Imagine waking one morning to the sound of a humpback whale’s blow as it swims past your ocean-side tent. Later that same day watch in awe as a pod of killer whales, also known as orcas, swim past your kayak as a bald eagle swoops down to catch a salmon. This can all happen on a “Kayak With Whales” base camp kayak tour with Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures.
There is no better place in the world to kayak with both killer whales and humpback whales than Johnstone Strait off the northeastern corner of Vancouver Island. This area is recognized as one of the most predictable places in the world to see these great marine mammals and Kingfisher’s base camps are located right in the heart of these wildlife-rich waters on an island covered in old growth rainforest.
During a four day and three night stay at the base camp you explore the variety of kayaking routes the area has to offer. Killer whales and humpback whales regularly pass by the camp, often while you are enjoying the morning’s first cup of French-pressed organic coffee or a dinner of locally caught salmon around the campfire. The nearby waters are home to harbour seals, porpoises, minke whales, and rich intertidal life. A number of bald eagle nests and a Steller sea lion haul out are all within easily paddling distance of camp and it is not uncommon to see humpback whales lunging through schools of small fish as they fatten up for their migration south.
Kingfisher’s guides are well acquainted with the natural history, whales, and other wildlife of British Columbia’s coast, knowledge which they eagerly share. It is hard to miss a killer whale’s six foot dorsal fin as it passes your kayak, but your guides also help you spot the less obvious sea stars, urchins and anemones in the shallows and educate you about the other whales, seals, porpoises, and dolphins that frequent these waters.
Dates & Prices
Is this trip right for you?
Dates & Prices
Price: $1795 CAD per person plus 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) *additional charges for some dietary restrictions Dates: This tour runs every Tuesday to Friday from mid-June to late September. See the calendar below for availability. Group Size: Maximum of ten guests and three guides. Participants: This tour is adult-oriented but participants as young as 15 may be accepted. Suitability: This tour is suitable for a wide range of abilities Departs: Port McNeill, Vancouver Island.
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.
Is this trip right for you?
This tour is suitable for a wide range of abilities. However a certain level of physical fitness and mobility is required as well as the ability to enjoy what can sometimes be less than ideal conditions, like wind and rain. Below is a bit of what you can expect on this tour.
Paddle a single and/or double kayak for 4-6 hours per day. We take numerous breaks and often go slow to view wildlife.
The paddling can be a bit harder at times if we need to go against the wind or current.
Expect to spend time in a double kayak during your tour. With advance notice we can often accommodate guests who want to spend their entire trip in a double kayak but we cannot accommodate guests who want to spend their entire trip in a single kayak.
Climb down a ladder from the water taxi to the beach at our base camp.
Assist with loading and offloading of gear and supplies from water taxi.
If you have physical limitations that may make this difficult contact our office before booking to ensure this can be accommodated.
Carry kayaks and gear up and down the beach (this is often the most physically demanding part of the trip)
If you have physical limitations that may make this difficult contact our office before booking to ensure this can be accommodated.
While the base camps have out-houses, when away from camp during the day we use the inter-tidal area for low impact toilet use.
The base camp has a hot water shower but it is unlike your shower at home. Showers are usually limited to less than 20 litres of water which allows you to get wet, turn off the water as you lather, and then rinse off. We use a rain catchment system for shower water and during long spells of no rain we may have to further minimize the amount of water used.
Recognize that wildlife does not operate on our schedules. Our guides are very knowledgeable and attempt to provide as many wildlife viewings as possible. However, there are no guarantees when it comes to viewing specific species.
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
Gluten intolerant +$75
Lactose intolerant +$75
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.
View our guest handbook (currently being update for 2023) for more information on preparing for this tour.
If you wish to discuss your suitability for this or any of our other kayak tours contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1-866-546-4347 in North America or +1-250-856-4617 internationally.
