Wildlife rich, one-way expedition through Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago
6 days / 5 nights
Johnstone Strait, Broughton Archipelago
Everyone, focus on whales and diverse paddling
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Want to See the Best of Everything?
Our 6-day Johnstone Strait Kayaking Expedition offers you a chance to paddle one of the most amazing kayak routes in North America. We begin this tour from the Broughton Archipelago Paddlers’ Inn set in the Broughton Archipelago where we will spend our first night prior to starting our kayak tour. We will then traverse the entire Broughton Archipelago, one of the most stunning seascapes on earth, before entering Johnstone Strait and the realm of the killer whales. The diversity of both paddling environment and wildlife, from tiny intertidal life up to humpback 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 popular Johnstone Strait area as well as the spectacular Broughton Archipelago away from other paddling groups
- One night stay in a remote floating lodge
- Water taxi transport to guarantee departure in case of foul weather
- Option of both double and single kayaks
- Your opportunity to experience one of the most diverse wildlife and kayaking environments in British Columbia
Our knowledge is what counts
After years of exploring the Broughton Archipelago and Johnstone Strait, we have been able to seek out the best kayaking opportunities that exist well beyond the reach of the typical sea kayaking circuit. With this knowledge we have designed a very special kayak tour. Starting our paddle from the remote Paddler’s Inn deep within the Broughton Archipelago, we begin a one-way journey through the uncrowded northern Broughton Archipelago, through secret paddling spots few have ever been. After three days of paddling we start to see other kayaking groups as we enter the areas where most shore-based companies depart from. The remainder of the tour will be spent in Blackfish Sound, Johnstone Strait and 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
- Black bears
- Rich intertidal life
We will begin our journey from northern Vancouver Island where you will meet the guides, our water taxi, and Bruce McMorran, who is the owner/operator of Paddlers’ Inn, and will be transporting our group deep into the Broughtons. We will then water taxi two hours to our remote lodge where a home-cooked meal and an evening to discuss and prepare for our upcoming adventure await. The next morning, after a cozy night’s sleep and getting to know each other a little better, we are ready to set off on our adventure fuelled by a hearty breakfast and the excitement of the days to come.
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 Killer Whales”
One of the star attractions on this expedition is the Killer Whale. 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 the killer whales, also known as orca, in the wild. Most of British Columbia’s 300 killer whales return to these waters to feed, sleep, play, and rub their bodies on the pebble beaches of world-famous Robson Bight.
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 echo locating 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 will begin or end our Expedition at the Paddler’s Inn, in one of the more remote corners on 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, showers and trails are available at the Paddlers Inn.
- Professional guiding service
- All kayaking equipment
(including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes and sponges)
- Water taxi shuttles at beginning and end of trip
- Meals (lunch day 1 to lunch day 6)
- Cooking equipment and group shelter (tarps)
- Camping equipment including tents and Therma-rest sleeping pads
- 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).
After travelling from our base on Quadra Island, 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.
WHEN: DAY PRIOR AT 6PM, WHERE: HERIOT BAY INN ON QUADRA ISLAND
Your guides will go over the logistics of the tour and answer any questions or concerns you may have. This meeting will be held in the lounge at the Heriot Bay Inn on Quadra Island at 6pm the day prior to departure. If you cannot make it to the meeting just be sure to call in the day before departure to confirm your arrival. This allows us to confirm the exact departure time and location, or to alert you if there are have been any last minute changes.
WHEN: DAY 1, WHERE: QUADRA ISLAND AT 8AM, CAMPBELL RIVER AT 9.15aM OR TELEGRAPH COVE between 12 & 1PM
You can meet either on Quadra Island, in Campbell River or in Telegraph Cove. If meeting in Campbell River or Telegraph Cove, please call our office to let us know. Spirit of the West Adventures is based on Quadra Island (a 10-minute ferry ride from Campbell River) and this is where our tour starts. We highly recommend making Quadra Island a part of your vacation plans. Our beautiful island has a whole different and laid back feel to it, complete with endless opportunities for outdoor activities, beaches to relax, amazing accommodations and great local artisans.
Good Morning! After picking you up at your Quadra Island accommodation we will depart the island by ferry and then travel together in our van the 2.5 hours to historic Telegraph Cove. Once in Telegraph Cove we will enjoy a picnic lunch.
We will then transfer ourselves and equipment aboard our water taxi, and journey out to either our Hanson Island campsite or to the Paddler’s Inn Eco-lodge. If time and weather allow we will get out for our first introductory paddle after a kayak briefing from your guides.
After 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 or the orca waters of Johnstone Strait (depending on your starting point), and enjoying the stunning views and wildlife while en route to camp for the night.
DAYS 3 TO 5
Paddle amongst the enchanting islands of the Broughton Archipelago. The Broughton Archipelago is a network of forested islands and protected passageways that offers both scenic paddling as well as intriguing history. We will go back in time as we visit the ancient village site of Mamalilaculla, and learn about the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations people. We will keep our eyes and ears on the lookout for the many marine and land animals that call this area home.
This is our last day to enjoy the marine environment of Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago. Our boat transport will pick us up in the afternoon and bring us back to Telegraph Cove. From Telegraph Cove we drive back to Campbell River and Quadra Island, arriving between 5pm and 7pm. Our arrival times are both weather and wildlife dependent.
Our approximate return time to Quadra Island is between 5-6pm, however, due to the number of variables in wilderness travel we recommend that you plan to stay in the area for this night to avoid unnecessarily stressful complications should our return be delayed by something out of our control. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss your travel plans in more detail.
Below is a list of commonly asked questions.
If you have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to call us.
WHAT IS INCLUDED? WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?
There are no additional costs once on our tour. On our guided tours we supply everything that you will need for kayaking and camping except for a few personal items such as a sleeping bag and rain gear (these can be rented if needed), your clothes and toiletries. We are happy to pick you up free of charge from your accommodation on Quadra Island on the morning the trip starts and we will drop you off there when the tour is finished. All other transportation, food, gear, etc, while on trip is included in the cost of the tour. Once the tour begins we provide all meals and non-alcoholic beverages (wide selection of teas, coffee, juices, hot chocolate) from morning snack on day one to lunch on the last day. You are welcome to bring your favourite wine, beer or pop, but this is not included in the tour price. There is a grocery and liquor store very close to the location of the pre-trip meeting if you would like to pick up extra beverages on the evening before the tour.
HOW MUCH KAYAKING EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED TO JOIN ONE OF THE TRIPS?
No experience is required for our kayak tours! Our adventures are for everyone. Our trips are designed to cater to all levels of experience and abilities. The majority of people who join our tours are first time kayakers. All that we ask is that you welcome adventure with an open mind and are able to laugh and have fun when encountering the unexpected.
DO I NEED TO BE IN GREAT SHAPE FOR THIS TRIP?
No. Our adventures are not considered to be overly strenuous or physically demanding, and we do not require a high level of fitness. We just ask that you are capable of a few hours of moderate exercise each day. Keep in mind that good general health will go a long way if we happen to encounter some strong winds or time restrictions. Most important is an adventurous spirit.
ARE THERE ANY AGE REQUIREMENTS?
Spirit of the West caters to all ages of adventurers. Although we do prefer a minimum of 12 years for our multi-day tours, we like to assess each case individually. Those concerned with being ‘in their older years’ are welcomed to contact us to discuss their physical abilities.
HOW MUCH PADDLING IS GENERALLY DONE IN A DAY?
Paddling time will vary depending on our destination and the group’s abilities and desires. Generally we travel between 3-5 hours a day, not including breaks and lunch stops.
HOW STABLE ARE THE KAYAKS? WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF FLIPPING OVER?
The kayaks we use on our tours are stable and designed for comfort. For those a little concerned, the double kayaks are slightly more stable than the singles. The likelihood of a capsize is minimal, and generally only occurs in an uncommon situation. WHAT HAPPENS IF MY KAYAK FLIPS OVER? If for some reason your kayak flips over, all of our guides have ample practice time on the water with rescue procedures, in order to quickly and efficiently get you back in your boat. At this point we will take you to the nearest shore to change into some warm cozy clothing and carry on with our journey. While we are out on the water, it is of the utmost importance that the group sticks together in the event of capsize or change of route plan.
WHAT IF THE WEATHER TURNS BAD? WILL I BE COMFORTABLE AND WARM?
Our weather in the Pacific Northwest is generally pleasant from May through until the end of September. The temperature will vary slightly depending on which area you visit. In the Johnstone Strait area, the weather will generally be cooler than what you may see in the forecast for Campbell River – sometimes by as much as 10 degrees. Fog is very common on August summer mornings, however this nearly always clears at midday to make way for clear skies and sun. Although it is uncommon, it can rain in the summer. A good rule of thumb is to be prepared for any type of weather and you will stay comfortable. Layering is the key, as it allows you to put on or take off layers while on the water if you need to.
WHAT SORT OF WILDLIFE MIGHT WE SEE ON THE TOUR? WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF SEEING KILLER WHALES?
The diversity and abundance of wildlife in the Pacific Northwest is one of our privileges. With river run-off from the mountains, ocean currents, tide rips, eddies and upwelling these waters are among the most productive on earth. 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.
On the Johnstone Strait Expedition we move between the open waters of the Strait and the intricate islands of the Broughton Archipelago. The three days (either at the beginning or end of your tour, depending on which direction your tour runs) we spend in the more open waters of Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound are the most likely time for us to encounter larger marine mammals such as orcas and humpback whales. As we travel deeper into the islands, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, porpoise and all of the land animals with which we share this beautiful ecosystem. Please remember though that these whales are wild and can travel large distances in a day. You have put yourself in the best possible location for viewing and now you just have to see what mother nature provides.
HOW CLOSE DO WE PADDLE TO THE ORCAS & HUMPBACK WHALES?
Day to day travel patterns for whales are unpredictable, so we travel in the most likely places to encounter them in order to maximize our opportunities to view them. Hearing the blow of a whale even from a mile across the Strait will create a sensation of excitement. Note that in accordance with industry whale watching regulations we do not approach killer whales within 200 meters and all other whales within 100 meters. This is out of respect for the whales’ space and to ensure that we do not interfere with their natural behaviour.
WHAT IS THE CAMP SET UP 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? ARE THERE TOILETS?
There is very little fresh water to be found on the small islands through which we travel. 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 or system that works for ensuring your privacy. We are very accustomed to making sure all of our guests feel as comfortable and informed as possible in this regard – please feel free to ask us any questions you might have, before or during your tour.
WHERE CAN I LEAVE LUGGAGE THAT I WON’T NEED ON TRIP?
If you are staying on Quadra Island, many of the B&Bs offer free luggage storage – simply check with your host. Alternatively, guests staying on either Quadra Island or in Campbell River have the option of storing excess luggage at our office. Please ensure that your luggage is clearly labelled with your name, tour and trip date, and leave it with us on the first day of your tour for return to our office.
WHERE CAN I LEAVE MY VEHICLE WHILE ON TOUR?
Free parking will be available on Quadra Island for your vehicle while on tour with us. Many of the accommodations on Quadra Island also have free parking included with your stay. Parking is also available at Telegraph Cove for a daily fee. Parking details will be discussed further at the pre-trip meeting.
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 & basecrew 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."
On the Johnstone Strait Expedition we will be packing everything into our kayaks each day in order to travel to our next campsite. While space is limited, please ensure you bring enough to stay warm and dry. The following is a list of suggested items that should keep you a happy camper.
Sea kayaks are oddly-shaped vessels to pack, so the key is to pack into the small compact bags which we provide. (The video to the right also provides some practical, and humorous, tips and tricks you might appreciate).
Sea kayaks are basically watertight, although small amounts of water may get in through the rudder lines and hatches. In the event of rain or dropping gear in the water we try to keep things as waterproof as possible. We provide you with waterproof storage bags also known as ‘dry bags’ (these will be given to you at the pre-tour meeting or the following morning if you are unable to attend).
If you prefer to bring your own dry bags, please note the largest bag should not be larger than a sleeping bag or 20 litres; several small bags are best. We will provide one 5 litre, two 10 litre and one 20 litre dry bags for you to pack into. Additional bags may be available depending on space in the kayaks. The 5 litre bag is good for storing small items such as cameras, sunscreen, glasses, etc. The larger ones will be used for storing the rest of your clothing. Please see our suggestions for waterproofing your sleeping bag.
Shoes can generally be packed loose in the kayak. All participants will also pack some of the group gear and food in their kayak. Don’t worry, it always looks like an impossible mountain of stuff to fit in the kayaks, but with some perseverance and coaching from your guides we always manage to fit everything.
Please note that our summer temperatures from July until September are generally quite comfortable with temperatures from 18-30 degrees Celsius / 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not uncommon to find mid day summers hot enough to want to cool off in the ocean! June and later September will have cooler temperatures, and at ANY TIME OF YEAR we can have rain & wind, with temperatures occasionally as low as 13 C / 55 F. So, we say it is best to come prepared for any type of weather.
PLEASE NOTE WHAT WE PROVIDE:
– ALL KAYAKS & SAFETY GEAR
– TENT & SLEEPING PADS
– DRY BAGS
– SMALL CAMP PILLOW
If you have your own gear and would prefer to use it on your tour, please bring it to the pre-trip meeting so that we can make sure it is suitable and meets safety requirements. The following is a list of suggested items to bring along. If you have any concerns or questions about the list, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
- Sleeping bag – A 3-season synthetic bag is recommended. Down bags will work but please take extra care to waterproof. If you are uncertain about whether or not you have the appropriate bag just give us a call or check with your local outdoor store. If you do not have a sleeping bag or would prefer not to travel with one, these may be rented for $25 plus tax. Please reserve in advance. To waterproof your sleeping bag, line a compression sack with a heavy duty garbage bag. Press the air out of the bag with your knee and then keep it compact with the compression sac (may be purchased at any outdoor shop). This also helps keep your bag small for travel.
