Looking for Answers?
Read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about our tours, kayaking and travelling to beautiful British Columbia. Of course, always feel free to contact us as we are happy to help and there is no such thing as a silly question!
+ WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT COVID-19 SAFETY?
For information on what COVID-19 precautions, Spirit of the West Adventures has in place check out our Travel Safe and with Confidence Page. On this page, you will also see links to our detailed COVID Safety Plan as well as Frequently Asked Questions about COVID and how it could affect your tour.
+ WHAT IS INCLUDED? WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?
There are no additional costs once on our tour. On our guided tours we supply everything that you will need for kayaking and camping except for a few personal items such as a sleeping bag and rain gear (these can be rented if needed), your clothes and toiletries. All transportation, gear, etc. while on trip is included in the cost of the tour. Once the tour begins we provide all meals and non-alcoholic beverages (wide selection of teas, coffee, juices, hot chocolate) from morning snack on day one to lunch on the last day. You are welcome to bring your favourite wine, beer or pop, but this is not included in the tour price.
Once you reserved your tour, you will be provided with a detailed packing list for your kayaking tour.
+ HOW MUCH KAYAKING EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED TO JOIN YOUR TRIPS?
No experience is required for 10 of our 11 kayak tours! Our adventures are for everyone. Check out our Trip Finder Tool here. It helps you to choose your desired adventure level. Our trips are designed to cater to all levels of experience and abilities. The majority of people who join our tours are first time kayakers. All that we ask is that you welcome adventure with an open mind and are able to laugh and have fun when encountering the unexpected.
Our 8-day expedition in the Great Bear Rainforest ist our most adventurous tour and takes place in the most remote of all our kayaking destinations. This trip offer longer paddling-days for passionate paddlers and we spend the nights camping in more remote areas. This tour is suitable for folks with previous kayaking and camping experience. If you are a first-time kayaker and interested in this tour please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our office crew to learn all about it and to see if this is would still be a good fit for you!
+ DO I NEED TO BE IN GREAT SHAPE FOR THIS TRIP?
No. Our adventures are not considered to be strenuous or physically demanding, and we do not require a high level of fitness. We just ask that you are capable of a few hours of moderate exercise each day and are comfortable with the uneven ground in a wilderness environment. Keep in mind that good general health will go a long way if we happen to encounter some strong winds or time restrictions. Most important is an adventurous spirit.
+ ARE THERE ANY AGE REQUIREMENTS?
Spirit of the West caters to all ages of adventurers. Although we do prefer a minimum of 12 years for our multi-day tours, we like to assess each case individually. Those concerned with being in ‘their older years’ are welcomed to contact us to discuss their physical abilities.
+ HOW MUCH PADDLING IS GENERALLY DONE IN A DAY?
Paddling time will vary depending on what tour you choose, the daily tour route and destination and the group’s abilities and desires. Generally we travel between 3-5 hours a day, not including breaks and lunch.
+ WHAT SORT OF WILDLIFE MIGHT WE SEE ON THE TOUR?
The diversity and abundance of wildlife in the Pacific Northwest is one of our privileges. With river run-off from the mountains, ocean currents, tiderips, eddies and upwelling these waters are among the most productive on earth. From the rich marine life of colourful plants and invertebrates, seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, mink, otter, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales, to the land animals of deer, raccoons, cougars, wolves and bears, we are bound to see something. For those with an eye for eagles take note that they are most prominent in the earlier months before the salmon migration in the late summer/early fall.
+ WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF SEEING KILLER WHALES? HOW CLOSE DO WE PADDLE TO THE ORCAS?
On our tours to Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound, we stand a high chance of seeing the whales. 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. It is very likely that you will see them, whether from your kayak while traveling on our water taxi or from a beach camp on the shore. Hearing the blow of a whale even from a mile across the Strait will create a sensation of excitement. Note that in accordance with industry whale watching regulations we do not approach killer whales (orcas) within 200 meters. This is out of respect for the whales’ space and to ensure that we do not interfere with their natural behaviour.
+ WHAT IS THE CAMP SET UP LIKE?
On the expedition-style trips all of our campsites are in wilderness settings, and shelter is provided by the tents and tarps we carry with us. We seek out sites with beautiful surroundings and those that offer solitude; these are all undeveloped and may be clearings in the forest or space on the beach. There may be times (on occasion) when we are camping next to another group of kayakers. Campsite choice will be based on weather conditions, route choice and group size and preference.
Our two permanent camps in Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound, while in a wilderness setting, offers some amenities to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
Johnstone Strait Ultimate offers a driftwood-style kitchen and sitting area are the hub of our camp and are sheltered from rain and sun. Large, dome-style tents are set up on wooden tent platforms, covered by large tarps, and are equipped with thick Therm-a-Rest-style mattresses and pillows. Spare blankets are also available. Our wood-fired hot tub is perfect for soaking tired muscles after a day of paddling and the on-demand hot water shower has one of the best views in the world.
For a truly unique and incredibly comfortable place to experience a wilderness trip is at our Whales and Wilderness Glamping camp. We have been busy turning it into the perfect place to relax, explore, experience the power of nature, and enjoy great wilderness gourmet food. Our homes here are large cotton canvas tents that allow you to stand up and move around with ease. Each tent is set up on a raised wooden platform and each of them comes with forest and ocean views. Real beds complete with comfortable mattresses, pillows, linens and cozy duvets help to ensure a good night’s sleep. The wood-fired hot tub overlooks the ocean a great place to soak at the end of the day. A large platform with a covered outdoor lounge and plenty of space to practice self-guided yoga, reading books and enjoying delicious appetizers prepared from our on-site chefs. There is also two hot water showers complete with ocean view.
+ ARE THERE ANY SINGLE SUPPLEMENT FEES IF I AM TRAVELLING ON MY OWN?
There are NO single supplements. 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.
+ What are the benefits of joining your tours as a solo traveller?
- No single supplement (for BC tours or Bahamas tours- Chile has an optional solo traveler fee if you want a private hotel room.)
- Your very own tent – enjoy the space, enjoy the peace!
- You have the option to paddle both, single and double kayaks.
- You will find new friends easily, many other solo travelers join our tours!
+ WHAT FORMS DO I NEED TO FILL OUT FOR MY TOUR?
We require that each member in your group fill out a Medical Form, Waiver, and COVID Statement of Understanding before your tour. Once you book a tour, you will be given instructions on filling out each form. Please see a PDF copy below to preview the forms.
- Liability Release Form (waiver)
- Statement of Understanding (COVID)
- Pre-Trip Questionnaire (COVID) (will be filled out in-person on the first day of your tour)
For minors (under the age of 19):
+ What is travel insurance? And why do I need it?
Travel Insurance and Frequently Asked Questions
You never want to think about missing your vacation, but ensuring that you have appropriate travel insurance coverage can really decrease the stress and financial pain of the unexpected especially when dealing with COVID and its various impacts!
Travel Insurance comes in many different shapes and sizes. The type of policy we feel gives you the most flexibility and best coverage is Cancel for Any Reason Insurance (CFAR). As the name implies you choose why you are cancelling rather than the typically limited list of covered reasons in a more traditional cancellation type policy.
It is important to note that you must purchase CFAR coverage shortly after paying for any portion of your trip/travels. Canadians must purchase their CFAR policy within 72 hours of paying any portion of their trip and US residents can have up to 14 days depending on the company they choose.
Below are some of the basics on Insurance but for more detailed information please visit our Detailed Travel Insurance page
What is Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance typically refers to one or more of 4 types of coverage.
- Cancel For Any Reason: as the name implies you choose why you are deciding not to travel (e.g. your work schedule changes, your dog is sick, border closures, travel restrictions etc.). This insurance also includes coverage for trip cancellation, interruptions and medical coverage.
- Trip Cancellation: covers cancellation of your trip before you start on your journey
- Trip Interruption: for delays and interruptions once you have started on your journey (e.g. flight/weather delays; missed connections; and sometimes may cover things like lost baggage, car rental insurance, etc.)
- Medical Coverage: covers any issues regarding your health and sometimes the health of your travel partner/medical issues with family members
Why Would I Need Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance can help with unforeseen circumstances like ash clouds from volcanoes grounding flights, travel advisories because of a safety risk for visitors, medical issues, etc. No one ever plans on breaking their leg, not being able to vacation because of a virus outbreak, or having their travel partner have to back out of the trip.
Spirit of the West Adventures does try to be human with our Terms and Conditions surrounding cancellations, but we also know that you most likely have other non-refundable travel arrangements to think about as well.
When to Buy Travel Insurance?