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 8:00 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 in the morning to head down to the marina to load our water taxi. 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 base camp. Upon arrival at the base camp your guides provide a site orientation, plus a kayak and safety briefing. We kayak for a short time before lunch, giving you time to get used to the kayaks, the wilderness setting, and each other. The afternoon is spent kayaking and viewing the area’s diverse wildlife. Meals Included: Lunch – Dinner
Days 2 and 3: Each day brings a new journey; our base camp is ideally situated for exploring the area. The base camp is located on killer whale travel routes and humpback whales often feed within sight of camp. The islands and small islets close to the camp are home to numerous sea birds, bald eagles, and seals. There is always plenty to see.
Both killer whales and humpback whales regularly pass by our camp, and we have enjoyed many dinner shows from the beach. When we encounter killer whales on the water, we often drop a hydrophone into the water so we can listen to their vocalizations.
Your kayak guides plan each day according to weather conditions, wildlife viewing opportunities, and guest interests. Lunches are usually spent on a secluded beach. We return late each afternoon 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, we enjoy a hearty breakfast before heading out for one last kayak paddle. Returning to camp for a late lunch, you then pack up your gear, and snap a few last photographs. Our water taxi picks us up between 3:30 and 4:00pm for the trip back to Port McNeil, arriving by 5:00pm.
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
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, participant detail form and waiver.
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 in the guest handbook.
The base camps offer a very comfortable camping experience and with Kingfisher’s knowledgeable kayak guides this tour is suitable for adventurous travellers even if they have little or no kayaking or camping experience. Roomy canvas tents, each 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 to ensure a good night’s sleep. A recharging station for digital cameras, an extensive library of natural history books, a hot water -on demand shower, and a large covered kitchen and dining area made from locally milled red cedar make for a very comfortable camping experience.
On the water we use stable single and double fibreglass kayaks and lightweight carbon/vinyl paddles. Waterproof kayaking jackets, personal floatation devices, and neoprene kayaking mitts are provided to keep you warm and dry while kayaking.
Includes: We provide you with 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. 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.
When using our online booking from you can choose the below optional items to add to your kayak tour.
Black Bear Resort: (opens in a new tab) We can arrange your pre and/or post night accommodations in Port McNeill at the Black Bear Resort
This tour departs from Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. You can travel to Port McNeill by car or plane.
Driving – If driving from the Vancouver area on the Mainland of British Columbia to Port McNeill you need to sail on BC Ferries 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 straightforward. 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.
Flying – 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 you are planning on renting a car on Vancouver Island (and not stopping in Vancouver), you can also fly with Air Canada to either Nanaimo (YCD), Victoria (YYJ) or Campbell River (YBL) on Vancouver Island. Another option is to fly with WestJet Airlines via Calgary (YYC) or Edmonton (YEG) to Comox (YQQ) on Vancouver Island. Comox is about 2 1/2 hour drive south of Port McNeill.
Kenmore Air operates float plane service to Port McNeill from Seattle, Washington.
I don’t have much kayaking experience. Can I still join a tour?
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.
What are your best tours to see whales?
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.
When will I have the best chance of seeing orcas?
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.
When is the best time for wildlife in general?
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.
Can I request to paddle a double or single kayak for the entire tour?
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.
What are the accommodations like on the base camp 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.
What are the toilets like?
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.
How many guest and guides are on each tour?
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.
For answers to more frequently asked question please visit our complete FAQs page.
