Wildlife rich, one-way expedition through Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago
Johnstone Strait, Broughton Archipelago
Everyone, focus on whales and diverse paddling
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Want to See the Best of Everything?
Spend the 6-day Johnstone Strait Kayaking Expedition paddling one of the most amazing kayak routes in North America. This tour explores the best of the wildlife and culturally rich Broughton Archipelago & Johnstone Strait areas which are world-renowned destinations for whale watching. We camp in a new beautiful campsite each night and spend one night at the remote floating Paddlers’ Inn. The diversity of both paddling, environment, and wildlife, from tiny intertidal life up to humpback and orca whales, makes this a trip not to be missed.
What makes this trip different from the rest?
- A one-way kayaking tour where we explore new territory every day
- Experience the best of both the Johnstone Strait area and the Broughton Archipelago
- One night stay in a remote floating lodge
- Water taxi transport
- Option of both double and single kayaks
- Your opportunity to experience one of the most diverse wildlife and kayaking environments in British Columbia
Get off the Beaten Path
After years of exploring the Broughton Archipelago and Johnstone Strait, we are confident we have put together a great trip allowing you to explore well beyond the reach of the typical sea kayaking circuit. You will thoroughly enjoy this one-way journey through the uncrowded northern Broughton Archipelago, exploring areas off the beaten path and spending a night at the remote Paddlers Inn for an extra special treat. We spend 4 days exploring the Broughton Archipelago and then spend our last two days enjoying world-renowned Blackfish Sound and Johnstone Strait – the realm of the killer whale.
whale watching kayak expedition
Wildlife we may see on this trip includes:
- Humpback whales
- Killer whales
- Dall’s and harbour porpoises
- Pacific white-sided dolphins
- Minke whales
- Sea lions
- Bald eagles
- River otters and occasionally sea otters
- Black bears
- Rich intertidal life
We will begin our journey from northern Vancouver Island where you will meet your guides and fellow kayakers. These tours alternate traveling North to South and South to North through the islands but all tours cover the same incredible area.
Paddle through the Broughton Archipelago…
“What makes the perfect kayaking destination?” we say……. “Lots of small islands, passageways, protected water, wildlife, and a sense of remoteness.” The Broughton Archipelago has all this and more. There is no question that this is one of the world’s top kayaking destinations.
…into Johnstone Strait and the “Realm of Whales”
Some of the star attractions on this expedition are the Killer and Humpback Whales. Getting a chance to paddle in their habitat is a thrill of a lifetime. Johnstone Strait is quite simply the best place on earth to kayak with orca and humpback whales in the wild. Most of British Columbia’s 300 Northern Resident and killer whales return to these waters to feed, sleep, play, and rub their bodies on the pebble beaches of world-famous Robson Bight. The humpback population in this area is thriving and growing every year with over 97 individual humpbacks known to frequent this particular region.
Listen to the Whales
Enter the acoustic world of the orcas, as we travel with our underwater hydrophone. When we are in range of the orcas, we will be able to listen to their eerily beautiful calls and echolocating clicks from a deck-mounted speaker.
This is a true expedition style trip, which means we will move from camp to camp. If we find the perfect location we may choose to spend two nights camped at the same beautiful site, however most nights we will be at a new campsite. Relaxing around a fire at night is a great way to finish a day of sea kayaking. This is where new friends are made and talk of the day’s adventure unfolds.
We spend one night of our Expedition at the Paddler’s Inn, in one of the more remote corners of the British Columbia coast. The warm hospitality of the McMorran family will ensure that our stay is both comfortable and relaxing. The perfect way to start or finish this wonderful journey. On-site massage (for an additional fee), showers, and trails for exploring round out the experience at the Paddlers Inn.
- Professional guiding service
- All kayaking equipment
(including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes and sponges)
- Water taxi shuttle
- Meals (lunch day 1 to lunch day 6)
- All camping equipment including tents, Therm-a-rest sleeping pads, camp pillows, dry bags, group tarps and more
- Park and land use permits
If you are planning on bringing any of your own equipment please double-check the packing list to ensure you have the appropriate gear and please let our office know in advance of the tour to avoid us bringing duplicates.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?
Not included in the tour cost are accommodation before or after the kayaking portion of your trip:
- Flights, airport transfers, ferries, taxis
- Travel/medical insurance
- Alcoholic or carbonated beverages
- Rain gear, sleeping bags or personal items (toiletries, clothing, etc.).
- Sleeping bags and rain gear may be rented if you prefer not to travel with them (please reserve in advance; may be booked online with your trip reservation).
Spirit of the West acknowledges and operates in the unceded traditional territory of the Mamalilikulla-Qwe'Qwa'Sot'Em, 'Namgis, Tlowitsis, Kwikwasut’inuxw, Nuu-chah-nulth, We Wai Kai, Homalco, Klahoose and Heiltsuk First Nations.
The Johnstone Strait Expedition begins in Telegraph Cove with a water taxi ride to our first night in the wilderness. The details below should help give you a fuller picture of the day-to-day trip experience.
VIRTUAL PRE-TOUR MEETING
WHERE & WHEN: VIA YOUR COMPUTER BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME
Our team will be in contact with you to set up a Zoom (virtual video) pre-tour meeting. This meeting gives us a chance to answer any questions you may have, for you to meet our team, go over the logistics of the tour, and to discuss what to expect. We plan this for 7 pm, 3 days before your trip starts, but alternate times may be arranged to suit your schedule.
TOUR MEETING LOCATION
WHERE & When: TELEGRAPH COVE MARINA (RIGHT-HAND SIDE OF COVE) AT 1PM (Day 1)
On day 1 of your trip you will meet your guides in Telegraph Cove, a historic harbour village in the northern part of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. (An approx. 5.5-hour drive by car north of Victoria or 4 hours north of Nanaimo.) There is a parking and unloading area conveniently located near the general store and dock entrance. You’ll find our meeting location at the Marina on the right side of the cove, near the big boat ramp. Please arrive 20 minutes early to allow time to unload, carry your luggage down to the launching spot, and arrange parking (if necessary).
WHERE & WHEN: TELEGRAPH COVE BY APPROX. 12 PM (DAY 6)
Return time can depend on weather and travel conditions. We try our best to get you back on time for your onward travels or to explore more of what Vancouver Island has to offer.
This expedition alternates traveling North to South and South to North through the islands but both versions cover the same incredible area. It simply means that you either spend your first or last night at the Paddler’s Inn Eco-lodge or at our private campsite on Hanson Island in the Johnstone Strait.
The itinerary sample below describes the route from North to South.
Welcome to your adventure! Start your trip with a visit to the Johnstone Strait Killer Whale Interpretive Centre in the heart of the Telegraph Cove Marina. It is the perfect primer for your kayaking adventure, with impressive displays of full-sized whale skeletons and information about the area you are going to explore in the days to come. Spirit of the West will cover your admission fee.
At 1pm, we will transfer ourselves and equipment aboard our water taxi and journey out to the unique Paddler’s Inn Eco-lodge. Once arrived at the floating lodge we will meet our hosts Bruce and Josée, will get comfortable, explore the surroundings, and if time and weather allow we will get out for our first introductory paddle after a kayak briefing from your guides before we enjoy our first dinner together.
After a delicious breakfast we will pack our kayaks and head off on our expedition. Our first day will be spent exploring the islands of the Broughton Archipelago and enjoying the stunning views and wildlife while en route to camp for the night.
DAYS 3 TO 5
There are many options to paddle amongst the enchanting islands of the Broughton Archipelago. This region is a network of forested islands and protected passageways that offers both scenic paddling as well as intriguing history. Several beaches and campsites show evidence of those who have come before us- the First Nations people. We often visit the home of local legend, Billy Proctor, and his collection of historical west coast treasures. Spending time listening to Billy’s stories is a great way to get a sense of what life on the west coast was like and how it is changing. Each day we will keep our eyes and ears open for the marine mammals that frequent the area, including orcas, humpbacks, minke whales, dolphins, and porpoises
For our lunch breaks, we will enjoy picnics on various beaches. These breaks will also give us the opportunity to stretch our legs, discover the creatures that live in the intertidal zone, and explore the lush coastal rainforests with old-growth cedar trees.
