Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour

Watching a sea otter crack open a sea urchin on its chest, waking up to find wolf tracks on the beach in front of your camp, or quietly sitting in your kayak observing a black bear forage for seafood at low tide are truly special experiences—experiences you can have on a Sea Otter Explorer Tour.

Share the adventure!     Facebooktwittergoogle_plusFacebooktwittergoogle_plus

On the wild west coast of Vancouver Island lies Nuchatlitz Provincial Marine Park – a spectacular group of small islets, soft sand beaches, open ocean views, and amazing wildlife. Nuchatlitz is one of the few places in Canada where we can reliably view sea otters. After being hunted almost to extinction in the last century, their population is steadily growing, and now in Nuchatlitz we can view large rafts of these playful creatures.

Our water taxi drops us off on a remote island for this five-day voyage. Days are spent exploring the many islets, reefs, and beaches of Nuchatlitz Provincial Marine Park and Nootka Island. We usually move between two or three different camps during this trip, depending on weather, wildlife sightings and group interests.

  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Typical sea otter pose.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Kayaking the west coast of Vancouver Island
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Sea otter mother and pup.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Sea otter mother and pup.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Black oystercatchers.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - A kayak beach camp on a small island in Nuchatlitz.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - While not seen on every west coast trip, humpback whales often come close shore to feed.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - While not seen on every west coast trip, humpback whales often come close shore to feed.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Kayaking toward Catala and Twin Islands.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Rafts of sea otters are a common sight while kayaking in Nuchatlitz.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Black bears are fairly common on Nootka Island.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Sea anemones.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Bald eagle and nest.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - When the tide is right we can kayak upstream and reach this waterfall.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Looking over some of the islets that make up Nuchatlitz Provincial Marine Park.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Seeing a black bear on the beach while we kayak by usually happens on a Sea Otter Explorer tour.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Mother black bear and cub seen from our kayaks.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Sea otter.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - Rafts of sea otters are a common sight while kayaking in Nuchatlitz.
  • Sea Otter Explorer Kayak Tour - West coast sunset.
In addition to the area’s large sea otter population we often encounter humpback whales during our paddles and Nootka Island is home to healthy wolf and black bear populations. Black bears can often be seen foraging along the beaches at low tide. However, sightings of wolves are much more elusive and while we may not see them we may see their tracks in the sand and hear them howling at night.
If you are looking for a tour that encompasses sandy beaches, west coast scenery, and fantastic wildlife, try our five-day Sea Otter Explorer kayak tour.

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 kayak tours carry a small 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.

White Slaves of Maquinna: John R Jewitt’s Narrative of Capture and Confinement at Nootka Island

Price: $1550 CAD per person plus 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST)*.
Other currencies – £ GBP / € EUR / $ USD .

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

Participants: This tour is adult-oriented but participants as young as 15 may be accepted.

Departs: Port McNeill, Vancouver Island.

2017 Dates:

June 19 to 23
July 17 to 21
August 21 to 25

* 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.

Below is a sample itinerary; exact routes will 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, as there is an 8:00 pm pre-trip meeting 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. We’ll provide you with an overview for your trip, distribute dry-bags to pack your gear in, and answer any questions you may have.
Meals Included: None

Day 1: Our van departs promptly at 7:15 am for the 90-minute ride to the town of Zeballos. Please ensure that you’ve had breakfast, organized your gear, and checked out by this time. Vehicles and extra bags can often be left at your hotel while you’re on the trip – just ask at the front desk. Otherwise, let us know as we have limited free parking at our office.

In Zeballos, we load our gear and kayaks onto a water taxi for transport to Nuchatlitz Inlet. They drop us on a protected beach, in the middle of the best paddling in the area. After packing up our kayaks and going through a paddle briefing, we’ll hit the water and head to our campsite.
Meals Included: Lunch – Dinner

Days 2 to 4: These days are spent exploring the area; Nuchatlitz Inlet and Nootka Island in particular. This area is characterized by sandy beaches, many small islets, and offshore reefs which disperse the pacific swell.

We will likely have two or three different camps during this trip, depending on weather, wildlife sightings, and group interests. There is extensive exploring to do among the many small islets. Along the Nootka Island shoreline we often see black bears at low tide; there is a considerable population here. Along Nuchatlitz Inlet there are some beautiful sea caves and many tiny pebble beaches.

The sea otters are abundant in this area, and we often see them from our camps; humpback whales are often a common sight as well, although they are also further out to sea, and thus sightings are more weather dependent.

Itineraries vary from trip to trip, but rest assured that wildlife viewing, exploration, and relaxing are always key factors in our trips
Meals Included: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner

Day 5: On the last day, we’ll enjoy a last breakfast and linger over a cup of coffee before breaking camp for the last time. After a short paddle back to the pick-up spot, we’ll load the water taxi and head back up the inlet to Zeballos. Expect to arrive back in Port McNeil between 4:00 and 4:30 pm.

We usually arrive back in Port McNeill in enough time for you to fly out of Port Hardy or catch a late ferry back to the mainland, but delays do happen. We strongly 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 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
● 1 sweater or sweatshirt
● 3 to 5 pairs of socks
● 2 sets of long underwear
● 4 to 6 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).

Chart 3676 – Esperanza Inlet – 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 $500 CAD per person deposit is required to permanently reserve your spot(s) on a Sea Otter Explorer 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.