Paddling a Warm Water Paradise
Everyone, focus on scenery and relaxed pace
* Kayaking trips & tours are priced and charged in Canadian dollars and are subject to 5% GST and $20 / person environmental sustainability fee. Please see our Terms and Conditions for complete terms.
Also Available for private bubble group Reservations
Click below to find out more about how to make your tour private for the ultimate peace of mind. See all available dates and pricing for private bubble tours. Please feel free to get in touch with our office and we will help find the perfect trip for you!
KAYAKING & ADVENTURING IN A PADDLERS’ PARADISE
Desolation Sound Marine Park is a world-class sea kayaking destination. Enjoy the warmest waters north of Baja, nestled beneath the towering mountains of the BC Coast Mountain range for a truly awe-inspiring adventure. The area provides great kayaking among protected islands and bays and opportunities for freshwater swimming. A few walks and hikes can be included in the trip, depending on your interests. Desolation Sound is a great place to simply relax and immerse yourself in the best that BC coast has to offer. This tour is suitable for all experience levels.
Nestled between the Canadian mainland and Vancouver Island, Desolation Sound offers sheltered conditions and diverse paddling options, along with spectacular camping locations. The rugged mountain terrain has kept this part of the coastline free of road access: making kayaks the perfect way to visit this majestic and unspoiled area. We enjoy views of soaring peaks and dramatic cliffs that fall away into the ocean. This region is ripe for exploring, providing an intricate web of river mouths, inlets and small islands.
Our days will be filled with circumnavigating these idyllic islands, exploring the deep-water inlets created by glaciers, exploring the intertidal life in the warm shallow bays, stretching our legs to reach some beautiful viewpoints overlooking the area and swimming in freshwater lakes. While most of the paddling takes place in relatively sheltered waters, we do also experience a few more exposed and open water crossings. Your guides will provide training and assistance to ensure everyone is safe and comfortable.
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Our adventure begins from Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island. A short 40 min ferry ride from Quadra Island and a 10-minute drive across Cortes Island brings you to Squirrel Cove, where we begin our adventure via kayak. This tour is an out and back expedition style trip where we begin and end the paddling portion of our trip in Squirrel Cove. From here we journey out to the islands where we will camp for the trip’s duration. Although this tour is a true expedition style trip, packing everything we need into our kayaks and changing campsites, it also offers the option of staying at one centrally located site for multiple nights and enjoying day paddles from there.
Camping & Dining
We paddle from campsite to campsite, setting up our tents on small islands and majestic bluffs overlooking bays, small beaches and secluded coves in the heart of Desolation Sound. The lush temperate rainforest that stretches down the mountainsides to the coast, offers trails winding through the unspoiled wilderness. Visit old-growth trees and stretch your legs after a day in the kayak. The long summer days and Mediterranean like climate make it inviting to take a refreshing swim in one of the many fresh-water lakes or the warm ocean water- there are no shortage of beautiful locations to dive right in.
Your guides take care of your safety and wellbeing for the duration of the trip. These multi-talented wilderness guides prepare 3 fresh and wholesome meals each day. The first night includes a wild fish dinner which we source from a Quadra Island fisher family. We take pride in having happy campers with full bellies. Our wonderful team ensures all dietary needs and restrictions are met, and provide creative culinary alternatives that will please vegetarians, vegans, gluten and wheat-free diets, and those with various allergies and food sensitivities.
Crawl into your tent after watching stunningly beautiful sunsets, falling asleep to the sound of gentle waves crashing onto the rocky beaches.
Other activities include hiking, kayaking skills development, shellfish harvesting, and lots of opportunities to swim in the nearby lakes as well as the warmest ocean waters north of Mexico.
INTERTIDAL LIFE & ANIMALS
Discover and learn all about the awe-inspiring intertidal world. Every 6 hours the tide uncovers a fascinating variety of marine plants and animals such as colonies of big and small starfish, sea urchins, colorful sea anemones and much more.
We are often fortunate to view marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, river otters, the occasional sea otter, deer, black bears. While not seen on every tour, we do sometimes also have the privilege of watching humpback whales and or orca whales who enjoy the abundance of plankton and food sources that live in these rich waters year-round. There is also incredibly rich birdlife include many different types of sea birds as well as the majestic North American bald eagle.
Your professional guides have extensive training & experience in sea kayaking and in sharing the natural and cultural history of the area. Our groups are small with maximum 10 guests and 2 guides, and our tours all-inclusive. We provide everything you need for the adventure! Join us for a once in a lifetime kayaking adventure.
- Professional guiding service
- All kayaking equipment
(including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes and sponges)
- All meals, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages (coffee, teas, juices, water)
- Cooking equipment
- Camping equipment including tents and Therma-rest sleeping pads
- Water taxi service
- 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
- 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 Desolation Sound tour launches from the east side of our neighbouring Cortes Island. The details below should help give you a fuller picture of the day-to-day trip experience.
TOUR MEETING LOCATION
WHERE & WHEN: QUADRA ISLAND, 8 AM OR Cortes island, 10:15 AM (day 1)
You can meet either on Quadra Island or on Cortes Island at the Squirrel Cove Store & boat launch. If meeting us on Cortes Island, 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.
WHERE & WHEN: Quadra Island, Between 3-5 PM (DAY 5)
Return time can depend on weather and travel conditions and what ferry we will catch from Cortes to Quadra. We try our best to get you back on time for your onward travels or to explore more of what Quadra and Vancouver Island has to offer.
