On this page you will find:
- Our recommended reading list
- Meet the locals from home – orca live cam
- Responsible wildlife watching
- Learn about our low-impact camping
- Feeling fit on the water
- Pack your kayak like a pro!
Recommended Reading List
Below are a selection of excellent books for learning more about BC, whales, wildlife and kayaking – and getting excited about your trip!
MARINE MAMMALS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
By Ford, John K.B.
A great field guide for identifying and learning about cetaceans as well as seals, sea lions, and sea otters that inhabit the BC coast.
Listening to whales: what the orcas have taught us
By Morton, Alexandra
Stories and recollections of a whale researcher and all that she’s learned from Orcas.
Cedar: Tree of life to the northwest coast Indians
By Stewart, Hilary
Brilliant descriptions and illustrations of traditional technology by a Quadra Island writer with an international stature.
Sea kayaking: A manual for long-distance touring
By Dowd, John
The classic reference on paddling. Its practical tips and tricks go well beyond the basics.
British Columbia: a natural History
By Cannings, R. and Cannings, S
A beautiful and thorough book describing the range of ecosystems and their interactions in BC.
Whelks to whales: Coastal marine life of the Pacific Northwest
By Harbo, Rick
Clear illustrations help with identifying species and groups while the accompanying text offers fascinating insights into the lives of the non-human inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest.
The beachcomber’s guide to seashore life in the Pacific Northwest.
By Sept, Duane
By Ford, John K.B., Ellis, Graeme M and Balcomb, Kenneth C
Research and genealogy of the resident orcas from the researchers themselves. The ID photos are out of date, but this is still the authority on the whales in our waters.
Plants of coastal British Columbia including Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
By Pojar, J. and MacKinnon, A
This is the bible of plant ID on the coast: portable, useful and packed with notes on the life and traditional uses of plants.
Field guide to the pacific salmon
By Steelquist, Robert
Great in-a-nutshell but highly accurate book on everything to do with Pacific salmon.
Birds of coastal British Columbia
By Baron, Nancy
More than 200 species of common West Coast birds are grouped by their similarity of appearance and colour coded for quick identification.
Heart of the raincoast
By Morton, Alexandra and Proctor, Billy
The life story of a central figure in the Broughtons, and thus a modern history of the area itself. Very readable.
Totem poles and tea
By Harold, Hughina
Memories of a non-native woman who taught school on Village Island in 1935.
The curve of time
By Blanchet, M. Wylie
A classic tale of a widow’s cruising adventures with her young family in the 1920s.
River City: A history of Campbell River and the Discovery Islands
By Taylor, Jeanette
A lavishly illustrated survey history of the Discovery Passage region (including Quadra), with lots of anecdotes.
THE LATEST FROM the Johnstone StraiT region
Whether you’ve been on a trip with us or are getting excited for your first Spirit of the West Adventure, keep up to date with what’s happening in Johnstone Strait and surrounding areas.
live Cam of orcas
Orca Live which posts live video and audio feed from above and below the water in various locations in Johnstone Strait – watch and listen to whales from your home! Orca Live is provided by OrcaLab, a renowned whale research lab based in Johnstone Strait. More information, including links to their blog, can be found here.
Marine Education & Research Society
Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) which, as the name implies, conducts research and education in the Johnstone Strait area. They have an excellent blog that helps keep you up to date on all the latest research and there have been some cool discoveries of late!
Spirit of the West’s blog stories
Stay connected to the coast through our very own Stories page. Here we share a variety of short blog posts from reflections of a guide to how tides work.
The orcas, humpbacks and other marine mammals spend their days foraging, playing and socializing, and we want to keep it this way. We strongly believe that we should do everything that we can to minimize our impacts on their natural behaviour and habitat. We follow the Be Whale Wise Guidelines, which have been established to protect both the whales and kayakers and boaters from any negative interactions as well as long term, cumulative effects.
ABIDING BY THE MARINE MAMMAL VIEWING GUIDELINES MEANS THE FOLLOWING FOR KAYAKERS:
- We never approach killer whales (orcas) closer than 200 meters and all other whales closer than 100 meters (this may mean repositioning our kayaks as they approach).
- We position ourselves out of the path of the whales.
- We ensure that we are tight to shore or well offshore if the whales are feeding in and around the kelp line.
WHEN TRAVELLING BY MOTORBOAT (LIKE OUR WATER TAXI):
- We slow down immediately when we encounter whales
- We stay out of their path
- We do not approach from in front or behind
- We stay on the offshore side of the whales
- We put the engine into neutral or turn it off completely, and turn off all sonar and depth sounders
- We never stay with a group of whales for longer than 30 minutes.
While 200 meters may seem like a significant distance to put between yourself and an orca whale, it is amazing how close and large they can seem when you see a six-foot tall dorsal fin from a kayak. We must also remember that these guidelines have been established using years of research examining the distances at which orcas have been shown to be negatively impacted.
Learn About Low-Impact Camping
We love travelling in the wilderness and being a part of the spectacular natural areas of British Columbia. Too often, however, human travels in the outdoors can have consequences, incrementally degrading the places we love. On all trips with Spirit of the West we take steps to ensure that the way we behave in the field minimizes any impact that we have on the environment.
Best practices for backcountry travel are outlined by Leave No Trace, a non-profit organization that promotes the following 7 principles for minimum impact backcountry travel:
- Plan Ahead & Prepare
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Others
Using minimum impact principles is only one way that Spirit of the West tries to live lightly on the planet. For more information on all our environmental policies and practices, please see Our Green Initiatives page.
Feeling Fit on the Water
Kayaking is a suitable activity for most fitness levels and your guide’s will give you great tips on how to paddle efficiently. To help you get the most out of your experience and feel comfortable on the water, check out these helpful links:
Pack your Kayak like a Pro
Our expedition tours involve us packing our kayak with all our gear and personal items-a task that can seem daunting at first glance. But fear not! Your guides are pros at organizing and expertly distributing the load across the fleet.
Past guide extraordinaire, Pat, can teach you a few tips and tricks in this short video. He might even make you laugh a little along the way!