Kayak With Whaleskingwild2020-12-07T17:20:26+00:00
In light of the COVID pandemic we are currently only able to accept new bookings from Canadian residents. We will be opening new bookings to international visitors as soon as we receive some clarity on when the borders will be re-opening for tourism. We ask that international visitors email us with their preferred tour and dates and we will contact them when new bookings from international visitors are being accepted.
We were able to host a number of Canadian (“social bubble”) groups at our Base Camps in the summer of 2020 and have learned a lot about how to responsibly operate our tours with the additional safety measures. Based on these experiences, we are making some operational modifications in order to once again welcome a wider range of guests on both the Base Camp and Expedition tours next year (not limited to social bubbles).
Please view our COVID-Response page (opens in new tab) for more details on the changes we are implementing for the 2021 season.
KAYAK WITH WHALES – BASE CAMP KAYAKING
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.
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 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.
Tours run every Tuesday to Friday from June through September.
2022 Price: $1595 CAD per person plus 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Group Size: Maximum of ten guests and three guides.
Participants: This tour is adult-oriented but participants as young as 15 may be accepted.
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.
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 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
This tour departs from Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. You can travel to Port McNeill by car or plane.
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.
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.
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.
What to bring
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.
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.
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).
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.
"What a great trip. Fantastic for beginners like us - not too strenuous. We saw so much wildlife - orca whales, humpback whales, dall porpoise, sea lions, seals, bald eagles, ravens, and a mink!
The tents and cots were very comfortable, really close to the water, and what a blast to hear the whooosh of a whale passing by in the middle of the night!
The guides, Agnes and Kelly were very well informed and interesting and they kept the camp running smoothly. The food was simple, but good - and the nightly campfire on the beach was lovely." Read the full review on TripAdvisor
"As two couples, we booked the 4 day Kayaking with Orcas from a base camp. It was a trip of a lifetime! Wildlife showings included porpoises, seals, sea lions, bald eagles, and the grand prize: several episodes of orca sightings. Three very competent and knowledgeable guides led us on kayaking trips around Hanson Island and the Plumpers, and did double duty in the preparation of meals morning, noon and night. No shortage of delicious food servings... The majesty of the region and all it holds was on full display. So rewarding." Read the full review on TripAdvisor "Wonderful - 4 day Kayak with Whales trip.
My husband and I had a fantastic time on this trip. We did a similar trip in the past out of San Juan Island in the U.S. and this trip far surpassed that experience. ...
Never a guarantee of wildlife but we saw orcas, humpback whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoise, lots of eagles and other sea birds, mink and deer. The camp setup is very comfortable and they took great care of us.
All the above marine animals were spotted a few times... It was the noises of the fins of the killer whales hitting the surface water only meters from our camp site on Hansen Island that I remember most...
The kayaking, the guides, the professionalism of the company and the guides made the trip very memorable. Comfort is a highlight starting with the high spacious tents, the wonderful established camp with its covered eating kitchen, state of the art outhouse, and its two beaches giving eye sight access to the marine life.....all add to a terrific trip. Will definitely go back to paddle with Kingfisher again soon..." Read the full review on TripAdvisor
"This was our 2nd trip to Orca base camp with Kingfisher and once again we had an amazing time. Ally and Silke were our guides and chefs for the 4 days and they did a fantastic job. Full of knowledge, culinary skills and fun they gave us a great few days kayaking. The weather was perfect, bright blue sky and calm water. The wildlife also showed up in abundance, Orca, Humpback, Dolphin, Sea lions, Minke and Bald eagles. On the island we had the usual cheeky squirrels and a deer that wandered around the camp. Also the group of people we shared the trip with were great company, lots of stories and laughter around the campfire at night." Read the full review on TripAdvisor
"My husband, 21yr old son and myself did the 4 day camping and kayaking trip with Andrew and Ali as our guides. This trip exceeded my expectations in all areas. The campsite was in a beautiful setting with comfortable beds, the food was superb, the guides were brilliant and the animals were outstanding.
We were treated to the sight of so many whales, seals , sea lions, and bald eagles. I know Andrew and his guides cannot guarantee what visitors will see but they ensure that you get the best opportunity to see what's out there at the time...
The groups they take out are small, we had 3 others in our group and had a lot of laughs around the dinner table as well as out on the water.
We have temporarily disabled our on-line booking system as we work with our existing guests who wish to re-schedule their tours. If you would like to make a new booking, please email us your preferred dates and we will respond within a few business days – our priority right now is responding to our existing 2020 guests.
If you are not currently booked on an existing 2020 kayak tour with us but would like to be updated as things progress this summer and we re-open our schedule, please join our email list below.
This tour is suitable for beginner to advanced kayakers able to:
Paddle a double kayak for 4-6 hours per day. We take numerous breaks and often go slow to view wildlife.
Able to climb down a ladder from the water taxi to the beach at our permanent camp.
Able to assist with loading and offloading of gear and supplies from water taxi.
If you have physical limitations that may make this difficult please let us know in advance as this can often 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 please let us know in advance as this can often 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.
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.
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.
Canadian Signature Experience
Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures’ “Kayak With Whales” base camp kayak tour is recognized as a “Canadian Signature Experience” by the Canadian Tourism Commission. The Canadian Signature Experiences collection offers the best Canada has to offer. As ambassadors of Canada’s tourism brand, “Canada. Keep Exploring”, these memorable Signature Experiences meet rigorous criteria to ensure they stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace.