Frequently Asked Questions

We pride ourselves on small group sizes, allowing close personal attention and minimal impact on the environment and the wildlife we view from our kayaks. Our base camp tours have a maximum of ten guests and three guides, while our explorer tours have a maximum of eight guests with two guides. 

In addition to minimizing our impact on the land we find the smaller group size allows us to better manage our groups around wildlife giving us better viewing opportunities.

All of Kingfisher’s kayak guides are certified with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia. Each of our guides are chosen for their ability to lead and instruct, their knowledge of the local area and wildlife, and their ability to ensure everyone fully enjoys their trip. Most of our guides have been with Kingfisher for a number of seasons and it is because of them that we have many guests returning year after year. Visit our About Us page to learn more about our team.

Even with little or no kayaking experience, you can join our Base Camp tours. Our Vancouver Island Explorer tours are suitable for beginners with a sense of adventure.

Due to the length of our Haida Gwaii tours and their remote location they are also best suited to people with some previous kayaking experience.

Our Great Bear Rainforest expedition is designed for kayakers with a moderate amount of previous kayaking experience and is our most challenging trip

While whales are often viewed on all of our kayak tours, the Base Camp and Whales and Wildlife Explorer kayak tours have by far the most reliable sightings of both orcas and humpback whales.

Please keep in mind that while these tours offer great viewing opportunities we are still dealing with wildlife and we cannot guarantee any particular sightings.

The northern resident (fish-eating) orcas are most reliably seen around northern Vancouver Island from mid-July through September. They may be seen in June and early July, along with the transient (mammal-eating) orcas, however, sightings become more consistent later in the summer. As they are wild, we cannot guarantee any particular sightings.

There is a lot of different wildlife along the British Columbia coast year round. However, we find that the greatest and most diverse wildlife is often found off northern Vancouver Island from mid-August through September.

We pride ourselves on the wholesome hearty meals we provide on our tours. The effort that goes into planning, organizing, and executing our wilderness menus is quite extensive. We are happy to accommodate many dietary restrictions on our tours but each restriction adds to the complexity of this planning and adds additional costs. Below are some of the common restrictions we can accommodate on our base camp tours and any additional costs associated with it that you will be charged.

      • No red meat – no additional cost
      • No seafood  – no additional cost
      • Vegetarian – no additional cost
      • Vegan + $75 to $300 depending on trip length
      • Gluten intolerant + $75 to $300 depending on trip length
      • Lactose intolerant + $75 to $300 depending on trip length
      • If you have dietary restrictions not listed above (for example, you hate onions and are unwilling to pick around them in a meal), or have allergies or medical conditions (like celiac disease, egg, soy or peanut allergies) that prevent certain foods from being enjoyed by other guests on the trip, please contact our office to discuss whether we can accommodate your needs.
      • Some dietary needs that we cannot accommodate include nightshade allergies (potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers) or keto and paleo diets.

While we enjoy tours with younger children we also recognize that not all our guests want to be spending their vacation around children. At Kingfisher we limit participants to fifteen years or older on most of our tours. For families with children aged six to fourteen we have our Family Kayak With Whales and custom kayak tours.

The Base Camps feature roomy canvas tents raised off the ground on wooden platforms, are situated throughout the forest with views of the ocean. The tents provide ample room 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. 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.

These tours camp at wilderness locations with little or no improvements; in some cases we may be the only people to camp there all year. These tours require more group participation in setting up and taking down our camps than our base camp tours.

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 also provided. A library of natural history books is on every trip.

For our base camp tours, the camps have two out-houses made from locally milled cedar. The outhouses incorporate a holding tank and cedar sawdust to cover the waste. The tank is replaced every few days. Guests often comment on the cleanliness of our system. We pack out all holding tanks to be properly disposed of at a sewage disposal station. When away from camp during the day we use the inter-tidal area for low impact toilet use.

For our explorer tours, we generally use the inter-tidal area for low impact toilet use. These tour run in wilderness areas and there are limited or no facilities in the areas we visit.

