ORCA WATERS EXPLORER KAYAK TOUR – 6 days admin
ORCA WATERS EXPLORER – EXPEDITION KAYAKING
Sea kayaking with orcas and humpback whales the wildlife-rich waters of Johnstone Strait, Blackfish Sound and the Broughton Archipelago is an experience to remember. Imagine kayaking along narrow passages lined with clam beaches that the local First Nations have harvested for thousands of years. As we kayak around a corner a black bear is seen flipping rocks in the morning sun looking for a tasty morsel. Later that afternoon as we kayak toward a new campsite we watch a pod of killer whales (orcas) foraging for salmon.
This six day and five night kayak tour starts with a water taxi ride to an island campsite in the Broughton Archipelago. Here we explore the many hidden waterways and discover ancient village sites where the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations culture thrived. We often see wildlife in the archipelago, such as black bears and harbour porpoises, which are not as often seen in the more open waters of Blackfish Sound and Johnstone Strait.
As we kayak into Blackfish Sound and Johnstone Strait we keep our eyes peeled for the blows from killer whales (orcas) and humpback whales. These waters are recognized as one of the most predictable places in the world to kayak with both killer whales and humpback whales. In addition to the whales, we often kayak alongside porpoises, dolphins, seals, sea lions, sea birds, bald eagles, and colourful intertidal life. There is always something to see and Kingfisher’s guides are well-acquainted with the wildlife of British Columbia’s coast, knowledge that they eagerly share.
We usually camp at three different wilderness campsites during the trip. We have a number of different sites to choose from, some involve camping in the forest, others on tent platforms on rocky points, and others on pebble beaches. The exact locations used on each trip depend upon a number of factors like group size, wildlife viewing opportunities, and weather.
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, personal floatation devices, and neoprene kayaking mitts are provided to keep you warm and dry while kayaking.
Tours run every Sunday to Friday from late June through mid-September.
Grizzly Bear Viewing Day Trips: (opens in a new tab) Many of our guests add a grizzly bear watching day trip before or after they join us kayaking. Please note that transportation to and from your accommodations and the grizzly tour departure point in Telegraph Cove is not included. Telegraph Cove is about a 25 minute drive or taxi ride from Port McNeill.
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.
Charts: 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).
* 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: (opens in a new tab) 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 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. 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 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 at 7:30am 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 hour long water taxi ride takes us to our first campsite, where we’ll settle in. The guides provide a site orientation and paddle briefing. We head out for a paddle before lunch giving you time to get used to the kayaks, the wilderness setting and each other. Meals Included: Lunch – Dinner
Days 2 to 5: This tour is a roving, nomadic tour, and we do have distance to cover to return to civilization. We generally camp at three different sites during the trip. We try and camp on sites close to travel routes of orcas, humpback whales, and other wildlife, but actual spots depend on weather, tides, and group objectives.
The trip starts in the Broughton Archipelago, a maze of small islets, and heads south into Johnstone Strait, where the chances of seeing orcas and humpback whales is greatest. Along the way, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for wildlife; sightings may dictate our itinerary for the day. We often see orcas, humpbacks, bald eagles, deer, black bears, seals, sea lions, and fantastic intertidal life.
Each trip is different, and your guides may change the itinerary based on weather, tides, campsites, and group interests. Meals Included: Breakfast - Lunch – Dinner
Day 6: Our final day – a chance to revel in the beauty of the area for one last time, linger over coffee, snap a few more photographs, and turn towards home. We break camp after breakfast and complete our journey by paddling to Telegraph Cove, a historic logging and fishing community. Here, we will have a chance to visit the Whale Interpretive Centre and walk around one of the last boardwalk communities on Vancouver Island.
Our van transports us back to Port McNeill. We arrive back in Port McNeill between 3:30 and 4:00 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 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(opens in a new tab) page to add your details to our RideShare(opens in a new tab) 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), Comox (YQQ), 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.
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, below 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 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
● Sun screen
● Sunglasses with a retainer
● Prescription eyeglasses or contacts
● Spare eyeglasses or contacts
● Wet Wipes
● Synthetic camp towel
● Spare medication
● Insect repellent
● Flashlight and batteries
● 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 our base camp 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).
