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There is no better place in the world to kayak with both humpback and killer whales (orcas) than Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound, situated off the northeastern corner of Vancouver Island.

This area is widely recognized as one of the most reliable places in the world to see these great marine mammals, and your base camp is located right in the heart of the wildlife-rich waters on an island covered in old-growth rainforest. During your stay you explore by kayak to see the region’s diverse marine life, returning each afternoon to the relative comfort of your base camp. On your last day, you are also able to see the other greatest predator of British Columbia, the grizzly bear.

Suggested itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to Vancouver

    Daytime flight from the UK to Vancouver, then transfer by shuttle bus to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, there may be time to explore this vibrant, cosmopolitan city.

    Accommodation: Hotel in Vancouver, 1-night

  2. Day 2: Fly to Port Hardy, transfer to Port McNeill

    After breakfast, take the shuttle bus back to the airport for your short flight to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, where you will be met and transferred to Port McNeill.

    This evenng you will meet your guide, who will give an overview of the trip, distribute dry bags to pack your clothing, and answer any questions you may have.

    Accommodation: Black Bear Resort, 1-night

  3. Day 3: Orca Base Camp - kayaking with whales

    After breakfast, head down to the marina to load and board your water taxi for a 45-60 minute journey to Orca Waters Base Camp. After a site orienration and safety briefing, you will be able to kayak for a short time before lunch, giving you time to get used to the kayaks and the wilderness setting. The afternoon is spent kayaking and viewing the area’s diverse wildlife.

    Your base camp is ideally situated for exploring the area. It is located on orca transition routes, and humpback whales often feed within sight of the camp. The islands and small islets close by are home to numerous sea birds, bald eagles, and seals, and there is always plenty of wildlife to see.

    Accommodation: Orca Waters Base Camp, 3-nights

  4. Days 4-5 : Kayaking with whales

    Your kayak guides will plan each day according to weather conditions, wildlife viewing opportunities, and guest interests, Every day is different, with days filled with exploring, kayaking, whale watching, wildlife viewing, and enjoying the scenery.​ When you encounter orcas out on the water, your guides will often drop a hydrophone so that you can listen to their vocalizations. Lunches are usually spent on a secluded beach, returning late each afternoon to the comforts of the Orca Waters Base Camp. 

  5. Day 6: Grizzlies in Knight Inlet

    Early this morning, journey by boat for two hours up Knight Inlet to Glendale Cove for a day of grizzly bear viewing. Early in the summer the viewing is primarily at the mouth of the estuary and nearby beaches, as the grizzly bears feed on sedge and grasses plus intertidal life like crabs and mussels. Late August and September sees the return of pink salmon to the Glendale River and your visit is timed to the tides to optimize viewing opportunities in the river. Return to Telegraph Cove late that afternoon and transfer by road back to Port McNeill.

    Accommodation: Black Bear Resort, 2-nights

  6. Day 7: Full day grizzly and whale watching

    Today you go on a thrilling full day excursion into the depth of First Nation traditional land within the Great Bear Rainforest. The day starts early with a 2 hour boat journey from Port McNeill via the beautiful island of Alert Bay and onto the grizzly bear territory in Xakwikan (Thompson Sound). Along the way, there should be good opportunities to see bald eagle, Pacific white-sided dolphin and migrating orcas.

    You spend time by the Xakwikan River watching bears racing for wild salmon, with lunch nearby, before returning via the Broughton Archipelago and Queen Charlotte Strait, known for hosting seasonal charismatic humpback whales. 

  7. Day 8: Transfer to Port Hardy, fly back to Vancouver

    Transfer back to Port Hardy to catch the late afternoon flight back to Vancouver, then transfer by shuttle bus to your hotel.

    Accommodation: Hotel in Vancouver, 1-night                    

  8. Day 9: Depart Vancouver

    Take the complimentary shuttle back to the airport for an overnight flight back to the UK.

  9. Day 10: Arrive UK

You should note: Exact kayaking routes may vary depending on possible wildlife sightings, currents, tides and weather. Any extra luggage can be left at the hotel while you are on your kayak tour.

Key info

Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 10 days from £3,345 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 9 days from £2,345 pp
  • Single supplement: From £330
  • When to go: Jul-Sep
  • Activities available:
    • Boat trip
    • Camping
    • Culture
    • Sea kayaking
Featured locations:

Queen Charlotte Strait & Johnstone Waters

Situated between Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s mainland, this area is considered the best place in the world to observe orca who, during the summer months, are present on a daily basis. They can often be viewed close up from the boat, offering some wonderful sightings and photo opportunities.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: orca, brown bear, Steller’s sealion, tufted puffin, humpback whale
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Dolphin watching

Vancouver Island

The healthy black bear population and whale-watching opportunities make this a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Separated from the mainland by a long strait, the island’s west coast overlooks the Pacific Ocean, while the mountainous interior is heavily forested with big conifers.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: American black bear, puma, grey whale, orca, sea otter
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Self-drive, Whale watching, Bear watching, Dolphin watching

Vancouver

British Columbia’s largest city stands in a fine coastal setting, against a backdrop of lofty tree-covered peaks - a great starting point to any wildlife holiday in the province. There is plenty to see in this lively, multi-cultural city, such as exploring Stanley Park on foot or by bike.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Excellent for: Activity & adventure, City stopover, History & culture

Glendale Cove, Knight Inlet

This untouched wilderness offers unrivalled opportunities to watch and photograph some of North America's most notable wildlife, including massive brown bears, soaring bald eagles and large pods of orcas. Situated 70 kilometres north of Campbell River, Glendale Cove is accessible by floatplane.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: American black bear, brown bear, humpback whale, orca, pine marten
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Bear watching

The Great Bear Rainforest

The area’s mountains, valleys and forests, extending up much of BC’s coastline, offer sanctuary to large numbers of grizzlies and black bear. No other mainland location offers such intimate wildlife encounters amidst breathtaking natural splendour. You can watch bears on foot or while drifting downriver.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: American black bear, brown bear, humpback whale, spirit bear, grey wolf
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Wildlife festivals, Wildlife photography, Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, Mark Carwardine wildlife holidays, Bear watching
Suggested accommodation is shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Orca Waters Base Camp

The Orca Waters Base Camp is situated in the heart of the wildlife rich waters of Johnstone Strait, off northern Vancouver Island. The spacious tents are situated in the rainforest and all face the ocean, offering a wooden bed and thick mattress to ensure a good level of comfort.