The simple answer is: as soon as you pay for any portion of your trip and before you need it. When you place a deposit with Spirit of the West Adventures or purchase your flights the clock starts ticking in the eyes of insurance companies. Every plan has different requirements but in order to maximize coverage and be eligible for Cancel for Any Reason Insurance you typically need to purchase insurance between 72 hours (as a Canadian) and up to 14 days (for those traveling from outside of Canada) after you pay for any portion of your tour.
What About Coverage for COVID-Related Issues?
COVID 19 is a known risk that some companies have stopped covering through traditional travel insurance products (unless you bought a policy that provided coverage at the time of purchase). Cancel for Any Reason insurance provides the greatest flexibility and will provide you with the ability to cancel if you no longer feel comfortable traveling, there are travel restrictions that prevent you from traveling etc. More information about the COVID 19 can be found on Canada’s government website.
Don’t I Have Coverage Through My Credit Card?
Credit cards often have some level of interruption insurance, but this is often a very limited amount and usually only for interruption type insurance, not trip cancellation or medical coverage and not COVID-related travel restrictions. Some cards offer more comprehensive coverage but read through the details and determine what your credit card insurance includes and if this only covers the primary cardholder or travel companions as well.
Doesn’t Canada Have Free Medical Care?
You will never be refused medical care in Canada regardless of if you can pay or not, but health care is not free for people who are not citizens or Permanent Residents of Canada. Emergency services like helicopter evacuations, hospitalization, and diagnostics can add up quickly.
Where Can I Learn More about Travel Insurance and Buy a Policy?
Check out our Detailed Travel Insurance page.
The Moral of the Story
The moral of the story is: it is better safe than sorry and be sure to read the fine print of your policy. It can be heartbreaking to have to miss the vacation that you have been planning for months or years and to lose your travel and adventure funds for something out of your control.
Disclaimer: Spirit of the West is not an insurance expert or insurance provider. The information here is only meant to be helpful. Please ensure you through the fine print and find the right policy for you and your unique circumstances.
+ HOW STABLE ARE THE KAYAKS? WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF FLIPPING OVER?
The kayaks we use on our tours are stable and designed for comfort. For those a little concerned, the double kayaks are slightly more stable than the singles. The likelihood of a capsize is minimal, and generally only occurs in an uncommon situation.
+ WHAT HAPPENS IF MY KAYAK FLIPS OVER?
If for some reason your kayak flips over, all of our guides have ample practice time on the water with rescue procedures, in order to quickly and efficiently get you back in your boat. At this point we will take you to the nearest shore to change into some warm cozy clothing and carry on with our journey. While we are out on the water, it is of the utmost importance that the group sticks together in the event of capsize or change of route plan.
+ WHAT IF THE WEATHER TURNS BAD? WILL I BE COMFORTABLE AND WARM?
Our weather in the Pacific Northwest is generally pleasant from May through until the end of September. The temperature will vary slightly depending on which area you visit. In the Johnstone Strait area, the weather will generally be cooler than what you may see 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 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.
+ WHERE DO WE WASH AND ARE THERE TOILETS?
There is very little fresh water to be found on the small islands through which we travel. Therefore, seawater is your best bet for washing up. Please use biodegradable, environmentally friendly soap brands. Toilet facilities are not common in most wilderness settings, although some areas may have pit toilets. We also carry a portable toilet system. Your guide will generally designate an area or system that works for ensuring your privacy. We are very accustomed to making sure all of our guests feel as comfortable and informed as possible in this regard – please feel free to ask us any questions you might have, before or during your tour.
At our basecamp and glamping trips we have established and comfortable outhouses, and on-demand freshwater hot showers are available.
Please be sure to contact us with any questions at all, before or during your trip – your comfort is important to us.
+ WHERE CAN I LEAVE LUGGAGE THAT I WON’T NEED ON TRIP?
Many of the hotels and B&Bs we recommend offer free luggage storage – simply check with your host. Alternatively, we may be able to store your unneeded items in one of our vans. 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. Your luggage will be delivered to you on the last tour day.
+ WHERE CAN I LEAVE MY VEHICLE WHILE ON TOUR?
If your tour meeting point is Alder Bay or Bauza Cove, there is parking available. We have paid for your parking. Please pick up a parking pass from your guides on arrival. If you are joining a Desolation Sound tour we have free parking will be available on Quadra Island. Many of the accommodations options also have parking available if you are planning on staying with them again at the end of 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 approximately 10% per person of the trip cost. All tips received will be collected and disbursed amongst your guides & basecrew by the trip leader.