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WHALES AND GRIZZLY BEARS – BASE CAMP KAYAK TOUR 2017-04-12T13:45:11+00:00

WHALES AND GRIZZLY BEARS – BASE CAMP KAYAKING

Seeing a humpback whale lunging through a school of bait fish, a grizzly bear chasing salmon in a shallow river, or a pod of killer whale, also known as orcas, surfacing in unison are often considered once in a lifetime experiences and all three are possible on Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures’ “Whales and Grizzly Bear” base camp tour with Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures.

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There is no better place in the world to kayak with both humpback and killer whales (orcas) than Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound 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. We spend the first three days of this tour viewing the diverse marine life by kayak and late each afternoon return to the comforts of our base camp.

Early on the fourth morning we journey by boat for two hours up Knight Inlet for a day of grizzly bear viewing. When we arrive at our destination in Glendale Cove the group moves to a flat bottom boat to view grizzly bears from the water. Early in the summer the viewing is primarily at the mouth of the estuary and nearby beaches as the grizzly bears feed on sedge and grasses plus intertidal life like crabs and mussels. Late August and September sees the return of pink salmon to the Glendale River and we time the tours to the tides to optimize viewing opportunities in the river. We return to Telegraph Cove late that afternoon where our van is waiting to drive us back to Port McNeill.

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.

  • Enjoying kayaking from the Base Camp.
  • A male from the A8 matriline of northern resident killer whales (orcas) near Kingfisher's Base Camps.
  • A female grizzly bear in Knight Inlet.
  • Humpback whale lunge feeding on bait fish near Kingfisher's Base Camps.
  • Harbour seals hauled out on rock near the Base Camps.
  • An orca swims past our kayaks on a base camp kayak tour.
  • Looking down the blowhole of a humpback whale.
  • Kayakers watch as a humpback whale dives near our base camps.
  • Bald eagles are a common sight on all our kayak tours.
  • Orcas in Blackfish Sound not far from our Base Camps.
  • Heading back to camp after a day of kayaking.
  • Grizzly bear cubs feasting on salmon.
  • After arriving in Glendale Cove in Knight Inlet by covered boat we move to these viewing boats to watch the grizzly bears.
  • An orca's tail.
  • Steller sea lions often haul out in large numbers late in late August and September near our Base Camps
  • Floating kayaks tied to shore at one of our favourite lunch stops.
  • A mother grizzly bear and her three yearling cubs feeding on high-protein sedges in Knight Inlet.
  • Fork-tailed Storm-petrel near Kingfisher's Base Camps.
  • Orcas passing our kayaks in Johnstone Strait.
  • Pacific white-sided dolphins seen in Knight Inlet on our way to view grizzly bears.

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 tents, each raised off the ground on wooden platforms, are situated throughout the forest with views of the ocean. The tents provide standing room for most guests (1.9 metres tall) 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 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.

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.

Please note: that due to possible windy and bumpy conditions on the boat ride to view grizzly bears in Knight Inlet this tour is not suitable for people with back and neck issues or pregnant women. If this may be an issue please contact us to discuss this in greater detail.

Tours run every Saturday to Tuesday from July through mid-September.

Suggested reading: Our base camp has a 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.

Operation Orca: Springer, Luna and the Struggle to Save West Coast Killer Whales
Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us
Full Moon, Flood Tide: Bill Proctor’s Raincoast
Heart of the Raincoast: A Life Story

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).

3546 – Broughton Strait – 1:40,000

Marine Mammal Viewing Calendar

Price: $1595 CAD per person plus 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST)*.

Other currencies: Click for £ GBP / € EUR / $ USD and taxes

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

Departs: Port McNeill, Vancouver Island.

* To celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday save $150 on July 1 to 4 tour. Savings applicable the July 1 to 4 departure only. All other departures are regular price

* 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.

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.

Please note: that due to possible windy and bumpy conditions on the boat ride to view grizzly bears in Knight Inlet this tour is not suitable for people with back and neck issues or pregnant women. If this may be an issue please contact us to discuss this in greater detail.

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 8:30 am 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 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: Today is an early start. We are picked up around 7:00am by Tide Rip Tours for a two hour boat ride up Knight Inlet. When we arrive at our destination in Glendale Cove we move to a flat-bottom boat to view grizzly bears from the estuary and river. We arrive back in Telegraph Cove around 4:00 pm where our van is waiting to drive us back to Port McNeill. The timing of the bear tour is flexible to improve viewing opportunities so a later arrival back in Port McNeill is possible.

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.

Recommended Port McNeill Accommodations

Black Bear Resort

Additional Port McNeill Accommodations
Haida Way Motor Inn
Dalewood Inn
McNeill Inn
Ocean Comfort B&B

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 4 pairs of socks
● 2 sets of long underwear
● 3 to 4 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 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).

3546 - Broughton Strait - 1:40,000

TripAdvisor

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.

"Just came back from the 4 day whales and grizzly bear basecamp trip and am still smiling! My family and I went out as beginner kayakers and had a blast traversing through the Johnstone Strait. Ali and Renee (our guides) took exceptional care of us and made it a point to show us the beauty of the area from the sea kelp to the orcas and the adorable seal pups that followed us around one afternoon. It was so incredible to hear the whales travelling past our campground every night! I will definitely go back and this next time, I'm taking 7 of my closest friends/family with me to share this incredible experience. Such an adventure!!! Thanks to Andrew, Ali & Renee for the trip of a lifetime!"
Read the full review on TripAdvisor


"Amazing trip and experience!

My Husband and I took the 4 day base camp Whales and Grizzly Bear Tour in late August. We had an amazing experience!

...We saw humpback whales everyday, sometimes they were close to camp too. We watched an orca pod swim right by us, and on our last kayaking day we saw humpbacks jumping out of the water from a distance, which was incredible (sounds a bit like fireworks)...

...On the day of our grizzly...we saw several bears... It was a great way to wrap up our four day tour. ...

...It was the kind of adventure I had hoped for and much more. I highly recommend booking with the folks at Kingfisher. I felt it was a great way to experience beautiful British Columbia. We'll be back but with more family members next time so they get to experience it too!"
Read the full review on TripAdvisor

"Fabulous trip, wonderful base camp, great guides, excellent food, loads of wildlife - awesome! A really friendly operation, well organised, in a special place. Little beats going to sleep in your tent with humpbacks blowing just offshore. Definitely recommended. "
Read the full review on TripAdvisor

"Kingfisher is an amazing company! Guest safety and satisfaction are the top priorities, closely followed by minimal environmental impact (key reason we selected them). Kingfisher succeeds on all three objectives. The guides are knowledgeable and friendly, making efforts all day long to ensure guest happiness..."
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.

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 $250 CAD per person deposit is required to permanently reserve your spot(s) on the Whales and Grizzly Bears 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.

Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures Kayak Tours