Family Kayaking With Whales

Searching under rocks for crabs, watching humpback whales feed on a school of small fish, or being surprised as a harbor seal pops up right next to their kayak are all memories children cherish for a lifetime. The Family Orca Waters Base Camp kayak tours are designed for families with children aged 6 to 14 and are a great way for the whole family to better appreciate wildlife and nature.

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The Family Orca Waters Base Camp kayak tour involves three days of kayaking and three nights of comfortable camping at the Family Orca Waters Base Camp. On the fourth day we depart camp in the morning by water taxi and head to Telegraph Cove where we visit the “Bones Project” whale interpretive centre. After the visit to the whale interpretive centre and lunch our van drives the group back to end the trip in Port McNeill. The Family Orca Waters Base Camp is less than two miles from our “adult” Orca Waters Base Camp and is well suited for viewing a wide variety of wildlife.

During your stay at the camp we explore the variety of kayaking routes the area has to offer. The camp is surrounded by old growth rainforest and is right in the heart of the wildlife rich waters of Johnstone Strait, recognized as one of the most predictable places in the world to kayak with both orcas and humpback whales. The nearby waters are also home to harbour seals, sea lions, porpoises, sea birds, and rich intertidal life. A number of bald eagle nests and harbour seal haul-outs are all a short paddling distance from camp.

  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - We have special kayaks with a center seat for smaller children.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Harbour seals hauled out on rock near the Orca Waters Base Camp.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - A California gull with lunch.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - We have special kayaks with a center seat for smaller children.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - A pod of orcas with one spyhopping to get a better look above the water.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - A pod of orcas.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Enjoying a day of kayaking.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Humpback whale.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Great Blue Heron fishing for a kelp bed.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Black oystercatchers.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - It's about more than just kayaking.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Sunflower sea stars.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - On family tours smaller children often paddle from the front of a double kayak with a parent in the back.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Watching whales from shore.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Humpback whale diving.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Watching orcas from shore.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - Bald eagles are a common sight on all of our kayak tours.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - A humpback whale in the mist.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - A Minke whale.
  • Family Kayak With Whales Tour - At the end of the kayak tour we visit the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove.
Kingfisher’s guides are well acquainted with the whales and other wildlife we encounter and are experienced with working with children in both educational and outdoor settings. Children are often just as amazed by the seals and the crabs hiding under the rocks as they are with the whales, and our guides structure each day to suit a child’s style of exploration.

The Family Orca Waters Base Camp offers a very comfortable camping experience and with Kingfisher’s knowledgeable kayak guides this tour is suitable for adventurous families even if they have little or no kayaking or camping experience. Roomy tents, each raised off the ground on wooden platforms, are situated throughout the forest. The tents provide standing room for most guests (1.9 metres tall) and are outfitted with wooden beds with the thickest and widest Therm-a-rest mattresses available. Sheets, fleece blankets, full-size pillows, warm barrel-style sleeping bags, and hot water bottles are all provided to ensure a good night’s sleep. A recharging station for digital cameras, an extensive library of natural history books, a safari style bucket shower, and a large covered kitchen and dining area made from locally milled red cedar make for a very comfortable camping experience.

On family tours we primarily use stable double fibreglass kayaks with an adult in the rear seat and a child in the front. We also have triple kayaks that allow a smaller child to sit between two parents. In addition to the regular adult-sized gear we provide, special child-sized personal floatation devices and waterproof kayaking jackets are also provided.

Tours run every Saturday to Tuesday from late June through late August.

Grizzly Bear Viewing Day Trips: Many of our guests add a grizzly bear watching day trip before or after they join us kayaking. Let us know if you would like to add this activity and we will make all the arrangements.

Suggested reading: Our base camp has a library of field guides and local history books, including many listed below. We recommend the below books if you want to learn a bit about the area before visiting. Each title is linked to Amazon.com and will open in a new window. .

Operation Orca: Springer, Luna and the Struggle to Save West Coast Killer Whales
Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us
Full Moon, Flood Tide: Bill Proctor’s Raincoast
Heart of the Raincoast: A Life Story

Best times to view different marine mammals. Click below image to enlarge.

Price: $1245 CAD per person plus 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST)*.
Other currencies – £ GBP / € EUR / $ USD.

Group Size: Maximum of ten guests and three guides.

Participants: This tour is designed for families with children ages six and up.

Departs: Port McNeill, Vancouver Island.

2017 Dates:

June 24 to 27
July 1 to 4
July 8 to 11
July 15 to 18
July 22 to 25
July 29 to August 1
August 5 to 8
August 12 to 15
August 19 to 22
August 26 to 29

* Kingfisher’s multi-day kayak tours are eligible for a 50% point of sale rebate of the GST for visitors to Canada. In essence visitors to Canada pay 2.5% tax on multi-day kayak tours.

A note on June and early July departures: June and early July is a great time to be kayaking in Johnstone Strait and there is an unbelievable assortment of wildlife. The resident (fish-eating) orcas, however, are not reliably seen until mid-July. They may be intermittently seen during June and early July along with the transient (mammal-eating) orcas but are not as consistent as later in the summer. You can be assured that an early season tour provides a great kayaking experience and a wide variety of wildlife is present without all the extra people that visit mid-summer.