Unplug and enjoy beautiful northern Vancouver Island Our whole trip was wonderful. We were very excited about the kayak base camp trip we had signed up for and everything lived up to all our expectations and more. Our guides, Julian and Katie were such great people firstly and our trip was immeasurably...read moreOur whole trip was wonderful. We were very excited about the kayak base camp trip we had signed up for and everything lived up to all our expectations and more. Our guides, Julian and Katie were such great people firstly and our trip was immeasurably more enjoyable because of their friendship, leadership, hard work, culinary skills and of course their exemplary knowledge of the outdoors, wildlife, ocean tides and kayaking skills. It was never a stressful time paddling or at camp. I would absolutely come back for another visit with Kingfisher. It was very well organized and all the pre-trip information and packing lists were great. Those large dry bags held much more than I thought they would so we could pack everything we wanted. We ended up not needing all of the warm weather clothes due to our fantastic weather and crazy warm sleeping bags Kingfisher provided. I WILL be back one day and I still cannot say enough about our guides Julian and Katie. I hope to see them again.read less
Kingfisher Whales and Grizzlies four-day excursion a smash hit! I recently experienced this kayaking adventure with nine pals. We unanimously agreed that the experience simply could not have been better. We were graced with good weather and abundant marine and wildlife viewings. From a full breach by a Humpback w...read moreI recently experienced this kayaking adventure with nine pals. We unanimously agreed that the experience simply could not have been better. We were graced with good weather and abundant marine and wildlife viewings. From a full breach by a Humpback whale, to a clear sighting of an Orca's dorsal fin from the middle of Blackfish Sound, to seals, sea lions, the fattest bald eagles on earth, swimming deer, and countless species of marine creatures and plants, our cups were absolutely full. Our three guides, Cam, Zach, and Megan (ph.) were all incredibly knowledgeable and skilled. They quickly assessed our capabilities as kayakers and designed our kayaking adventures to perfectly suit us. The food was excellent, the permanent platform-based tents were super comfortable. Nothing was left to chance, and yet we were able to take advantage of opportunities as they presented. I can highly recommend this kayaking adventure - it will be a wilderness highlight for life!read less
The West Coast at its BEST! We did a four-day base camp with whales tour in September 2020. I have been on many kayaking trips all over Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii but this trip is a highlight. I have never seen so much marine life in one area - humpbacks, orcas, sea lion...read moreWe did a four-day base camp with whales tour in September 2020. I have been on many kayaking trips all over Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii but this trip is a highlight. I have never seen so much marine life in one area - humpbacks, orcas, sea lions, porpoise, dolphins, seals, eagles, herons, ravens.
Our group has done expedition trips in the past but loved the base camp experience -- a level of comfort that let us enjoy the kayaking even more.
The area in which we did our paddling provided excellent variety. A perfect mix of days.read less
Whales and Wilderness Expedition I recently participated in the June 2019 whales and wilderness kayak expedition with Kingfisher in the Broughton Archipelago. I attended as a solo, It was a great group of people who all had a background of outdoor adventure experience.
Our guid...read moreI recently participated in the June 2019 whales and wilderness kayak expedition with Kingfisher in the Broughton Archipelago. I attended as a solo, It was a great group of people who all had a background of outdoor adventure experience.
Our guides Sam and Kyle knocked it out of the park with a perfect blend of kayak expedition know how, keeping things fun, wildlife, native and area knowledge and of course making great food. They accented each other wonderfully with Sam always keeping his head in the game and making great but tough decisions in terms of weather related itinerary changes that were educated, safe and sound. Kyle was always checking in with everyone and making sure all of our needs and wants were met with consideration and grace. The leave no trace camping ethics are important to me and for the first time I used the toilet unit which was a bit of luxe and felt responsible.
In terms of wildlife viewing I will bring binoculars in the future as I had a hard time viewing wildlife at the 100-200 metre distance. We saw Harbour Porpoises, Sea Lions, Seals, some smaller creatures near the shore and far in the distance blowing of Humpbacks.
From start to finish Kingfisher as a company was organized, professional and considerate to deal with, for example; asking each individual for food preferences. Having all the gear and kit saved me bringing everything myself.
