Killer whale watching on Vancouver Island

2019 Orca Explorer is our longest running (more than 17 years) and most popular sea kayaking trip for couples, families, and groups of friends. One island basecamp is usually used on each of these trips. Camp is situated on an island in a Park Conservancy that is on the route of major whales in the core area of Johnstone Strait. We also have an option to access  a second campsite if conditions with wildlife and weather become an issue.

Trip starts with our own water taxi ride to Sophia Island. If whales are sighted on the way to camp we stop and see which pod it is and what direction it is traveling. Camp is in a spectacular spot where you can see whales from the shoreline at various times of the day. Large tents are used situated on platforms with roofs and beds. A gazebo, large cookhouse, showers, tub and composting toilets are all maintained for the summer. We are in one of the locations on the BC Coast to view large numbers of marine mammals in their natural habitat. A couple of the highlights of our trips involve paddling near the Michael Biggs/Robson Bight Ecological Reserve and chatting with summer whale researchers or the reserve wardens.

Kayaking is exceptional, with frequent encounters with wildlife everyday of your trip. Guides are great teachers and take time to explain the fundamentals of kayaking to encourage you to improve everyday. We drop in on researchers during our kayaking and are updated what whales are in the vicinity and if we have any new baby Orca or Humpback in the mix. If you are looking for a special experience with sea kayaking, eating good food and enjoying folks from other background, consider this trip for your bucket list.

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Per Person:  CA$1295

Family Rates: Start @ CA$4000 

Trip Deposit:  CA $250 per person

TRIP DEPARTURE DATES

Trip Dates:  Monday – Thursday or  Thursday – Sunday  (Custom Days Available ie September 07-11)

May 17-20, June 03-06,  June 10-13,  June 17-20,  June 24-27
July 01-04,  July 08-11,  July 15-18,  July 22-25,  July 28-31 (full)
August 05-08,  August 12-15, August 15-18, August 19-22,  August 26-29,  August 29-02
September 02-05, September 06-09, September 16-19, September 23-26

TRIP ITINERARY

Arrival Day: Arrival in Port McNeill is usually late in the day because of the travel distance or the plane connections to Comox Valley Airport.

Pre-trip meeting at our shop at Suite B 455 Pioneer Drive. Port McNeill @ 8:00 pm the evening before your departure date.

This meeting is scheduled to introduce you to your guides, check your gear, fit PFDs, fit a paddle and answer any questions you might have about the trip. We will familiarize you with a double sea kayak and review our route on the marine chart of the area.

DAY 1:  JOHNSTONE STRAIT

Shuttle boat transport to whale watch and proceed to basecamp We are passionate about having see and listen to the  breathing sounds and daily behaviors of humpback and orcas. We will take a few photo’s and enjoy the gift nature gives in the morning then proceed to our island  basecamp. We off load at south beach walk the boardwalk into the heart of camp. We do a short orientation (bathroom, sleeping accommodations, etc) get a hot drink and a snack before we direct you to your tent platform with large tents and single beds inside. Unloading time is quick and our beach is user friendly for folks of all ages.

Usually within an hour we are moving towards the beach where you arrived to start our safety meeting. We fit you to your kayak with appropriate gear, fill your water bottle and venture onto the water to familiarize ourselves with kayaking. We start you out on with a sheltered water paddle and progress to a nearby cove where quiet waters and abundant wildlife are usually seen along our route.  Often the first wildlife viewing from kayaks are eagles, otters and harbor seals. We like to start in sheltered water so folks can get used to knowing that the kayaks are stable enough to take pictures without instabilities.

As the day unfolds we real never know what we will see.  What you will see depends on the tides and currents of the local waters that are rich with a significant amount of small fish that attracts raptors, dolphins propoise, seals and sealions. Before the late afternoon we have options to have lunch in a spot where we can see whales if they pass by. Before the days out we usually makes sure everyone is comfortable and then continue into open water for the days finally. Return to camp is always before 4 pm unless whale encounters occur. We provide a chat in the sunshine before dinner. And look forward to an evening that stay light until 10 pm PST. A small beach fire will warm you before your first night of sleeping maybe with the sound of whales in the distance.

DAY 2: JOHNSTONE STRAIT – BLACKNEY PASSAGE

This morning starts with a hot cup of coffee and a short walk along the boardwalk to seat in the morning sun. You can even catch a shower along the way. Breakfast is a great time to chat about what you experienced on day one. Our menu is flexible and accommodates a large variety of pallets. Guides will chat you up about what the plan is for day two. They base this on monitoring the weather and wildlife information they gather during the early mornings. Often wildlife show s itself during breakfast. It could be a woodpecker on an old tree by your tent platform or a seal with her babe on a small reef just off shore of basecamp.

Today, we will spend a great deal of our time on the water. It is also a possible day to sea kayak from one camp to the other. Guides will make this call in the mornings after checking with our network of informants. Either way expect to kayak and explore a great deal on day 2. Expect to take time to view eagle rookeries, whales in transit and sea lions hunting salmon. If you at our Johnstone Strait island camp, this might be a good day to visit the beaches across the strait in the vicinity of Robson Bight.

After a healthy dinner, stay open-minded for an evening of observation, sharing photos, and recollection about the day’s events around a beach fire. Over the season, as the days warm and the waters absorb increasing amounts of sun, bio-luminescence  can be seen in the water as the evening gradually turns to darkness. It might be an opportune evening to paddle out for a short sunset kayak session

DAY 3: JOHNSTONE STRAIT – ROBSON BIGHT

On our third day we are again looking to get on the water as early as we can. Often by now folks are complaining about the songbirds or bald eagles waking them up early with the first light of the morning. If the morning presents us with a low tide, it is an opportunity to use the kayaks to float out in the shallows and take in marine life as you have never seen it. Or it may be again a good day to exchange camps in the eyes of whale activity and the direction of the current.

Regardless, this is a day to take in maximum time to explore by paddling from one camp to another or staying local and checking out spontaneous wildlife and bird life activities.

Our network of supports and our ability to monitor hydrophones gives us a step up on these wildlife events.Sometime in the afternoon or early evening we will take a look at a special part of the rainforest. Our walk through the forest might allow a glimpse of an owl, visit old growth trees or give us an chance to stretch our legs.

As the day winds down, our focus will change to another pleasant evening with a late dinner and a beach fire special event that everyone has to experience if you come to Canada…smores!!!

DAY 4: JOHNSTONE STRAIT – BLACKFISH SOUND

Our final day is sometimes the best day of the trip so sleeping in is not an option.The morning begins with time for breakfast, a wash up and making our gear ready for the trip back to Port McNeill.  Once that is done, we can get out on the water and kayak along a sheltered shoreline that opens through a passage to a seal rookery or an eagle rookery.

Take a bit of time for pics and move onto the open water where a humpback and her calf have frequented for the past three summers. Gradually we will paddle back to camp catch lunch, load up and cruise back to Port McNeill with stops to take our last pics of Orca or visit a sea lion rookery in Weynton Passage.

Arrival time back in Port McNeill is 2:30-3:00 pm. We will shuttle you up to your vehicles, get your luggage out of storage and enjoy our last exchange of information and pictures.

Note: Weather is always a factor in establishing daily paddling times. Tides and currents often dictate start times. We always have a plan B for days with variable weather patterns.