Grizzly Bear Viewing Day Trips: Many of our guests add a grizzly bear watching day trip before or after they join us kayaking. Let us know if you would like to add this activity and we will make all the arrangements.

Includes: We provide you will all the necessary kayaking and camping equipment, including kayaks, paddling jackets, PFD (life jacket), group shelters, tents, sleeping pads, camp chairs and sleeping bags (you may bring your own). A comprehensive list of required personal items can be read by clicking on the “Preparation” tab above. All meals during the kayak trip are provided and prepared by your guides. We’re proud of our menu that includes abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, a wide variety of international dishes, and freshly baked treats. Most dietary restrictions can be accommodated given sufficient prior notification. Transportation is all-inclusive from Port McNeill by our network of vans and water taxis.

What is not included: We do not provide transport from your home to Port McNeill, nor do we provide airport transfers. Accommodation in Port McNeill is not included. Any meals outside the kayak portion of the tour are your responsibility. Travel insurance for accidents or emergency evacuation is not provided; we recommend you purchase a policy before leaving home. The trip price does not include guide gratuities; should you feel that the service was exemplary, it is always appreciated.

Exact kayaking routes may vary depending on possible wildlife sightings, currents, tides and weather.

Day 0: Plan to be in Port McNeill the night before the kayak tour departs. There is a pre-trip meeting at 7:00 pm with your guides at our office, located at 1790A Campbell Way, across the street from the Haida Way Inn and next to the Black Bear Resort. Your guides provide you with an overview for your trip, distribute dry bags to pack your clothing, and answer any questions you may have.
Meals Included: None

Day 1: We meet at 8:30am to head down to the marina to load our water taxi. It is just a short walk from the hotels, and all your bags are transported by our van. Vehicles and extra luggage can be left at your hotel while you are on your kayak tour. If you are not staying at a hotel or B&B with parking, we have limited free parking and luggage storage available at our office.

The 45 to 60 minute water taxi ride takes us to our camp. Upon arrival at camp your guides provide a site orientation, plus a kayak and safety briefing. We head out kayaking before lunch, giving you time to get used to the kayaks, the wilderness setting, and each other.
Meals Included: Lunch – Dinner

Days 2 and 3: Each day brings a new journey; our camp is ideally situated for exploring the area. Right on killer whale travel routes and close to humpback whale feeding areas. Numerous islets which are home to numerous sea birds, bald eagles, and seals, are also close by. There is always plenty to see.

Your kayak guides plan each day according to weather conditions, wildlife viewing opportunities, and guest interests. Lunches are usually spent on a secluded beach, each night returning to the comforts of the base camp.

Every day is different, but rest assured, our goals are the same as yours– exploring, kayaking, whale watching, wildlife viewing, and enjoying the scenery.
Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner

Day 4: On the last day of our journey, we’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast and pack up our personal gear before our water taxi pickup at approximately 10:00 AM. This takes us to the village of Telegraph Cove, a historic logging and fishing community. Here, we have a chance to visit the “Bones Project” whale interpretive centre and walk around one of the last boardwalk communities on Vancouver Island. Our van transports us back to Port McNeil just after lunch.

We arrive back in Port McNeill around 2:00 pm giving you enough time to fly out of Port Hardy or catch a late ferry back to the mainland, but delays do happen. We suggest that our guests spend the last night in Port McNeill, enjoy a hot shower, and slowly transition out of vacation mode. Most guests choose to do this, and guests and guides often get together for a no-host farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch

This tour departs from Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island.

If driving to Port McNeill you need to sail on BC Ferries from the Vancouver area to either Nanaimo or Victoria on Vancouver Island. From Washington State, Coho Ferry sails between Port Angeles and Victoria. Drive time from Victoria to Port McNeill is approximately 5.5 hours and from Nanaimo to Port McNeill is approximately 4 hours.

Driving to Port McNeill is quite straight forward. From Victoria drive north on highway 1 to Nanaimo. From Nanaimo head north on Highway 19 until you see the sign for Port McNeill. Port McNeill is 1 minute off the main highway. The only other option to this route is north of Nanaimo just before you reach Parksville you can take the seaside route on Highway 19A. This route rejoins the main Highway 19 at Campbell River. The seaside route may add an extra hour to your trip.

If you are looking to share a ride to or from Port McNeill (you either have room in your vehicle or are looking for a ride) please visit our RideShare page to add your details to our RideShare calendar.

Tofino Bus operates once daily bus service between Victoria and Port McNeill. Connections can be made from Vancouver in Nanaimo.

Flights to Port Hardy (YZT), the closest airport to Port McNeill, depart from the south terminal of Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and are approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. These flights are operated by Pacific Coastal Airlines. Port Hardy airport is a 30 minute taxi ride from Port McNeill.