- Wetshoes – A pair that can get wet such as sturdy full strapped sandals (such as Keens, Tevas or Chacos), neoprene booties, crocs, or rubber boots. Please avoid flip-flops/thongs. Spirit of the West has a wide range of rubber boot sizes (youth – men’s size 13) available to borrow free of charge if you don’t have your own wet shoes or have limited space in your luggage. There will be an opportunity to try on boots at the pre-trip meeting.
- Camp footwear – An additional pair of footwear that you plan to keep dry. Runners, trainers or light hikers are great.
- Hat – A sun hat such as a baseball hat or full-brimmed hat as well as a wool or fleece warm hat for evenings or cooler days.
- Sunglasses & sunscreen (stored in a Ziploc bag) – A must for protection from sun and glare off of the water. Safety cords on your glasses are highly recommended.
- Small flashlight or headlamp – With spare batteries. Headlamps are preferable as they allow for hands-free operation.
- Camera – In a waterproof bag or case, or you may use our dry bags.
- Bathing suit
- Personal items – Toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap/shampoo, washcloth, feminine hygiene products, hairbrush, etc.
- Medication – If you are bringing medication please ensure that… 1) The name and expiry date of drug is on the container; 2) You have the detailed instructions of your dosage and frequency; 3) It is packed in a water and sunproof container; 4) You bring a full extra dosage of your medication in a separate container to leave with your guide, in case you misplace or lose yours, or are weathered in. If you are flying, please pack all necessary medication in your carry-on luggage. This will help eliminate some stress should your checked bags be misplaced in transit.
- Mosquito repellent – Insects are not a significant concern for us in our coastal ecosystem, however for those unused to insects or with particular sensitivities some repellent may come in handy.
- Ziploc bags & several large garbage bags – We will provide you with dry bags, but these come in handy for transporting laundry and/or wet clothing.
- Water bottle – Bike bottles or Nalgene-style bottles work best.
- Gloves (optional) – Biking gloves work well to protect your hands from blisters. If you are really concerned abut cold hands, and are paddling in the spring or fall seasons, you may want to invest in neoprene gloves or pogies.
- Beverages – We supply a wide range of teas and coffee as well as juices. You are welcome to bring along soda pops or alcoholic beverages if you choose to. Please note however that we do expect our guests to consume alcoholic beverages responsibly and strictly enforce a no alcohol on the water policy.
- Fishing gear (optional) – Make sure you have a valid B.C. fishing license. These can be purchased on-line at http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/licence-permis/index-eng.htm
- Book or journal
- Binoculars (optional)
- Gratuity for your guides – at your own discretion.
Clothing should be suitable for the time of year, bearing in mind that it could become cold and wet at any time of year. Layering is the best way to regulate body temperature and maintain warmth. We suggest avoiding cotton (except for those hot days). Cotton has no insulation value when wet. An inner material that wicks moisture from the body and gives a comfortable dry feeling even while wet is the best first layer (Polypropylene, Lycra, Nylon, Polyester). A synthetic material such as fleece or pile makes the best second layer to provide warmth. Wool is also suitable.
- Rain jacket & rain pants – For the unexpected nasty weather. To test your waterproofness – jump in the shower and see if you stay dry! (we’re serious!). If you would like to rent/hire raingear from us, please reserve in advance of the tour. Tops and bottoms can be rented for $25 plus tax for the set.
- Light windproof jacket (optional)
- Long-sleeved non-cotton shirt (synthetic/wool) – 2
- Long pants – 1 pair of fleece or warm comfortable pants. 2 lighter pairs made of a quick drying, synthetic fabric. Athletic style pants (running or yoga) are generally appropriate. Jeans are NOT recommended for paddling.
- Lightweight long underwear – 2 pairs, helps to keep you warm at night or as a base layer during the day. We recommend one set for kayaking and one set which is reserved for sleeping and always stays dry.
- Sweaters – 2 warm wool or fleece sweaters (one may be all you need, but it is nice to have a spare in case one gets wet).
- T-shirts – 2 or 3.
- Shorts – 1-2 quick dry nylon
- Warm socks – 3 to 5 pair (1 warmer pair for around camp)
- An extra set of clothes that you may want to reserve for the end of the trip.
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!