All of our kayak tours take place in wilderness locations with varying degrees of remoteness. Our Haida Gwaii and Great Bear Rainforest kayak tours are the most remote and see the least number of other kayakers and boaters.

Our Haida Gwaii tours take place in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage site that has strict limits on the number of tour companies and visitors enter the area.

In the Great Bear Rainforest we have kayaked for more than a week without seeing any other people or boats!

Each of our kayak tours operate in the traditional territories of many different First Nations and we try to incorporate interpretation of their culture and history into our trips.

Our Haida Gwaii tours have the strongest First Nations aspect as we visit many of the parks Haida cultural sites, including a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ninstints on most tours.

Our Great Bear Rainforest tours start with a tour of the Klemtu Big House and we may visit an ancient cultural site during the trip.

On our Broughton Archipelago tours we sometimes visit the ancient village of Meem Quam Leese which is slowly being reclaimed by the forest.

For our Base Camp and Orca Waters Explorer tours we work with three local First Nations to lease campsites. These tours include rainforest hikes to view culturally modified trees.

We highly recommend our Vancouver Island guests visit the Umista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay and our guests in Haida Gwaii visit the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate to learn more about the local First Nations culture.

At Kingfisher we provide premium kayaks and equipment and all equipment is included in the cost of the trip.

We use both single and double kayaks made by Vancouver Island’s Seaward Kayaks. On a full base camp trip with ten guests and three guides we use seven single and three double kayaks. On full Explorer tours with eight guests and two guides we use six single and two double kayaks. The mix of single and doubles allow you to spend time in each type. Our kayak paddles are lightweight carbon/vinyl paddles made by Werner Paddles. A Kokatat paddling jacket and neoprene paddling mitts are provided to keep you warm and dry while kayaking. We also provide personal floatation devices.

We provide all camping and cooking equipment. We also provide dry bags to pack your gear in. All you really need to bring are your clothing and toiletries.

If you prefer to stay in a double kayak for the duration of the trip, that can be arranged. If you prefer a single kayak you will likely be in a single for at least half of the trip, but we rotate guests so that everyone who wants to spend time in a single has the opportunity, so you will have to spend time in a double as well. If other guests on your trip prefer to be in a double kayak for the duration of the trip this may increase the amount of time you spend in a single kayak.

A comprehensive list of what you should bring for each tour is included under the “Preparation” tab of each tour. The packing list is also provided in the guest handbook that is emailed to you when you book.

We have a solar-powered charging station for camera batteries at the Base Camps that have both 110v and USB charging outlets. Please bring your chargers with you. For international visitors please bring an appropriate plug adapter. On explorer tour we do not have a charging station, so you will need to pack extra batteries. Visit our blog for more information on kayak photography.

If you require a CPAP machine overnight, you can join our Base Camp tours. We have a solar-powered charging station at the Base Camps that have both 110v and USB charging outlets, and is backed up by a generator. We can run a power cord to your tent overnight. If you have spare batteries, we do recommend bringing them, just in case. Please contact us to notify us that you require this setup when booking.

For our tours departing from Port McNeill (Vancouver Island):
You can leave your vehicle at your accommodations if you are staying at the Black Bear Resort or Haida Way in Port McNeill. If you are staying elsewhere, you can park your vehicle at the Kingfisher Office while on tour. Ask your guides at the pre-trip meeting where to park.
If you are driving an RV, you can park it at our office as long as it less than 30 feet long. If longer than that we can help arrange something.

For our tours departing from Sandspit (Haida Gwaii):
You can leave your vehicle at the Seaport B&B or Moresby Explorers office while on tour. Ask your guides at the pre-trip meeting where to park.

For our tours departing from Port McNeill (Vancouver Island):
You can leave your extra luggage at your accommodations if you are staying at the Black Bear Resort or Haida Way in Port McNeill. If you are staying elsewhere, you can leave it in your vehicle or inside at the Kingfisher Office while on tour. 

For our tours departing from Sandspit (Haida Gwaii):
You can leave your extra luggage at your accommodations if you are staying at the Seaport B&B or Sandspit Inn while on tour. 

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