We will stay at some of the most stunning wilderness campsites of the region. Enjoy locally-inspired dinners on the beaches, sitting around bonfires sharing the highlights of your day with your crew, before crawling into your tent for a cozy night under the stars.
This is our last day to enjoy the marine environment of Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago. On the previous day we will paddle to Spirit of the West Adventures’ private campsite on Hanson Island to spend our last night under the stars. A paddle across the impressive Johnstone Strait, will bring us back to Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island. This is the time for a last deep breath of ocean air, to take in the panoramic scenery and all the natural wonders around us, before our real life catches up with us.
FIND OUT WHAT YOU NEED TO PACK FOR FOR THIS TRIP:
Below is a list of commonly asked questions.
If you have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to call us.
WHERE CAN I LEARN ABOUT YOUR COVID - 19 SAFETY PLAN?
- learn about safety measures, mitigation plan, and procedures
- see answers to our most frequently asked questions about COVID
- learn how to travel and adventure safely in British Columbia.
To read our Terms and Conditions, please click here.We also published a Travel Insurance 101 and a guide for Travel Insurance in a World with Covid-19 which will help you answer basic travel insurance questions, such as ‘What is travel insurance?’ and ‘Why do I need it?’Please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have any further questions. We are here to assist you every day from 9am onwards.
What is the minimum age required to join our tours?
We cater to all ages of adventurers. Kids age 5 to 12 are encouraged to join the Family Orca Tours which have been designed with the needs of younger kayakers. For most of our other regularly scheduled tours we prefer a minimum age of 12, except for the Great Bear Rainforest trip, which has a minimum age of 14. If your child is almost 12 or your family has a good deal of experience kayaking and camping we do occasionally make exceptions. We like to assess each case individually. We can also organize private, custom style adventures. Feel free to call us and we would be happy to discuss the options.
What is the average age of our guests?
We have guests from age 5 and up on our family tours and ages 12 to 85 joining our regularly scheduled tours. The average age ranges between age 30 to 65. Each tour and tour date is different, but we usually get a good mix of ages. For those concerned with being in ‘their older years’ or anyone unsure of which tour fits them best, we welcome you to contact us and we will be happy to help you find the perfect trip.
Are there any single supplement fees if I am travelling on my own?
There are NO single supplements or any other extra fee. We encourage solo travelers to join us and often have several solo travelers on each tour. It should be no problem to have your own tent and you will have access to both single and double kayaks.
Can you accommodate food allergies/special diets?
Our food preparation crew are masters at accommodating dietary restrictions. We are able to offer gluten-free, vegetarian, pescatarian, dairy light and vegan menus with prior notice. Other dietary requests may involve additional charges and need to be discussed in advance with our food crew. We are NOT a nut-free facility.
Will I comfortably fit in the kayaks?
If you are over 6ft (182cms) tall, if you are on the more petite side of things, have larger hips or weigh over 250lbs (115 kg) we have certain kayaks that may work best for you. Please give us a call and we can ensure we have the appropriate kayak available for you.
What is included in the tour costs?
We supply everything that you will need for kayaking and camping except for a few personal items such as your clothing, toiletries, sleeping bag and rain gear (sleeping bags and rain gear can be rented if needed).
We provide all meals during your trip and non-alcoholic beverages including a wide variety of teas, coffee, juices, hot chocolate are provided. Alcohol is not provided and you are welcome to bring your favourite wine, beer or pop to enjoy responsibly. There are no additional costs once on our tour unless you wish to purchase souvenirs.
What do I need to bring?
Please find a list of items Spirit of the West Adventures will provide for you and our comprehensive packing list of all the things we suggest you bring along here:
Once you book your tour you will receive a detailed guest handbook which also includes the packing list.
How much kayaking experience is required?
Our adventures are designed to cater to all levels of experience and abilities from first-timer to expert paddler. We have several different styles and lengths of tours so that everyone can find the perfect trip.
