My husband and I just got back from taking a Kayak With the Orcas Tour with the company Coastal Spirits, and we felt obliged to get something out there on the web for other travellers.
We had a good time, in spite of the huge discrepancy between the reality of the trip and what the website promises. But we wanted to warn others so that they could be better prepared than we were. Here's our list of top complaints:
1.) It is difficult to communicate with the company or to find out more info about the trip than what is posted on the website: www.kayakbritishcolumbia.com/tour1e.html
We didn't even actually know the location of the campsite until we got there. And I had to e-mail to request invoices, trip info, and packing recommendations. My main communication complaint: the packing list provided was generic and not appropriate for our early September trip. We did not have enough warm clothes, nor enough changes of clothing. The packing list mentions that you are constrained by a certain bag size; in reality, it didn't matter.
2.) The website completely "oversells" the trip. You do not actually kayak "with" the orcas. We did see orcas from the beach, but they never surfaced whilst we were kayaking. (And from what we heard, it is rare that they ever do.) I understand that you cannot control wild animals, and perhaps it was best that it happened that way, but the name of the tour should not be "Kayak With Orcas" if you aren't likely to actually be doing that!
3.) This is a camping trip. Do not delude yourself, after reading the glamorous version portrayed by the website, that you will be doing anything other than camping. The safari tents are not nearly as big as the picture shown; there are neither air mattresses nor power strips (which the website said at one time); the solar showers are only warm if there's sun (quite likely there won't be); the food is quite good, but not technically "gourmet"; and the "outdoor toilet" mentioned is actually a compost heap with a wooden seat. Again, if you are used to camping, this is all fine. But many people on our tour were expecting much more refined conditions. It's good to know what to expect.
4.) This is not kayaking for beginners, as the website claims. It is helpful to have had some kayaking experience. While the guides are patient and informative, the waters can be quite choppy. Most of the novice paddlers on our trip did not get back in the water after the first day, leaving them with little to do on this trip, other than hang out on the beach.
5.) If you decide to go on this trip, bring warm clothing and clothing for wet weather. You never get fully dry, between getting wet from kayaking and the rain. And bring your own sleeping bag! Someone on our tour rented one, it was dirty...complete with a dirty pair of shoes stuffed inside. Apparently, they don't clean the sleeping bags after every use, as promised!