We think our tours are pretty great and so do our guests.
Below are excerpts from a few TripAdvisor reviews.
Visit TripAdvisor to view all our reviews.
"… In terms of the tour, it blew me away from the moment we got on the kayaks to the end at Telegraph cove. The scenery stunning, the wildlife plentiful and unrelenting. Every corner we turned there were balled headed eagles, sea lions, Humpbacks and seals. We even saw Orcas on our first day. Our guides Darren and Renee were amazing. They took care of us really well and made unbelievable meals 3 times a day that suited everyone's dietary needs. …My favourite part of the trip was stopping for lunch; always stunning spots on little islands, great for wildlife watching. I would thoroughly recommend this trip …Don't hesitate, book it and book on to the grizzly bear tour …" Read the full review on TripAdvisor
"I joined Kingfisher on the 6 day Orca Waters Explorer tour, the whole experience was wonderful, website and all the pre-trip communication was excellent and left no questions unanswered, the guides (Pete and Del) were very knowledgable, easygoing and made sure, that our trip was (in spite of a pretty rainy couple of days) fun, full of learning experiences (first nations history, lots of intertidal zone facts, Kayaking tips) and wildlife sightings (orcas, dolphins, whales, eagles). The equipment (kayak, tents, sleeping bag) was very good, the cooking (pancakes with freshly picked berries for breakfast) excellent, the nature and scenery of the whole region unbelievably beautiful. All in all I would definitely recommend Kingfisher and will be sure to look them up myself for my next trip on Vancouver Island or Haida Gwaii." Read the full review on TripAdvisor
"Camping. Tents. and great food besides the outstanding guides and kayaking. All in one trip. Pre trip information was great. Peter and Agnes the guides was very attentive
to skill levels, tides, speeds and weather, hump backs, sea lions, and seals. Equipment provided was perfect. But bring more socks! Would go back with them for another trip." Read the full review on TripAdvisor
"I took the "Orca waters explorer" tour two years ago, and all I can say is that it was the best experience of my life! We've seen lots of humpbacks, orcas, sea lions and other marine life, the scenary was very beautiful, the tour guides were extremely friendly, helpful and the most important..they are very respectful towards nature and wildlife!" Read the full review on TripAdvisor
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.
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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. This rebate may be ending this year and not applicable for our 2018 tours.
Other Currencies and Taxes
$1650 CAD is approximately: 978.67 GBP / 1,112.37 EUR / 1,244.81 USD
All prices are charged in Canadian funds. Your credit card company will convert to your home currency using their exchange rates. The above foreign exchange prices are approximate and for reference only and are updated daily using rates provided by Google Finance.
Visitors to Canada receive a 50% point of sale rebate on the 5% GST. This rebate may be ending this year and not applicable for our 2018 tours.
This tour is suitable for beginner / intermediate to advanced kayakers able to:
Paddle a fully loaded single and/or double kayak for 4-6 hours per day for multiple days
Paddle into wind and waves
Back-country camp for five consecutive nights
Break-down, move, and set-up camp most days
Carry heavy kayaks and gear up and down the beach (this is often the most physically demanding part of the trip)
Use the inter-tidal area for low impact toilet use. This is a wilderness area and there are limited facilities in the areas we visit.
Stay upbeat and positive in various conditions.
View our guest handbook 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 email@example.com or phone 1-866-546-4347 in North America or +1-250-856-4617 internationally.
Base Camp Tours
● If you must cancel your tour you receive a full refund less a $250 administration fee per person with 30 or more days notice.
● No refund if you have to cancel within 30 days of departure.
Explorer and Expedition Tours
● If you must cancel your tour you receive a full refund less a $500 administration fee per person with 60 or more days notice.
● No refund if you have to cancel within 60 days of departure.
Grizzly Bear Day Trip Add-on
● If you must cancel your tour you receive a full refund less a $100 administration fee per person with 30 or more days notice.
● No refund if you have to cancel within 30 days of departure.
● No deposit is required to reserve your spot(s). The amount owing is due one month before your tour’s departure date.
● No refund if you have to cancel within 30 days of departure.
We highly recommend purchasing trip cancellation and travel medical insurance for your trip. Check with your local travel agent about travel insurance.