Beautiful, scenic and natural
Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound
Everyone, focus on orcas and affordability
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!
A Big Adventure on a Small Budget
This tour is simply about giving you the orca kayaking experience at a price that is easy on the pocketbook while maintaining the high standards you expect from a Spirit of the West Adventures tour. This will mean fewer frills than our Johnstone Strait Ultimate tour, and a shorter length than our Johnstone Strait Expedition, but you will still have the best-trained guides on the coast, top-of-the-line gear, industry-leading pre- and post-trip service, and most importantly, plenty of safe, fun, adventure and wildlife! The Orca Lite tour fits most individual, student and family budgets while still providing our outstanding service!
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, play, and rub their bodies on the pebble beaches of world famous Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. 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.
We meet in historic Telegraph Cove on Northern Vancouver Island where we will begin our kayaking adventure. Prior to departure, the group will take part in a route planning session with the guides. After some kayaking skills instruction and packing our kayaks, we will begin our journey into the rich and diverse waters of Johnstone Strait. Our route and itinerary are flexible and will be dictated by wildlife viewing opportunities, tidal, wind, and wave conditions. To allow us to tailor make your holiday, we base our campsite choices on scenic qualities, availability and group preferences.
Paddle in and Paddle Out orca kayaking
Unlike our other tours, our Orca Lite tour does not make use of expensive water taxi services. Instead, we choose to navigate our way through the beautiful waters of Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound under our own steam. We launch our kayaks in historic Telegraph Cove, a 2.5 hr drive north of Campbell River, or a 40-minute drive south of Port Hardy. This is a nomadic style trip, in the realm of the whales, and we will explore many beaches along the rich and rugged shoreline of Vancouver Island and other smaller island in the area. We launch our kayaks and return 4 days later in historic Telegraph Cove before we say goodbye to our fellow kayakers.
The Orca Lite Menu
The Orca Lite menu is fresh, hearty, healthy, abundant and designed to fill your belly after lots of time spent on activities such as paddling, beach walking, wildlife viewing, and relaxing.
Listening to the Whales Sing
We are equipped with a portable underwater hydrophone so we can listen to the beautiful songs of the orca as they pass while we are paddling.
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 a couple of nights camped at the same beautiful sites. However, most nights we will be at a new campsite.
- Professional guiding service
- All kayaking equipment
(including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes and sponges)
- All meals, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages (tea, coffee, water, and juices)
- Cooking equipment
- 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
- 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).
Spirit of the West operates in the unceded traditional territory of the Mamalilikulla-Qwe'Qwa'Sot'Em, 'Namgis, Tlowitsis, Nuu-chah-nulth, We Wai Kai, Homalco, Klahoose and Heiltsuk First Nations.
The idea behind our Orca Lite tour is to get you out into the heart of the realm of the killer and humpback whale! This tour is geared towards our kindred adventurous spirits: families, backpackers, solo travellers, shoestring wanderers. As well, the shorter duration of the tour (4 days as opposed to our 6 day expeditions) may fit more easily into busy travel schedules...
Lets get Ready for the adventure
The Spirit of the West Adventures’ crew will meet you in historic Telegraph Cove on northern Vancouver Island. From here we have immediate access to one of the richest and most diverse areas on our coast. Most of British Columbia’s 300 resident Orcas return to this area every summer to eat, sleep, play, and rub their bodies on some of the small pebble beaches of Johnstone Strait. In addition to Orcas, the kayaker must keep his or her eyes peeled for the large and majestic Humpback whale, the speedy Dall’s porpoise, or perhaps for a large group of cavorting dolphins. The lower cost of this trip means no water taxi transportation but nothing less than the highest standards when it comes to your guides, top-of-the-line gear, industry-leading pre and post-trip service, and most importantly, plenty of fun and adventure!
VIRTUAL PRE-TOUR MEETING
WHERE & WHEN: VIA YOUR COMPUTER BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME
Our team will be in contact with you to set up a Zoom (virtual video) pre-tour meeting. This meeting gives us a chance to answer any questions you may have, for you to meet our team, go over the logistics of the tour, and to discuss what to expect. We plan this for 7 pm, 3 days before your trip starts, but alternate times may be arranged to suit your schedule.