If you are looking for more rustic camping and more paddling check out our expedition style tours; the Johnstone Strait Expedition, Orca Lite, Nuchatlitz, Desolation Sound or Great Bear Rainforest Tours.
Do I need to be in great shape for this trip?
The majority of our adventures are not considered to be overly strenuous or physically demanding and therefore do not require a high level of fitness. Each tour is slightly different in its demands so if you are concerned, please do contact us. As a general rule, you need to be capable of a few hours of moderate exercise each day and be comfortable with the uneven ground of a wilderness environment. Please keep in mind that good general health will go a long way towards the enjoyment of your tour. Most important though is an adventurous spirit.
How much paddling do we do each day?
Paddling time will vary depending on the trip, our destination, weather conditions and the group’s abilities and desires. Generally, we travel between 4-6 hours a day on our expedition tours, not including breaks and lunch We set a pace which is manageable and enjoyable for all.
How stable are the kayaks? What is the likelihood of flipping over?
The kayaks we use are stable and designed for comfort. Your guides will give you through instruction on how to safely use and enjoy the kayaks and what to do in case of a capsize. For those concerned about capsizing, the double kayaks are slightly more stable than the singles and we have a variety of both singles and doubles on every trip. The likelihood of a capsize is minimal and if it does happen your well-trained guides will be there before you know it to help.
What happens if my kayak flips over?
In the rare event of a capsize, all of our guides are trained in rescue procedures in order to quickly and efficiently get you back in your boat. At this point, we will take you to the nearest shoreline to change into some warm clothing and carry on with our journey when you are ready. While we are out on the water, it is of the utmost importance that the group stays together for safety.
If the weather turns bad? Will I be comfy and warm?
Our weather in the Pacific Northwest is generally pleasant from May through until September. In the Johnstone Strait & Broughton Archipelago area, the weather will generally be cooler than what you may see on the forecast for Campbell River – sometimes by as much as 10 degrees. Fog is very common on summer mornings, however, this nearly always clears at midday. Although it is uncommon, it can rain in the summer, be prepared for any type of weather and you will stay comfortable. Layering is the key. It allows you to put on or take off layers while on the water if you need to. If you are very concerned about the weather then we recommend our base-camping style tours as these campsites have covered eating and lounge areas as well as dry tents to come home to at the end of every day. On our expedition style tours, we carry tarps but we are a little more at the mercy of mother nature in these more rustic style campsites.
What sort of wildlife might we see?
The diversity and abundance of wildlife in the Pacific Northwest is one of our great privileges. From the rich marine life of colourful plants and invertebrates, seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, mink, otter, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales, to the land animals of deer, raccoons, cougars, wolves, and bears, we are bound to see something.
For those with an eye for eagles take note that they are most prominent in the earlier months before the salmon migration in the late summer/early fall.
For those keen to see humpback whales- you are in luck. The population of humpbacks in our area is doing well and we are fortunate to often see these whales any time of the year.
If Orcas are your main priority then we recommend traveling between mid-July and mid-September. While it is possible to see orcas outside of these times, we see them with the greatest abundance and frequency during this peak period.
Please just remember that wildlife is just that wild and we cannot control sightings. That said the whales are the icing on the cake in this stunning, rich and diverse area.
Where is the best place to see orcas/killer whales?
On our tours to Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound, which includes the Whales and Wilderness Glamping Tour, the Johnstone Strait Ultimate, Family Orca Tours and Orca Lite tours, we stand a high chance of seeing whales, especially between mid-July and mid-September.
Understandably we cannot guarantee what nature will dictate, but we can tell you that this area has one of the highest concentrations of Killer Whales on earth and this is where they spend their summer holiday. Some trips view the whales from the kayaks, some while traveling on our water taxi or from our campsites on the shore and some see all of the above.
How close to we paddle to whales & other wildlife?
We do our very best to provide awesome sightings of whales but all the while ensuring that we do not disrupt the natural behaviour of all the wildlife we encounter. We abide by the Canadian whale watching regulations which means we do not approach killer whales (orcas) any closer than 200 meters (656 ft) and all other cetaceans no closer than 100 meters (328 ft).
