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Orca & Grizzly Bear watching- best options?

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Manchester
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15 posts
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Orca & Grizzly Bear watching- best options?

Hi guys I'm looking to head up to B.C. in early August and I'm scouting out tour trips. Had looked at eagle wing tours off Vancouver island but am now more drawn to the kayaking trips for a more up close and personal feel with the orcas. Looking to see who my best chance of seeing them with and whether a day tour or 4 day camping option will produce a better experience. Same goes for a grizzly tour. I'm visiting a friend in Pemberton near Whistler but also any advice on things to hit on the way there would be appreciated too.

Port McNeill
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1. Re: Orca & Grizzly Bear watching- best options?

Hi Sporty28,

You will definitely have a much better chance of seeing orcas and other wildlife on a longer kayak tour versus a day tour. You could get lucky and see them right away on a day tour but I personally guide these tours and on day tours we have about a 50% chance of seeing orcas and on a 4 day or longer trip our success rate is over 95% during August.

You will find the best areas to kayak with orcas is Johnstone Strait on northern Vancouver Island and companies have tours that depart from Port McNeill, Telegraph Cove, and Quadra Island.

For a day long grizzly bear viewing tour going to Knight Inlet from Telegraph Cove with Tide Rip tours is a good choice www.tiderip.com . There are also multi-day lodge based options. Try Great Bear Lodge www.greatbeartours.com and Knight Inlet Lodge www.knightinletlodge.com

There are a number of excellent kayak tour operators and they all offer something slightly different. There was quite a bit of converation last year on this topic on TripAdvisor and below I have pasted some information I proved on that thread on some things to consider when booking a kayak tour.

A few things to ask or consider before booking a trip:

Where is the camp located and what kind of kayaking routes are offered? Some sites are next to or close to the ecological reserve which is closed to all traffic and this really limits where you can go. Robson Bight Ecological Reserve is well known and publicized but it is a closed area set aside for the orcas so you cannot really see them when they are in there. Some sites are also more exposed to the wind where some others may have other possible kayaking routes available if not possible to paddle in one area due to the wind.

What activities are offered around camp if weather or sea state does not make kayaking possible?

When the orcas are not present what other wildlife is likely to be seen? Some camps are excellently located for viewing orcas when they are there but offer little else when they are not whereas some other camps are located in areas where a greater diversity of wildlife is found and viewing other animals is much more likely.

Compare trips that different companies offer and even the different trips that one company may offer. Some offer just the base camp style trip where other offer more expeditionary type trips where you are moving from camp to camp through the trip. Some styles of trips are more suitable to some individuals than others.

Ask for a sample itinerary if none are provided on their websites (it should come with a disclaimer that things may change due the the nature of wildlife, the weather, and the wilderness) but some things to look for is when do you arrive at camp and when do you depart. Most of these trips use water taxi transportation to and from their camps and some take longer to get there than others. Most companies offer a 4 day trip but depending upon who you go with you could be leaving camp to go home anywhere from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on the last day - so some trips may get in a good day of kayaking on the last day where others may only have a short morning paddle or none at all).

Do not rely solely on what a website states. I personally believe you get a much better idea of what a company offers (regardless of what they are selling) if you ask some specific questions and how they reply will help you decide who to choose - some may give you a cookie cutter reply or refer you to their website, others may promise you the world (if it sounds to good to be true....).

Manchester
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2. Re: Orca & Grizzly Bear watching- best options?

Thank you so much for your detailed reply. Plenty to think about I see! Another quick qestion is about photography or the whales while kayaking. Is this practical and if so how do people manage the scenario?

Port McNeill
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3. Re: Orca & Grizzly Bear watching- best options?

I carry a waterproof digital camera on my pfd for quick photos plus I have a DSLR in a dry bag that I keep between my knees in the cockpit that I can pull out when appropriate. Some people will use a more watertight pelican case for their cameras that can be strapped to the deck in front of the cockpit. I won't pull out my DSLR if it is pouring rain but I have had no issues with light drizzle and drips. I do carry a small towel to wipe both my hands and the camera to keep it as dry as possible.

Many people can take photos easy enough from single kayaks but a double kayak definitely adds more stability and the second person can help keep you aligned to you subject as well.

One other consideration is lens size. I often use a 300mm lens fro wildlife and find anything larger than this becomes difficult to use from a kayak due to size as well as keeping it stable enough.

4. Re: Orca & Grizzly Bear watching- best options?

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