Our crew will arrange meeting times and locations at the virtual pre-trip meeting and will generally pick you up at your accommodation on Quadra Island (unless you prefer otherwise/travelling to Cortes in your own vehicle). Together we will catch the 9 am ferry to Cortes Island (45-minute ride). We will then travel to our launch site at Squirrel Cove. After packing our kayaks we will spend some time reviewing kayaking skills and tips for comfort and of course safety procedures before our journey begins. Our route takes us on a paddle towards the fjords of Desolation Sound, providing us with a stunning mountain backdrop. There are a number of beautiful sites within an afternoon’s paddle. Keep your eyes open for harbour seals or Dall’s porpoises along the way!
Savour our first hearty breakfast in the great outdoors before we pack up and head off on today’s adventure. We continue on into the enchanting islands, kayaking Desolation Sound where we take our time exploring as we head towards our desired camping site for the evening.
DAYS 3 & 4
These days may entail paddling through the scattered islands, interpretive forest walks, swimming in freshwater lakes, practicing some on-water skills, or simply lounging at our island campsites.
We will journey back to Cortes Island along the rugged shores of West Redonda Island. A visit to Refuge Cove or the lovely protected lagoon of Squirrel Cove will be our last stop of our 5-day kayak journey.
Our approximate return time to Quadra Island is between 3-5 pm, 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.
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 guide for Travel Insurance 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.
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 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 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.
We provide all meals from morning snack on day one to lunch on the last day. 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 Desolation Sound, Johnstone Strait Expedition, Orca Lite, Nuchatlitz 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 the end of September. The temperature will vary slightly depending on which area you visit. Our tours in Desolation Sound tend to experience warm and mild temperatures. Fog is very common on 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, and 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?
The diversity and abundance of wildlife in the Pacific Northwest are 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. While not common to view whales in Desolation Sound, we are lucky to often experience the rich marine life of colourful plants and invertebrates, seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, mink, otter, seals, sea lions, dolphins and the land animals of deer, raccoons, cougars, wolves and bears. 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. Please just remember that wildlife is just that wild and we cannot control sightings.
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.
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 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 Quadra Island 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 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 Squirrel Cove for a daily fee. Parking details will be discussed further before your tour start date.
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 approx. 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
"Unbelievable how much time I spent smiling on this trip. I found myself smiling one time, even when I was having a very serious conversation with a fellow kayaker - I just couldn't help it, I was in such a beautiful place."
"I was convinced to go on this trip by my children. After going on this tour I feel like I'm 10 years younger: I'm reenergized after what feels like a long hibernation. Thank you."
"It was great! Wonderful time with my son."
"I'm an English teacher and for the first time in a very long time I couldn't think of any words to describe what I was seeing. It was that spectacular. Thank you for putting together such an excellent team. I had an extraordinary experience."
"I felt like I was doing something that I'd wanted to do for years but didn't know how to go about doing. With the Spirit of the West guides, Rick and Amy made me feel like these were the people I'd been waiting to get me out kayaking. They were exceptional."
"Your guides are a wealth of knowledge. Not only knowledgeable about the area or the flora and fauna, but about the needs of the group, namely having fun. Sometimes I would scan the whole group and realize everyone was having a good time. That is a compliment to your team."
Bill and Helen Robertson
"It is obvious that every one at Spirit of the West works hard to provide clients with an outstanding experience."
"I felt safe and happy. The guides were like the people I asked to go to parties when I'm too shy to go by myself. They came in and just took total care that I was enjoying myself and feeling comfortable. They were very generous with their energy."
"I think I might start a guide fund for all of my grandchildren. I want them to learn to do the kind of job that your guides did. Breanne and Luke were exceptionally skilled and I am considering living vicariously through them. Their enjoyment of their job was contagious and it energized the whole group. Congratulations on finding such great leaders."
"Superb, and always surprising. We'd heard about the food, but it was even better than we expected."
Alex Layard & Seb Powers
"I ate far better on this trip than I do at home!"
"I ate good wholesome food and always felt healthy which was what I needed after being so rushed in Toronto and always eating fast food on the go. Thank you for taking such good care of me. I have been rejuvenated."
"I came with my teenage son. This was some much needed bonding time. I had never thought of whether he would eat the food, and when I saw the guides preparing the food I thought, oh no, what if he doesn't like it? He ate like it was Christmas dinner and he was happy. I felt instantly like I was having the best holiday. The energy that you put into the food was very much appreciated."
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!
Cancel For Any Reason insurance is essential to protect your investment in your experience. Policies must be purchased within a limited timeframe after paying for any portion of your trip: within 72 hours for Canadians and within 1-2 weeks for Americans. Please learn more here.
If you are booking from outside of Canada, do not use this booking form. Please contact us by phone or email to place your tentative reservation. Click here for more details.
Our online booking system allows you easy access for booking your tour with Spirit of the West Adventures, any time of day.
Before finalizing your reservation, please carefully read over our Terms & Conditions, as these terms will apply to your booking. We also highly recommend that you look into Travel Insurance options to protect your travels before booking your tour as some types of insurance (such as Cancel for Any Reason insurance) can only be accessed within a limited period of time after paying for any portion of your tour.
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!
We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance known as Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR). Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policy for Canadians travelling within Canada can be purchased from Manulife Canada within 72 hours paying for any portion of your tour by calling 1-888-220-5212 and giving the Spirit of the West agent code of WESTADV and asking for the Manulife Premium Protection Plan. Click here for more details on travel insurance.
If you are booking from outside of Canada, please ensure you check and keep up to date on entry requirements when planning and booking your trip. The ArriveCAN app provides travel information on current entry and exit requirements for Canada.