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Kayaking with Orcas

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Kayaking with Orcas

I would like to do a kayaking trip with one of the companies in North Vancouver Island (Telegraph Cove, Quadra Island, etc.). I've run across Spirit of the West, Out for Adventure, Sea Kayak Adventures, Kingfisher and North Island Kayak and would appreciate feedback about any of them.



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Port McNeill
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1. Re: Kayaking with Orcas

Hi smetheny,

I own one of the companies mentioned so won't get into individual company details. Each of the companies you listed have operated in the Johnstone Strait area for some time and are all what I would consider reputable companies.

That being said each company does do things differently and will offer something different. So, in addition to requesting feedback here on TripAdvisor here are some things to consider and to ask of the tour operators (or at least the ones you are drawn too) in deciding which company to go with. 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.

Note that some operators have permanent base camps which they lease and have exclusive commercial use of while other companies will pull up on an a beach and set up camp where space allows. The more permanent camps will have more amenities.

If a base camp trip ask where 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?

What kind of kayaks are used? Some companies only use double kayaks and others will use a mixed fleet of single and double kayaks.

What is the maximum group size and how many guides are on the trip? Maximum group sizes often range between 8 and 13 guests with 2 to 3 guides (the larger groups tend to only use double kayaks).

What are the guides' qualifications and how long do they tend to be with the company? Some companies retain their staff very well and in turn they know the area and wildlife very well while some companies may hire all new guides every year and they may have never kayaked in the area until that year.

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 trips (usually 3 or 4 days) where other offer longer more expeditionary type trips (typically 6 days) 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). The trips that depart Quadra Island do have a longer water taxi ride than those that leave Port McNeill or Telegraph Cove.

Hope this helps

Edited: 03 February 2011, 06:42
Telegraph Cove
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2. Re: Kayaking with Orcas

Hi Sheryl

KingfisherKayaking has summed it up very nicely. As he states, It is well worth making direct contact with the companies you shortlist, either by email or phone. An initial discussion can help you refine exactly what you want from your trip and let you choose the right one for you.

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3. Re: Kayaking with Orcas

We were a party of four on a recent Kingfisher 6 day kayaking and camping tour, with three others in the overall party. It was the highlight of 3 weeks in BC. Perfectly organized, catering was fantastic, guides Liam and Emma were a delight and incredibly knowledgeable, and great fun. We camped at 3 sites, each beautiful, and were on the water each day after a healthy breakfast, paddling to see a range of natural and cultural sites. We were at little early (3-8 July) to see orcas, but on the last day a pod of residents entered Johnston Strait near where we were camped and we saw them from a distance. Equipment all good, and the company and guides very aware and responsible in appropriate behavior for camping, visiting sensitive sites, sustainability issues, and watching cetaceans. Highly recommended, would do again at first opportunity. Weather could have been warmer, but paddling conditions were unreal. We originally wanted to do a lodge based trip, but one wasn't available when we wanted to go, so went for the camping option with Kingfisher - no regrets at all, and they had been recommended by a client from last year.

Edited: 16 July 2011, 23:15
4. Re: Kayaking with Orcas

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Edited: 16 July 2011, 23:35
Coeur d'Alene, ID
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5. Re: Kayaking with Orcas

I don't think you could go wrong with Sea Kayak Adventures, Kingfisher or Spirit of the West. All run very good programs and have been around for a long time. Sea Kayak Adventures seems to have three (or more?) highly rated itineraries.

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6. Re: Kayaking with Orcas

While your advice is good brad_sharee, this post is over two years old. I suspect the original poster has already had their holiday.

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