen to get every last drop of paddling in? Whatever you fancy your guide will come up with a great plan for the day.
Regardless of the plan for the day at some point you will break down camp and prepare for the water taxi’s arrival. The water taxi will arrive around 2:30 p.m..
During your 45 minute boat ride you will retrace your strokes as you get closer and closer to Telegraph Cove. As you watch your trip fly by you in reverse, you may realize that a true appreciation for the Broughtons can only come from slowing down and basking in them. As we get closer to the cove keep an eye out for the larger wildlife in Blackfish Sound and the Johnstone Strait.
You will arrive back in Telegraph Cove around 3:30 p.m., after which you may simply grab your belongings and be on your way, we do the entire cleanup! However, many guests choose to stay a while, reminiscing on the adventure with new friends and exchanging contact information so photos may be shared. Be sure to take time to visit the Whale Interpretive Centre’s incredible collection of skeletons before leaving this little slice of ecological paradise.
This is an example of a typical itinerary. On some occasions we 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.
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:
Our Wildlife Seasonality Chart is based on data collected from 3 day trips. We do not guarantee sightings of any kind. The more time you spend on the water, the better your chances of sighting wildlife become!
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.
All our nomadic expeditions are guided by SKGABC Level 3 guides. The Broughtons are full of little nooks, crannies and passages between islands that take more than a trip or two to get to know. There are also strong currents that flow out of Knight Inlet and Tribune Channel on top of the strong winds that can build in the Queen Charlotte Strait. Our average L3 guide has been at NIK for 5 seasons. 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.
Our nomadic trips camp at a variety of remote island sites between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Campsites’ amenities will vary from established sites with tent pads and composting toilets, to rugged forest sites with nothing more than level patches of ground for tents. Some of the most rugged campsites are in the most beautiful locations. Eating a hot delicious homemade dinner while watching the sun go down over the ocean on a remote island you paddled yourself to is an experience like none other.
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.
Nomadic Camping Gear
Our fleet of top of line MSR tents, Exped sleeping pads, and warm sleeping bags are chosen to provide you with the most comfort possible on our nomadic camping trips. We provide one 3 man tents for pairs of guests, unless you are joining us as a single guest in which case you will get a tent to yourself. Three man tents provide extra room to store your clothes and spread out a little more in the evenings. Our Exped sleeping pads inflate to be more than 3 inches thick, providing you with lots of cushion and warmth.
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!