Paddle the heart of the orca waters
Everyone, focus on orcas and comfort
* 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. To check live availability on any trip, click the Book Now tab and select a trip date.
Your kayak retreat in BC’s Whale territory
Perched on the edge of the Johnstone Strait, our established base camp on West Cracroft Island has been a favourite of Spirit of the West guests for more than twenty years. Paddle nearby shorelines and learn about the area’s incredible wildlife from your experienced guides. With magnificent views from the hot tub and the perhaps the most peaceful sleep you will ever experience, our Johnstone Strait Ultimate base camp provides an amazing opportunity to get away from it all and relax in the wilderness.
Come back to the same, comfortable established campsite each night. Situated directly across the Johnstone Strait from the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, the Ultimate basecamp enjoys captivating mountain views, spectacular sunsets and the kind of peace and quiet you only experience when you’re “really out there”.
Our Base Camp across from robson bight ecological reserve
Built onto a rocky bluff, the camp has lots of open outdoor space and unobstructed views of the ocean. It’s easy enough to find a quiet spot to sunbathe, practise morning yoga, read, or just soak in the nature that surrounds you. The camp also features a large kitchen and communal dining area, as well as a wood fired hot tub overlooking Johnstone Strait.
Comfortable amenities include large white cotton canvas tents on wooden tent platforms, complete with a simple bed & pillow. Bring your own sleeping bag (or contact us for rentals) for sleeping. You’ll have a designated outhouse, as well as shared access to a heated outdoor shower.
Things to note: although our camp is well developed, it is on a remote island without access to key infrastructure. There is no WiFi and very limited cell service. We get electricity through solar panels and our water comes from a mountain spring – we do our best to manage them, but both can be limited by nature. While building our camp, we tried to be as low-impact on the environment as possible, so be aware that the paths may be uneven under foot.
The Johnstone Strait has long been known for abundant marine life. Orcas, dolphins and porpoises can often be spotted in the region. The shores of West Cracroft Island are rich in vibrant and unique intertidal life and we always keep an eye out for the variety of shorebirds and seabirds flying overhead. It’s not uncommon to witness a black bear foraging for crabs or a river otter or mink scampering along the shoreline.
Spending a few days at our Johnstone Strait Ultimate base camp offers the amazing opportunity to disconnect from the busyness of everyday life. Enjoy the serenity as you relax and reconnect with the fascinating natural world around you.
We love food and we want to show you how good cooking in the outdoors can be! Your multi-talented guides will will cook fresh, hearty food, made with locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible. You can expect big buffet breakfasts and simple but delicious dinners. There’ll be plenty of fresh garden veggies and tasty fruits available, in addition to appetizers and locally baked goods. We are able to cater to a variety of diets with advanced notice.
- Guided kayak excursions
- Kayaks & kayaking gear (PFDs, paddle, spray skirt)
- All meals & snacks (lunch on day 1 – breakfast on day 4)
- Private return water taxi service from Alder Bay
- Your own private tent with a simple bed (no linens) and pillow
- Your designated outhouse with sink wash area
- Access to an oceanfront wood fired hot tub
- Outdoor heated showers and towel
- Park & land use permits
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?
- Rain jacket & rain pants (rentals available) *
- Your sleeping bag (rentals available) *
- Personal items (clothing, toiletries, etc.)
- Alcoholic and carbonated beverages (BYO welcome)
- Personal transport to/from our meeting point in Alder Bay
- Accommodation before and after your tour
- Travel & medical insurance
- Guide gratuity
* Sleeping bags and rain gear may be rented (please reserve in advance)
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!
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.
Tour MEETING LOCATION
WHERE & WHEN: ALDER BAY RESORT & MARINA AT 11:30 AM (Day 1)
On day 1 of your trip you will meet your water taxi driver in Alder Bay on Vancouver Island (approximately a 5.5-hour drive by car north of Victoria or 4 hours north of Nanaimo). Please arrive 15 minutes early to allow time to park, unload, and carry your luggage down to the launching spot.
*Shuttle from Telegraph Cove is available by request with advance notice.
WHERE & WHEN: ALDER BAY RESORT & MARINA by MiD-AFTERNOON (AROUND 2 PM) (day 4)
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.
Below you will find our recommended or typical trip itinerary. Please remember that paddling times and distances may vary based on group desire and abilities. Your guides have extensive training and will let you know what is possible in terms of safety, weather, and sea conditions.
At 11:30am, meet your guides at the grassy area above the dock. After a quick safety briefing, you’ll jump aboard our water taxi for a scenic 30 minute boat journey across the Johnstone Strait. Upon arrival at West Cracroft Island, your guides will serve up a delicious lunch for you to enjoy, before showing you around camp and and checking into your tent.
After getting settled, you’ll meet on the beach for a kayak orientation, before an optional late afternoon paddle is offered. Delicious appetizers will be ready and waiting for when you get ashore. Spend the rest of your evening relaxing, enjoying dinner and taking in the incredible scenery that surrounds you.
Steaming coffee will be available for when you’re ready to kickstart your day. Enjoy a hearty breakfast before deciding your optimum recreation to relaxation ratio.
Maybe you’ll enjoy a land activity, with a hike to the top of Eagle Eye and an interpretive talk about forest ecology. Perhaps you’ll get on the water, and spend the whole day paddling along the coastlines, learning all about the fascinating intertidal life that clings onto the rocks and headlands. Or maybe you’ll opt for a relaxing day at camp, practicing yoga, curling up with a cup of tea and a good book, or soaking in the hot tub.
