Our most challenging kayak tour is to a portion of British Columbia’s central coast known as the Great Bear Rainforest. Stretching for 400 kilometres along BC’s coast, the Great Bear Rainforest is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. This beautifully rugged coast offers the adventurous traveller with diverse kayaking routes, abundant wildlife, and a rich First Nations culture.

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As we kayak between the remote coastal villages of Klemtu and Bella Bella we enjoy diverse kayaking conditions, campsites, and scenery. Our route takes us down protected inlets, along open coastline, and through narrow passages with strong tidal currents. We camp on long sandy beaches, islands with shell beaches, and small beaches of pebbles and cobble. All the time we are surrounded by the rainforest that is dominated by ancient red cedar, western hemlock, and giant Sitka spruce trees.

The rainforest and surrounding ocean are intricately entwined to form a rich and diverse ecosystem. The forest is home to a wide variety of wildlife including ravens, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, wolves, deer, and bears. The sea is home to salmon, orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins and porpoises. We view a wide variety of wildlife as we kayak but many of the land animals are shy and elusive and sometimes we just see their telltale tracks in the sand or hear a howl at night. If we are extremely lucky we may catch a glimpse of a rare Kermode or spirit bear — a white variation of a black bear caused by a recessive gene. One out of every ten black bears in this area is white.

As we kayak, we travel through the traditional territories of both the Kitasoo Xai’xais and Heiltsuk First Nations. This has been their home for thousands of years and during our travels we encounter evidence of past and present use. At low tide we may come across stone fish traps, when walking through the rainforest culturally modified trees may be seen, and if conditions allow we meet a local Kitasoo guide to tour an ancient big house site.

  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - The Big House in Klemtu.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Carving at the Klemtu The Big House.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Kayaking in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Kayaks on the beach with Laredo Sound and Princess Royal Island in the background.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Kitasu Bay in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Sitting around the camp fire in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Fresh caught crab for dinner.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Hanging gear on a log to dry in the sun.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - A remote island kayak camp in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Beach camping in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - An unexpected early morning visit from the A30 matriline of northern resident killer whales.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Taking a break from kayaking in the Great Bear Rainforest
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - An old trail in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Kayaking past the Dryad Point lighthouse.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Kayaks on the beach looking to Millbanke Sound.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Building a fire to heat rocks for a beach sauna.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Kayaking in the Great Bear Rainforest.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Reviewing our kayaking route on the chart.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Common loons.
  • Great Bear Rainforest Kayak Expedition - Great Bear Rainforest sunset.

This is our most challenging tour and we require participants to have prior kayaking experience. Compared to our other tours, the Great Bear Rainforest tour is more exploratory in nature and leaves the itinerary more flexible to deal with the dynamic environment we kayak through. Contact us to see if this tour is right for you.

We provide high quality three season tents. For couples we provide three person tents and for solo travellers a slightly smaller tent. Therm-a-rest sleeping pads and warm mummy style sleeping bags with liners are all provided to ensure a good night’s sleep. A library of natural history books is on every trip.

On the water we use stable single and double fibreglass kayaks and lightweight carbon/vinyl paddles. Waterproof kayaking jackets and neoprene kayaking mitts are provided to keep you warm and dry while kayaking.

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: All of our tours carry a small library of field guides and local history books. The two books listed below are larger “coffee table” books that are too big to fit in our kayaks. If you wish to learn more about the area prior to your trip these books provide a great narrative with stunning photographs. Each title is linked to Amazon.com and open in a new window.

The Great Bear Rainforest: Canada’s Forgotten Coast
The Last Wild Wolves: Ghosts of the Rain Forest

Price: $4400 CAD per person plus 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST)*.
Other currencies – £ GBP / € EUR / $ USD .

Group Size: Maximum of six guests and two guides (some tours may have a third trainee guide).

Participants: This tour is adult-oriented and requires previous kayaking experience.

Suitability: Intermediate to advanced kayakers. Is this tour right for you?

Departs: Port McNeill, Vancouver Island

2017 Dates: June 17 to 30 – One spot

* 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.

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 1: There is a pre-trip meeting at 12:00 pm noon 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 last minute questions you may have. We depart our office at 3:30 pm for the half hour drive in our van to the ferry terminal where we load all our kayaks, gear, and food for two weeks on the overnight ferry to Klemtu.

Any luggage and clothing not needed during the kayak tour can be stored at our office until our return.

The ferry departs at 6:00 pm. You can decide to rough it on the ferry sleeping in the comfortable chairs or for an additional cost you can rent a cabin with bunks (contact us for more details)

Meals Included: none
Dinner is at guests’ expense on the ferry.

Day 2: We arrive in Klemtu around 5:30 am in the morning. We pack our kayaks for the adventure ahead. Before paddling off to our first wilderness campsite we have an opportunity for a short visit to the village of Klemtu. If available, we may tour of the village’s Big House.

Meals Included: Lunch – Dinner
Breakfast is at guests’ expense on the ferry

Day 3 to 13: Kayaking. As this trip is run ‘expedition’ style, we leave our itinerary very open to ensure our flexibility. This is a beautiful area to paddle, but we must work with the conditions and remain open to adventure.

Each day, your guides assess the weather, tides, and sea state to determine the destination for the day. Flexibility is key. We plan to begin the trip by heading north and west from Klemtu to explore a portion of Princess Royal Island. After a few days we begin heading south crossing both Laredo and Millbanke Sounds as we make our way toward Bella Bella where we catch the ferry back to Port Hardy.

We can expect a combination of exposed open coastline and more protected inner passageways during this trip. As this is a nomadic tour, camp is usually moved each night. We may have an opportunity to stay in place for two nights, conditions allowing. On these ‘expedition style’ trips, we generally paddle an hour or two more each day than on our regular tours. We also paddle in more challenging conditions. Swell, wind, and open water crossings are common.
Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner

Day 14: We kayak to the Bella Bella ferry terminal mid-afternoon. Ferry departs at 6:10 pm and arrives in Port Hardy at 11:30 pm. Van transfer to Port McNeill hotels (hotel not included in the tour price but we can arrange this for you and add it to your invoice).
Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch
Dinner available on the ferry at guests’ expense

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 (currently being updated for 2017)  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 20 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
● 2 sweater or sweatshirt
● 4 to 7 pairs of socks
● 2 sets of long underwear
● 4 to 7 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)

● 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).

3726 Laredo Sound and Approaches – 1:77,217
3737 Laredo Channel including Laredo Inlet and Surf Inlet – 1:77,429
3939 Fisher Channel to Seaforth Channel and Dean Channel – 1:40,000
3941 Channels Vicinity of Milbanke Sound – 1:40,000
3943 Finlayson Channel and Tolmie Channel – 1:40,000

3710 Plans – Vicinity of Laredo Sound and Milbanke Sound – 1:>= 18,868

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 $500 CAD per person deposit is required to permanently reserve your spot(s) on a Great Bear Rainforest 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.