TOUR MEETING LOCATION
WHERE & WHEN: Telegraph cove MarinA (right-hand side of cove) at 1pm (Day 1)
On day 1 of your trip you will meet your guides in Telegraph Cove at 1 pm on Vancouver Island. (An approx. 5.5-hour drive by car north of Victoria or 4 hours north of Nanaimo.) There is a parking and unloading area conveniently located near the general store and dock entrance. You’ll find our meeting location at the Marina on the right side of the cove, near the big boat ramp. Please arrive 20 minutes early to allow time to unload, carry your luggage down to the launching spot, and arrange parking (if necessary).
WHERE & WHEN: TELEGRAPH COVE, BY APPROX. 12 PM (DAY 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.
Our day starts in Telegraph Cove, a historic harbour village on the northern part of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. Start your trip with a visit to the Johnstone Strait Killer Whale Interpretive Centre in the morning. It is the perfect primer for your kayaking adventure, with impressive displays of full-sized whale skeletons and information about the area you are going to explore in the days to come. Spirit of the West will cover your admission fee.
With coaching from your guides, we will pack up all of our gear into our kayaks at 1pm. After a safety briefing and orientation to kayaking, we will head out into the waters of Johnstone Strait. We will paddle to our first campsite, either at a remote site on Vancouver Island or on one of the smaller islands nestled between Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound – the territory of the orca and humpback whales. After a hearty meal for dinner and a bonfire on the beach, you will be ready for your first night’s sleep under the stars in the wild coastal paradise of Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound.
Days 2 to 3
Our route and schedule for the Orca Lite tour are entirely flexible. This allows our guides to customize the trip depending on weather conditions, campsite availability, group preference, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
After a hearty breakfast, we will enjoy a new adventure on the water each day. Time will be spent exploring the nearby islands and shorelines, always looking and listening for the many marine mammals including orcas, humpbacks, minke whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
For our lunch breaks, we will enjoy picnics on various beaches. These breaks will also give us the opportunity to stretch our legs, discover the creatures that live in the intertidal zone, and explore the lush coastal rainforests with old-growth cedar trees.
After our last breakfast in the wild, we will pack up our gear and leave for our last day of exploration. On the paddle back to Telegraph Cove we will have more opportunities to paddle along various shorelines and islands, experience the rich intertidal life along BC’s coast, and of course, watch out for more wildlife.
This 4-day expedition is the perfect introduction to paddling in a remote and coastal BC environment.
FIND OUT WHAT YOU NEED TO PACK FOR FOR THIS TRIP:
Below is a list of commonly asked questions. If you have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to call us.
WHERE CAN I LEARN ABOUT YOUR COVID - 19 SAFETY PLAN?
- learn about safety measures, mitigation plan, and procedures
- see answers to our most frequently asked questions about COVID
- learn how to travel and adventure safely in British Columbia.
To read our Terms and Conditions, please click here.We also published a Travel Insurance 101 and a guide for Travel Insurance in a World with Covid-19 which will help you answer basic travel insurance questions, such as ‘What is travel insurance?’ and ‘Why do I need it?’Please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have any further questions. We are here to assist you every day from 9am onwards.
What is the minimum age required to join our tours?
We cater to all ages of adventurers. Kids age 5 to 12 are encouraged to join the Family Orca Tours which have been designed with the needs of younger kayakers. For most of our other regularly scheduled tours we prefer a minimum age of 12, except for the Great Bear Rainforest trip, which has a minimum age of 14. If your child is almost 12 or your family has a good deal of experience kayaking and camping we do occasionally make exceptions. We like to assess each case individually. We can also organize private, custom style adventures. Feel free to call us and we would be happy to discuss the options.
What is the average age of our guests?
We have guests from age 5 and up on our family tours and ages 12 to 85 joining our regularly scheduled tours. The average age ranges between age 30 to 65. Each tour and tour date is different, but we usually get a good mix of ages. For those concerned with being in ‘their older years’ or anyone unsure of which tour fits them best, we welcome you to contact us and we will be happy to help you find the perfect trip.
Are there any single supplement fees if I am travelling on my own?
There are no single supplements or any other extra fee. We encourage solo travelers to join us and often have several solo travelers on each tour. It should be no problem to have your own tent and you will have access to both single and double kayaks.
Can you accommodate food allergies/special diets?
