Welcome to the realm of the orcas
Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound
Families, focus on wildlife and ease with kids
* 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.
Make Unforgettable memories with your family!
Northern Vancouver Island is the best place on earth to see killer whales in the wild. Most of British Columbia’s 300 or so orcas return to these waters to feed, sleep and play. And there’s no more exciting way to encounter pods of these fascinating animals than from the seat of your very own sea kayak. Also sharing this diverse habitat are dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, harbour seals, humpback whales, eagles, and black bears, to name just a few.
Customize Your Tour
We understand that families will have varying degrees of comfort when it comes to camping and kayaking, therefore we offer a lot of flexibility with this trip. The amount of time in kayaks, the route, the activities, etc can all be tailored to meet the needs of your family.
This tour offers a wide range and variety of paddling experiences all in a prime location for wildlife sightings in the Johnstone Strait. As a basecamp style tour, we save time packing up camp each day and instead come home to the same campsite each night exploring by kayak during the day.
Let Us Take Care of the Details & the Cooking!
We take care of the details so you and your family can focus on fun and adventure. Our dynamic guide team will keep you and your family well-fed, engaged, smiling, laughing, and learning about the wonders of the BC coast.
We also welcome participation and are happy to help share our skills and knowledge with you and the kids if you would like to learn more about kayaking, camping, and wilderness skills.
Where We Kayak
The Orca Family tour is based in the heart of the action of Johnstone Strait. This trip starts and ends with a water taxi ride to our camp on West Cracroft Island. This area of the coast has a true rugged northwest feel with its lush temperate rain forests, rolling mountains, and an abundance of seabirds and marine wildlife including the world-famous resident pods of killer whales.
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. 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 if you need us to bring one for you) for sleeping. You’ll have a designated outhouse, as well as shared access to a heated outdoor shower.
Things to note:
At the Orca Family basecamp, you will encounter uneven surfaces, unsupervised rocky and slippery beaches, and bluffs. While we will all work together to keep an eye on the kids while at camp, you will be responsible for ensuring the safety of your children.
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 Orca Family Menu
Our menu provides hearty and nutritious meals for the whole family. The meals include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and plenty of snacks for hungry paddlers. Our menu for this trip still appeals to adult palates but we also provide “kid-friendly” options and alternatives to keep everyone a happy camper! This is another area of this trip where we are love to be flexible and work with your needs as a family to accommodate allergies, dietary restrictions, and to ensure that your kids will be happy with our food.
Most Importantly – Fun!
Above all else, we want to make sure that everyone in your family has fun on this kayaking trip! Our professional and dynamic guides will help to keep your family happy with games, activities, and stories around the campfire that everyone can enjoy. We hope you can join us!
- Professional guiding service
- All kayaking equipment
(including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes, sponges, and back support pillows)
- Prepared, tasty Meals (lunch day 1 to lunch day 4)
- Camping equipment including tents and Therm-a-rest sleeping pads and camp-style pillows
- A special take-home gift for kids
- Park and land use permits
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.)
- Guide gratuity
- Sleeping bag (we can provide a complimentary sleeping bag for your family if needed – please let us know in advance)
Rain gear may be rented if you prefer not to travel with them (please reserve in advance).
“We had a wonderful time! This is a great introduction for our 6-year old kids to this area of the world. It is also great for my 78-year old parents to be able to see all these animals in their natural habitat. Guide Bob was so great with my parents. I know they were in really good hands and Nicole and Mackenzie were awesome with the kids and us!” Alice Yu from San Francisco, USA
Also Available for private group Reservations
If you have a large group that would like to book a the whole tour as a private group, ask us about booking out the whole trip for just you & your group.
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.
WHERE & WHEN: ALDER BAY, BY APPROX. 12:30-1:30 PM (DAY 4)
Return time can depend on weather and travel conditions, but is typically between 12 – 2 pm. 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.
Meeting in Alder Bay at 11:30 am, we will go over the kayaking basics and essential safety procedures before heading off on our paddling adventure. A certified water taxi will whisk us across the Johnstone Strait to be dropped right at our camp on West Cracroft Island. Our first day will be spent exploring the shores of the Johnstone Strait on the lookout for the Northern Resident killer whales and other marine life. We will enjoy our first delicious dinner together and having a bonfire on the beach – perfect opportunity to share our highlights of the day.
Day 2 & 3
On days 2 and 3 we will paddle the waters of the Johnstone Strait. There is a lot of flexibility on these days and ultimately we will choose the best route based on the weather and the group’s strengths and desires. Each night we will stay at the established West Cracroft Island basecamp, saving the chores of packing up camp each day. 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. The evenings can be designed tailored to your family. Each day will be full of events but also leaves enough time to relax and simply take in all the natural wonders of our surroundings. The cozy camping under the stars and the chance to listen to the blows of the whales passing by is highlight for every kid (and parent)!
On day 4, we will have another hearty breakfast and a morning paddle. After the paddle, we will have a quick lunch and pack up our gear for the water taxi ride back to Alder Bay.
This 4-day adventure is the perfect introduction to sea kayaking in a remote and coastal BC environment. To learn new wilderness skills, and the take a break from the hustle and bustle of your family’s everyday life.
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.
+ WHAT MAKES OUR ORCA FAMILY BASECAMP SPECIAL?