If flying with Air Canada or one of its partners, and you are not planning to visit Vancouver, you may want to check on flying to either Nanaimo (YCD), Victoria (YYJ) or Campbell River (YBL) on Vancouver Island. While you would still need to rent a car or take the bus it saves you the time and cost of the ferry.

Another option is to fly via Calgary (YYC) or Edmonton (YEG) to Comox (YQQ) on Vancouver Island with WestJet Airlines. Comox is about 2 1/2 hour drive south of Port McNeill.

Kenmore Air operates float plane service to Port McNeill from Seattle, Washington.

Recommended Port McNeill Accommodations

Black Bear Resort

Additional Port McNeill Accommodations
Haida Way Motor Inn
Dalewood Inn
McNeill Inn

Our Guest Handbook contains details on preparing for your kayak tour. Included in the handbook is travel and accommodation information, a list of what to bring, what you can expect while you are kayaking, wildlife viewing etiquette, and medical and release forms.

The handbook answers commonly asked questions. However, do not hesitate to contact us with any specific questions you may have. The handbook is in PDF format. If you do not have a PDF viewer one can be downloaded free from Adobe.

For quick reference, here is what you should be bringing on your kayak tour. We provide everything else.

While the summer months in British Columbia are mostly warm and sunny, we still have a few cold and wet days. After all, the coast of British Columbia is the world’s largest temperate rainforest. For maximum enjoyment on your trip in all types of weather please bring the items listed below.

It is important that your clothing be made of synthetic materials or wool to retain their warmth when wet. Most synthetics also have the advantage of being quick drying. Avoid cotton clothing because they lack warmth if wet and take a very long time to dry. All of the items listed below need to fit into four dry bags (which we supply). If you have any questions on what you need to bring please feel free to contact us.

Sleeping bag – fits into 40 litre dry bag
We supply sleeping bags, liners, and pillows to all guests but if you prefer to bring your own we recommend:
● A three season synthetic insulated bag

Clothing – fits into 20 litre dry bag
Please bring everything listed. There is duplication and you may not need everything, but in the event of getting wet or cold you will be glad you have it. While many people consider long underwear to be a winter item it can make a world of difference on a cool summer evening and can double as leggings under shorts during the day. The biggest heat loss area is the head and a warm hat can add immensely to your comfort.

● 1 pairs of short
● 2 pair of pants
● 2 long sleeve shirts
● 2 short sleeve shirts
● 1 sweater or sweatshirt
● 3 to 4 pairs of socks
● 2 sets of long underwear
● 3 to 4 pairs of underwear
● 1 swimsuit
● 1 fleece jacket
● 1 baseball cap or sun hat
● 1 wool or fleece cap

Rain gear – fits into 10 litre dry bag
We provide waterproof kayaking jackets but you still need rain gear for around camp. Rain gear does not need to be breathable but it should be be waterproof – not water-repellent.
● 1 waterproof rain jacket with hood or rain hat
● 1 pair of waterproof rain pants

Personal items – fits into 10 litre dry bag
● Toiletries
● Sun screen
● Sunglasses with a retainer
● Prescription eyeglasses or contacts
● Spare eyeglasses or contacts
● Wet Wipes
● Synthetic camp towel
● Medication
● Spare medication
● Insect repellent
● Book
● Flashlight and batteries
● Camera
● Extra digital storage and batteries

Footwear – either worn or packed loose
● sandals or shoes you can get wet
● Walking or running shoes (preferably waterproofed)

Optional
● Rubber boots (some guests prefer these instead of wet shoes or sandals for kayaking. But, if you go too deep when entering or exiting your kayak the boots will be wet for the remainder of the trip).
● Wool or fleece gloves or mitts (if your hands easily get cold these are good to have for the evenings)
● Paddling or cycling gloves (we provide kayaking mitts for warmth, but if you are prone to blisters you may find cycling or paddling gloves to be beneficial).
● Farmer Jane/John wet suit to wear kayaking.

While each of our kayak tours and routes will vary based on possible wildlife sightings, currents, tides and weather the below map highlights the general area that this particular kayak tour operates in.

Charts: You do not need to bring charts on this kayak tour. Your guides have charts of the area and will review them with guests each day. If you wish to bring your own chart(s) they are listed below. Each chart is linked to the corresponding page on the Canadian Hydrographic Service’s website and you can search where to buy these charts locally (links will open in a new window).

3546 – Broughton Strait – 1:40,000

Book Now – Risk Free Sign up now with a deposit to book your spot and it’s fully refundable for 72 hours after your booking. This gives you three days to sort out travel plans and ensure you don’t lose your spot(s). If you can’t make the trip, let us know by phone or email within 72 hours of booking for a full refund of your deposit.

To prevent our e-mailed reply from going into your SPAM folder, please add info@kingfisher.ca to your Address Book or Allowed Sender List.

A $250 CAD per person deposit is required to permanently reserve your spot(s) on an Orca Waters Base Camp kayak tour. The remaining balance is due 30 days before your tour’s departure date. Please note our cancellation policy.

We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and JCB cards. Please note that all prices are in Canadian dollars and that 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be added to the price of each tour. Visitors to Canada receive a 50% point of sale rebate on the GST.