Our food preparation crew are masters at accommodating dietary restrictions. We are able to offer gluten-free, vegetarian, pescatarian, dairy light and vegan menus with prior notice. Other dietary requests may involve additional charges and need to be discussed in advance with our food crew. We are NOT a nut-free facility.
Will I comfortably fit in the kayaks?
If you are over 6ft (182cms) tall, if you are on the more petite side of things, have larger hips or weigh over 250lbs (115 kg) we have certain kayaks that may work best for you. Please give us a call and we can ensure we have the appropriate kayak available for you.
What is included in the tour costs?
We supply everything that you will need for kayaking and camping except for a few personal items such as your clothing, toiletries, sleeping bag and rain gear (sleeping bags and rain gear can be rented if needed).
We provide all meals and non-alcoholic beverages including a wide variety of teas, coffee, juices, hot chocolate are provided. Alcohol is not provided and you are welcome to bring your favourite wine, beer or pop to enjoy responsibly. There are no additional costs once on our tour unless you wish to purchase souvenirs.
What do I need to bring?
Please find a list of items Spirit of the West Adventures will provide for you and our comprehensive packing list of all the things we suggest you bring along here:
Once you book your tour you will receive a detailed guest handbook which also includes the packing list.
How much kayaking experience is required?
Our adventures are designed to cater to all levels of experience and abilities from first-timer to expert paddler. We have several different styles and lengths of tours so that everyone can find the perfect trip.
If you are looking for more rustic camping and more paddling check out our expedition style tours; the Orca Lite, Johnstone Strait Expedition, Nuchatlitz, Desolation Sound or Great Bear Rainforest Tours.
Do I need to be in great shape for this trip?
The majority of our adventures are not considered to be overly strenuous or physically demanding and therefore do not require a high level of fitness. Each tour is slightly different in its demands so if you are concerned, please do contact us. As a general rule, you need to be capable of a few hours of moderate exercise each day and be comfortable with the uneven ground of a wilderness environment. Please keep in mind that good general health will go a long way towards the enjoyment of your tour. Most important though is an adventurous spirit.
How much paddling do we do each day?
Paddling time will vary depending on the trip, our destination, weather conditions and the group’s abilities and desires. Generally, we travel between 4-6 hours a day on our expedition tours, not including breaks and lunch We set a pace which is manageable and enjoyable for all.
How stable are the kayaks? What is the likelihood of flipping over?
The kayaks we use are stable and designed for comfort. Your guides will give you through instruction on how to safely use and enjoy the kayaks and what to do in case of a capsize. For those concerned about capsizing, the double kayaks are slightly more stable than the singles and we have a variety of both singles and doubles on every trip. The likelihood of a capsize is minimal and if it does happen your well-trained guides will be there before you know it to help.
What happens if my kayak flips over?
In the rare event of a capsize, all of our guides are trained in rescue procedures in order to quickly and efficiently get you back in your boat. At this point, we will take you to the nearest shoreline to change into some warm clothing and carry on with our journey when you are ready. While we are out on the water, it is of the utmost importance that the group stays together for safety.
If the weather turns bad? Will I be comfy and warm?
Our weather in the Pacific Northwest is generally pleasant from May through until September. In the Johnstone Strait & Broughton Archipelago area, the weather will generally be cooler than what you may see on the forecast for Campbell River – sometimes by as much as 10 degrees. Fog is very common on summer mornings, however, this nearly always clears at midday. Although it is uncommon, it can rain in the summer, be prepared for any type of weather and you will stay comfortable. Layering is the key. It allows you to put on or take off layers while on the water if you need to. If you are very concerned about the weather then we recommend our base-camping style tours as these campsites have covered eating and lounge areas as well as dry tents to come home to at the end of every day. On our expedition style tours we carry tarps but we are a little more at the mercy of mother nature in these more rustic style campsites.
What sort of wildlife might we see?
The diversity and abundance of wildlife in the Pacific Northwest is one of our great privileges. From the rich marine life of colourful plants and invertebrates, seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, mink, otter, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales, to the land animals of deer, raccoons, cougars, wolves, and bears, we are bound to see something.
For those with an eye for eagles take note that they are most prominent in the earlier months before the salmon migration in the late summer/early fall.