To learn more about how we do our best to minimize our impacts on whales check out nimmsa.org the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association. Your trip fees help to fund whale research and conservation efforts through the NIMMSA fund which Spirit of the West Contributes too.
What is the camp setup like?
All of our campsites are in wilderness settings, and shelter is provided by the tents and tarps we carry with us. We seek out sites with beautiful surroundings and those that offer solitude; these are all undeveloped and may be clearings in the forest or space on the beach. There may be times (on occasion) when we are camping next to another group of kayakers. Campsite choice will be based on weather conditions, route choice and group size and preference.
Our first or last night (depending on which direction your tour travels) will be spent at Paddler’s Inn, a rustic floating kayak lodge deep in the Broughton Archipelago.
Where do we wash and are there toilets?
There is very little fresh water to be found. Therefore, seawater is your best bet for washing up. Please use biodegradable, environmentally friendly soap brands. Toilet facilities are not common in most wilderness settings, although some areas may have pit toilets. We also carry a portable toilet system. Your guide will generally designate an area that works for ensuring your privacy. We are very accustomed to making sure all of our guests feel comfortable and informed – please feel free to ask us any questions you might have, before or during your tour.
WHERE CAN I LEAVE MY VEHICLE WHILE ON TOUR?
Our tour meeting location on day 1 is Telegraph Cove on Northern Vancouver Island.
For a daily fee there is a parking and unloading area conveniently located near the general store and dock entrance. The parking is not far from where you will meet your guides. Further information will be provided in the Guest Handbook that you receive after reserving your tour.
IF I WOULD LIKE TO TIP THE GUIDES, WHAT IS THE INDUSTRY STANDARD?
If you would like to express your appreciation to the guides through a gratuity, such recognition would be enthusiastically received. The industry standard for tipping is approximately 10% per person of the trip cost. All tips received will be collected and disbursed amongst your guides & base crew by the trip leader.
We're proud of our great reviews - but don't just take our word for it, see what people are saying over on Trip Advisor. View Reviews
"The trip was perfect, beyond all expectations more enjoyable than anything else I have
ever done before..."
"Thank you for such an incredible adventure. The guides were perfect, the food, the whales and more whales. First class from start to finish. See you again next summer..."
John and Rita Parker
"I did not expect to see so many whales. Even if I did not see a single whale I still would have ranked this the best trip I have ever been on. The whales just topped it off."
"We just got back from our Vancouver Island vacation and we just had to write you. The trip we took with you on August 14-18 was the highlight of our honeymoon. Everything was just perfect, and thanks for the little gift you gave us, a very nice touch. Say hi to Rick and Breanne for us."
Lynne and Alan Fosberg
"The guides were all very knowledgable and good at making us feel comfortable in our kayaks. Scott had a great sense of humour."
"Very knowledgable naturalists, great concern for safety, Bre was fun to be with and the guys were good sports on this all female trip."
"Outstanding, great cooks, fun to be with, very personable."
"Toni and Gen are excellent guides with the sweetest dispositions imaginable. I thoroughly enjoyed the other members of the group and of course the incredible scenery and wildlife. Trip of a lifetime!"
"Extremely professional + knowledgeable staff with terrific sense of humour who lead fascinating + educational tours."
"The salmon on the first night was one of the best meals I have ever experienced in the outdoors. Come to think of it, it was one of the best meals anywhere. Your guides are amazing."
Linda and Pat Wilson
"Food was excellent, very wholesome. I don't eat that well at home. The banana bread is the best ever!!"
"Excellent, amazing what they fed us in the wild... Loved the grape leaves."
"Thank you for a very memorable experience. Also especially appreciated the great care taken for my special diet."
Our online booking system allows you easy access to booking your tour with Spirit of the West Adventures, any time of day. If you think that you would like to book a trip, but need time to look into other travel arrangements, please contact our office and we will place a temporary hold on your spaces.
We also offer real humans to speak with if that’s your preference, so feel free to call our office at 1-800-307-3982 (from within Canada and the U.S) or 1-250-285-2121 (from overseas). We can be reached by email at [email protected] If, for any reason, you are having trouble booking your trip, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are always happy to help!
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