The Orca Family tour has been thoughtfully designed for families with kids ages 5-12, while ensuring it will be enjoyed by all members of the family. This experience provides child-appropriate paddling conditions and distances, educational moments, resources to help your family connect to the natural world, and delicious food to be enjoyed by all. Our expert guides take care of your family both on and off the water with extra attention given to the needs of young travellers. Give yourself and your family the adventure of a lifetime in a wilderness setting they won’t soon forget.
+ WHAT IS THE CAMP LIKE FOR THE ORCA FAMILY TOUR?
The Orca Family tour, while in a wilderness setting, offers many amenities to make your family’s stay comfortable and relaxing. Amenities include a covered dining area, a camp library with books, games and children’s puppets, large walk-in wall-style tents on lifted tent platforms, beds with supportive foam mattresses, optional cots for children, pillows, towels, easy to use private outdoor toilets, a wood-fired hot tub, and two hot water showers with ocean views.
+ WHAT SORT OF OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE DOES MY FAMILY NEED TO HAVE? HOW LONG ARE THE PADDLING DAYS?
No experience is needed. The Orca Family tour has been designed to be a great introduction to kayaking and spending time in the outdoors while also satisfying more experienced folks. Base camping provides the flexibility to paddle as much or as little as you wish. Actual paddling time will vary depending on each unique tour, our daily route, weather conditions, and the group’s abilities and interests. Generally, we aim to be exploring by kayak for between 3-5 hours each day with lots of time to to stretch our legs on the beaches, explore a nearby trail and of course time for snacks, snacks and more snacks! We typically have our lunch out on one of the beaches nearby and come back to our camp for dinner. There is also always the option to stay back and relax or play at camp if you or your children aren’t feeling up to a day of paddling.
Keep in mind, day one and day four will have less time on the water due to water taxi transport and camp changeovers, with days 2 & 3 being full days of paddling and adventuring.
+ HOW MANY PEOPLE SLEEP IN EACH TENT?
Each tent contains two twin beds complete with a comfortable foam mattress and pillows (no bedding included, please bring your own sleeping bag or rent one from us). For families travelling with younger children who you would like to have in your tent with you, we have folding cots and therm-a-rests that help everyone to snuggle in together. Some of our tents are also close enough to each other that you would hear your kids if they were up in the night, if you wanted them close by but not sharing the tent with you – great for older kids who crave a bit of independence. If you would like to discuss tenting arrangements more, please contact us.
+ CAN I RENT RAIN GEAR OR SLEEPING BAGS THAT ARE KID-SIZED?
Absolutely! We have rentals to fit the whole family. We have a limited quantity of children’s rain gear and sleeping bags that must be reserved in advance of your trip. If you are interested in adding a rental to your booking, please contact our office.
+ IS THERE CELL SERVICE OR ELECTRICITY AT THE CAMP?
The Orca Family 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 can find service as you paddle or discuss with your guides the options at camp as we do have a small cell booster (no wifi).
We have a limited supply of electricity supplied by solar panels and a battery bank. When the weather is sunny, we have more power; when it’s cloudy, we have less. Everyone should be able to charge a camera or phone 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.). We also highly recommend bringing your own personal battery bank as our power is not always guaranteed.
+ WHAT IF I HAVE A PICKY EATER?
You can look forward to hearty, healthy, and satisfying food that is prepared largely from scratch allowing us to customize meals as needed. Need the sauce on the side, plain pasta with butter, raw carrots versus cooked? Hey we get it, we are parents too! Please feel free to review a sample of our menu here and let us know as soon as possible (at least 30 days before your tour) if there are any foods your child may not enjoy eating and we will ensure there is something that will keep everyone happy. There is also no shortage of tasty snacks for everyone to help themselves to whenever they please.
If you have a specific dietary/kid-friendly request you’d like to discuss for your family, please contact our team.
+ WHAT IF MY CHILD CAN’T SWIM?
We require the provided PFDs (personal floatation devices) to be worn by everyone at all times when on or near the water and the group is never left unattended while out kayaking. We do not expect everyone who comes on tour to be able to swim, however, we ask that you disclose your family’s abilities and comfort levels with your guide team to ensure they can support you in the best way possible.
+ IS THE CAMP SET UP CHILD-PROOF?
The Orca Family basecamp is in a remote wilderness setting overlooking Johnstone Strait. As with most outdoor environments, it is important for everyone to be aware of their surroundings. You will encounter uneven terrain, unsupervised rocky and slippery beaches, and bluffs overlooking the ocean. Upon your arrival, a camp orientation with your guides will ensure all guests are familiar with the site and hazards and boundaries will be discussed. While we will all work together to keep an eye on the kids while at camp, you will be responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of your own children. Kids must be supervised at all times in the hot tub. Our guide team will help facilitate the experience for both you and the kids, but are unable to offer childcare services.
+ WHERE IS THE TOUR MEETING SPOT?
Tour meeting location: 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 unload, carry your luggage down to the dock, and arrange parking (if necessary) to leave your vehicle for the duration of your tour.
+ MORE FAQS
Head to our main FAQ page for more Frequently Asked Questions.
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 best trip ever! Say thanks to the awesome guides!"
Gabriel, 10 years
"We had great guides and they were super nice!"
Skye, 11 years
"Very fun, exciting and so adventurous!"
Julia, 12 years
"Very cool and great food and a fun experience overall!"
Ruby, 13 years
"A wonderful experience. Love learning new things and our guides were very knowledge-based."
"Excellent knowledge and skills shown by our guides!"
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.