For those keen to see humpback whales- you are in luck. The population of humpbacks in our area is doing well and we are fortunate to often see these whales any time of the year.
If Orcas are your main priority then we recommend traveling between mid-July and mid-September. While it is possible to see orcas outside of these times, we see them with the greatest abundance and frequency during this peak period.
Please just remember that wildlife is just that wild and we cannot control sightings. That said the whales are the icing on the cake in this stunning, rich and diverse area.
Where is the best place to see orcas/killer whales?
On our tours to Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound, which includes the Whales and Wilderness Glamping Tour, the Johnstone Strait Ultimate, Family Orca Tours and Orca Lite tours, we stand a high chance of seeing whales, especially between mid-July and mid-September.
Understandably we cannot guarantee what nature will dictate, but we can tell you that this area has one of the highest concentrations of Killer Whales on earth and this is where they spend their summer holiday. Some trips view the whales from the kayaks, some while traveling on our water taxi or from our campsites on the shore and some see all of the above.
How close to we paddle to whales & other wildlife?
We do our very best to provide awesome sightings of whales but all the while ensuring that we do not disrupt the natural behaviour of all the wildlife we encounter. We abide by the Canadian whale watching regulations which means we do not approach killer whales (orcas) any closer than 200 meters (656 ft) and all other cetaceans no closer than 100 meters (328 ft).
To learn more about how we do our best to minimize our impacts on whales check out nimmsa.org the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association. Your trip fees help to fund whale research and conservation efforts through the NIMMSA fund which Spirit of the West Contributes too.
What is the camp setup like?
All of our campsites are in wilderness settings, and shelter is provided by the tents and tarps we carry with us. We seek out sites with beautiful surroundings and those that offer solitude; these are all undeveloped and may be clearings in the forest or space on the beach. There may be times (on occasion) when we are camping next to another group of kayakers. Campsite choice will be based on weather conditions, route choice and group size and preference.
Where do we wash and are there toilets?
There is very little fresh water to be found. Therefore, seawater is your best bet for washing up. Please use biodegradable, environmentally friendly soap brands. Toilet facilities are not common in most wilderness settings, although some areas may have pit toilets. We also carry a portable toilet system. Your guide will generally designate an area that works for ensuring your privacy. We are very accustomed to making sure all of our guests feel comfortable and informed – please feel free to ask us any questions you might have, before or during your tour.
Where can I leave my vehicle while on tour?
Our tour meeting location on day 1 is Telegraph Cove on Northern Vancouver Island.
There is a parking and unloading area conveniently located near the general store and dock entrance. The parking is not far from where you will meet your guides. Further information will be provided in the Guest Handbook that you receive after reserving your tour.
If I would like to tip the guides, what is the industry standard?
If you would like to express your appreciation to the guides through a gratuity, such recognition would be enthusiastically received. The industry standard for tipping is approx. 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 group was excellent from the moment of pick up to the drop off. We have all got memories to last a lifetime. The hydrophone was brilliant, seeing and hearing Orcas was incredible. The guides’ knowledge was really broad; all of them were so enthusiastic and willing to share their knowledge.
Mike, Caroline and Family
Thank you for all the memorable experiences. We will recommend you to all our friends. I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream on this trip.
I highly recommend your paddling company. My experience was superb, food and guides were exemplary. I always appreciate a personal, yet professional approach and you have this mastered. Excellent job. Thanks so much for a wonderful time - it was good for the soul.
I am very happy I came on this trip. Not only did I have fun, but I learned a tonne about the area and how precious it is. I’m so happy to be a resident of BC and be so close to pristine wilderness.
Really every comfort was considered in allowing us to experience the gorgeous wilderness as fully as possible. Can’t say enough about how excellent those guides were.
Ryan and Robin were brilliant. They both knew a lot about the area and wildlife which really adds to the experience. Food incredible.
Great service from start to finish. Very detail oriented (hydrophone, whale book library, etc.). The guides always made us feel super comfortable, they were competent kayakers, and knew a lot about the marine environment, ecosystems, going green...
Martina and Patrick V.
Exceeded expectations, guides were 200%! All facilities were top notch and equipment too! Food and dietary accommodation was superb. Our group had gluten, dairy and fruit allergies, all were well fed (an understatement).
Andrea V. and Rod S.
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.