Many thanks for a great trip.read less
Wow, just wow! We did the 6 day Whales and Wilderness Explorer trip very near the end of a 7 week long trip to Canada. We expected to like and enjoy the trip, but we didn't expect to be absolutely blown away by it! We had done lots of other outdoor adventures d...read moreWe did the 6 day Whales and Wilderness Explorer trip very near the end of a 7 week long trip to Canada. We expected to like and enjoy the trip, but we didn't expect to be absolutely blown away by it! We had done lots of other outdoor adventures during our trip, all of which we'd …read less
Base Camp Kayak With Whales and Grizzly Bears My husband and I participated in a 4-day-3-night base camp Whale and Grizzly Bear trip with Kingfisher and we had an AMAZING time! We are both scientists and have gone on lots of cool outdoor adventures, but this trip was exceptional. We saw so much ...read moreMy husband and I participated in a 4-day-3-night base camp Whale and Grizzly Bear trip with Kingfisher and we had an AMAZING time! We are both scientists and have gone on lots of cool outdoor adventures, but this trip was exceptional. We saw so much wildlife that we could hardly believe it; humpbacks, orca (both transient and resident), Dall's porpoise, pacific white-sided dolphin, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, grizzly bears, and black bears to name the highlights. Our guides, Allie and Tessa, were very friendly and knowledgeable. The food was EXCELLENT and there was plenty of it. The tents and beds were cozy and a hot water bottle was offered for those who wanted to warm up their sleeping bag (although the sleeping bags were plenty warm themselves). The kayaks were sturdy and in great shape and all of the equipment was well maintained. We woke up to the sounds of feeding humpback whales right outside our tent each morning and we watched them feed in the straight as the sun set each evening (all from camp). Overall, it was an amazing trip that we will never forget and we highly recommend it anyone interested in a wonderful wildlife adventure!read less
Kayaking Haida Gwaii with the best Everything about our trip with Kingfisher was exceptional:
- planning and communication around COVID-19
- kayaks and the equipment provided was all excellent in new or near new condition. Great tents, thermarest sleeping pads and warm thermarest s...read moreEverything about our trip with Kingfisher was exceptional:
- planning and communication around COVID-19
- kayaks and the equipment provided was all excellent in new or near new condition. Great tents, thermarest sleeping pads and warm thermarest sleeping bags
- lots of nice extras like thermarest seat cushions for the kayaks and beach chairs
- delicious food including inventive appetizers pre-dinner and wonderful strong coffee ready as soon as we got up. They even baked a cake!
- incredible campsites with beautiful beaches
- awesome guides, Alyssa and Jen who kept the group safe, aware of the plan, our environment and created a upbeat atmosphere that made the trip so much fun
We were a couple that joined 2 singles and another couple. The group was fun, interesting and witty -lots of laughs and it felt like we’d always known them.
We would strongly recommend Kingfisher Wilderness adventures. We’ll be booking another trip with them.read less
Amazing six day adventure We went on a six day Whales & Wildlife expedition with four other guests and our two guides - Kyle and Jody. It was a wonderful way to experience the islands and wilderness surrounding Vancouver Island and to disconnect from the city and our dail...read moreWe went on a six day Whales & Wildlife expedition with four other guests and our two guides - Kyle and Jody. It was a wonderful way to experience the islands and wilderness surrounding Vancouver Island and to disconnect from the city and our daily routine. The food was excellent (great vegetarian options). The campsites chosen along the way were beautiful. All gear was provided. Kyle and Jody were very knowledgeable and told us many interesting stories about the area and about the local wildlife - and we saw a lot of wildlife on our trip. We can't wait to head out again on the water! Highly recommend!read less
Best way to experience Vancouver Island's wild west coast My husband and I just returned from our second trip with Kingfisher - an expedition trip in the Nutchatlitz area: Kayaking with Sea Otters. It was even more fabulous than our first base camp trip in the Broughton Archipelago. We saw sea otters every ...read moreMy husband and I just returned from our second trip with Kingfisher - an expedition trip in the Nutchatlitz area: Kayaking with Sea Otters. It was even more fabulous than our first base camp trip in the Broughton Archipelago. We saw sea otters every day, tons of eagles and even …read less
Best kayaking/whale adventure on Vancouver Island I took Kingfisher's 4-day whale watching kayak trip from Port McNeill, BC. I have taken wilderness adventure trips all over the world, and this is one of the best experiences ever.
Orca whales seemed to be everywhere, and I enjoyed their "Sh...read moreI took Kingfisher's 4-day whale watching kayak trip from Port McNeill, BC. I have taken wilderness adventure trips all over the world, and this is one of the best experiences ever.
Orca whales seemed to be everywhere, and I enjoyed their "Shaker" camp on Hanson Island in Johnstone Strait, which was beautiful and well-appointed for a wilderness camp, including canvas tents on platforms and a covered kitchen/dining area, although the weather was perfect.
We had 3 guides for 9 people, and they were highly competent on the water and in the kitchen. The trip exceeded my expectations.read less