As evening sets in, share dinner with new and old friends, before watching the sun sink below the horizon and settling in for a peaceful night of sleep.
Pack your luggage before filling up on a tasty breakfast. Savour your final moments on the water during a magical morning paddle. After a quick lunch and some fond farewells, you’ll be boarding the water taxi back to Alder Bay. You can expect to be back at your vehicle around 2 pm, but exact time depends on various factors such as wind & weather conditions.
See guest handbook for more details & Packing List
Where can I find updates to COVID-19 from Spirit of the West?
- 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 travellers to join us and often have several solo travellers 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 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 but 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. Our base-camp style tours can be suited to folks with mildly limited mobility or those who wish to be in the wilderness, but not do any kayaking (you can always choose to stay at camp on our base-camping style tours). 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 3-5 hours a day on our base-camping style tours (the Johnstone Strait Ultimate and Whales and Wilderness Tours) and slightly longer (4-6 hours a day) on all of our other tours, not including breaks and lunch. We set a pace which is manageable and enjoyable for all.
Is there cell (mobile) service at the camp?
The Johnstone Strait Ultimate camp sits just outside normal cell service areas, so you can enjoy your time with us free from digital distractions. If you need to find a signal to check in, you will find service as you paddle, or discuss with your guides the options at camp.
Is there electricity at the camp?
We have a limited supply of electricity supplied by solar panels and a battery bank. When the weather is nice, we have more power; when it’s not, we have less. Everyone should be able to charge a camera battery at least once while on the trip and possibly more, but it’s wise to be conservative with your batteries to ensure the power is there when you need it (eg. avoid using the display unless you need it, don’t review photos in your tent at night, keep your camera off when not using it, etc.).
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 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 are 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?
The Johnstone Strait Ultimate tour, while in a wilderness setting, offers some amenities to make your stay quite comfortable. Amenities include a covered dining area, large dome-style tents on wooden tent platforms, thick Thermarest-style sleeping pads, pillows, a wood-fired hot tub and a hot water shower with a view of the ocean. If you are looking for the most comfortable camping experience than the Whales and Wilderness Glamping tour is for you. This trip provides large walk-in canvas wall style tents, real beds with organic soy foam mattresses, pillows of various levels of firmness, warm bedding, a hot shower, wood-fired hot tub, a professional chef and a million little touches to enhance your wilderness experience.
Where do we wash and are there toilets?
Johnstone Strait Ultimate and the Whales and Wilderness Glamping tour have hot freshwater showers and established pit style outhouses.
On all other tours (expeditions), 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 Alder Bay on Northern Vancouver Island. There is a parking available at Alder Bay Resort and Marina. We have covered your parking costs. Please pick up a parking pass from our guides on arrival.
What is the industry standard for tipping my guides?
If you would like to express your appreciation 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
“Found the experience extraordinary. This is my second trip and I’m looking forward to my third!”
"Beyond our expectations. This was our first family adventure vacation and it was great! We were fortunate to see lots of wildlife and each guide was very knowledgable. "
The Petrick Family
"Unforgettable! Great people, great location and amazing natural environment."
"Change nothing, its perfect!"
Jean Luc Bohn
"Great experience! 4 day trip was a perfect time for my 11 year old son."
"Awesome! I love you guys! Want to bring my daughter. Thank you so much for a trip I will never forget! Thank you all!"
"The experience exceeded all my expectations. This was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’ve made new friends from all over the globe."
"Best honeymoon ever"
“Exhilarating, relaxing and well guided.”
Molly & Gayle
"Met our expectations, liked the flexibility of the guides. Very competent and professional group. Each guide brought something special to our experience.”
The Wool family
"Everyone very helpful and patient. Food, kayaking, accommodations all great. People before trip on phone very helpful. A trip we will always remember. Thank you!"
"We both really enjoyed the trip. The guides, area and wildlife were amazing. Great balance between organized time and "own time" Guides were very accommodating, relaxed, made all feel welcome!"
Heather and Mark Elliott
"Experience of a life time. I will be back with my family. Your dedication to your company "shined" through your staff."
"The trip was all around awesome.
This guides and organization was phenomenal."
"So impressed with the guides depth of knowledge and how the trip is run so smoothly. Base camp is a wonderful place. Would be happy to wake up every morning there."
Helen Mc Donnoll
THE CAMP & FOOD
"Friendly guides, fun, great food, and group was super too! Hot tub and shower unreal! "
"With my dietary limitations, everyone at Spirit of the West went out of their way to make delicious food. I have never gotten service like that before. "
“Great trip, great camp, never seen a beautiful hot tub in such a beautiful scenery.”
“Awesome! Most luxurious camping trip ever with fun and knowledgeable staff!”
The food…ahhh yum. The hot tub and tent amenities were luxurious! Overall I feel very satisfied and unwilling to leave! Thank you to the great staff for a wonderful experience!”
“Fantastic overall. Wonderful food and accommodations top notch (hot tub!) Amazing guides, great pace. Essentially a perfect trip. Bascamp, food, guides are all amazing. Keep it up! Thank you for being awesome!”
"Beyond expectations - deluxe guiding, food and hot tub! The kayaking was amazing, The wildlife just incredible!"
"A truly wonderful and inspiring trip. I slept under the stars last night to hear the orcas and was lucky enough to see an incredible asteroid shower. A once in a lifetime experience. (Although I hope to repeat it soon!)"
(John) Brian Weir
"OMG !! Saw everything, whales, humpback, bear, eagle, seals. The guides were amazing, knowledgeable, funny and friendly! The guests were great everyone got along. Felt like we were all old friends."
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.