Spend 3 whole days exploring Johnstone Strait and Robson Bight by sea kayak, in search of wild Killer Whales or Orcas in their natural environment. A unique base camp to base camp, nomadic kayak tour led by our experienced, qualified guides using top quality equipment, optimized for wildlife viewing and a safe, fun experience. Opportunities to also see sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, bald eagles, black bears, humpback whales, numerous sea birds and the spectacular rugged scenery of northern Vancouver Island.
Non-intrusive wildlife observation and fun kayaking for all
Telegraph Cove, Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Canada.
Start and End Time:
Starts at 0830 on Day 1 and returns at approx. 1530 on Day 3.
Every second day July 21 to Sept. 19
Camping accommodation at one or more of our fully equipped, waterfront wilderness Base Camps. All camp equipment provided.
Lunch & Dinner on Day 1; Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner on Day 2; Breakfast & Lunch on Day 3.
None. We use stable tandem Sea Kayaks and provide all required kayaking equipment.
Over 14 years. Family trips available suitable for those over 10 years. (Select Family option after 'Book Tour')
The North Island Kayak Three Day Orca Sea Kayaking Safari concentrates on the areas known to be the primary summer range of Northern Resident Orca (killer whale) population.
We maximize the time spent in these areas by utilizing up to two of the six wilderness base camps that we erect every spring. These camps are scattered throughout northern Johnstone Strait and the South-East corner of Queen Charlotte Strait with specific locations selected to provide easy access to varying localized habitats. Each trip will utilize different camps based on environmental factors like tides, currents and forecast weather with a mind to optimize wildlife observation opportunities and provide an enjoyable, safe and accessible kayaking experience. The base camps are all similarly equipped with comfortable facilities but each provides a different view and exploration opportunities. North Island Kayak is unique in this area in being able to provide a 3 day sea kayaking tour, showcasing what spectacular wilderness area has to offer while being assured of a comfortable base camp each night. Having our private camps already set gives us the ability to spend longer on the water as we can be sure that there will be places for us when we reach our destinations.
Three Day Orca Sea Kayaking Safari – Day 1
You need to be at our store adjacent to the kayak launch ramp in Telegraph Cove at 8-30am on your start date. Your kayaks will already be on the launch ramp, waiting for you, with the group gear loaded. We will spend some time assisting you to pack your personal things and clothing into the dry bags we supply and loading it into the kayaks. Once your bags are stowed you will receive some on-shore paddling instruction and we will be ready to cast off. You will paddle out of the mouth of the tiny Telegraph Cove harbor, directly into Johnstone Strait and the realm of the Orcas.
Never kayaked before? Within the first 10 minutes you will have grasped the basics.
We will ensure you are comfortable as we paddle along the shoreline of Vancouver Island in the direction of our first remote beach base camp. As you glide along in your sleek, non-intrusive Kayak, we stop and watch for any wildlife and enjoy the majestic scenery of Northern Vancouver Island. The timing of any wildlife encounters cannot be predicted but we can be sure that we have three days of great opportunity in front of us.
We will stop to stretch our legs and enjoy a picnic lunch on a remote beach before paddling the last stretch towards your home for the first night. During the day we will poke around some tidal shallows to find intertidal critters; Watch for Bald Eagles and their nests; See the inquisitive Dalls Porpoises and if we are lucky spot a Black Bear turning rocks, looking for breakfast. Maybe we will see Killer Whales, or even on occasion Humpback Whales, right outside the mouth of Telegraph Cove or maybe we will not see any today. Rest assured, your experienced guide is monitoring the local chatter on their marine radio to ensure we do not miss a single opportunity.
You will likely reach the our Kaikash Creek Orca Camp, or one of our other great base camp locations, in the mid afternoon. This ensures we miss getting caught in the afternoon winds that frequently come out of the North and gives you a chance to get settled. Just because we are on shore does not mean that spectacular wildlife encounters are over for the day. Of the many creatures that abound in the vicinity, the Killer Whales, Steller Sea Lions, eagles and seals will frequently hunt along the kelp forest just in front of camp. Keep your eyes and ears open.
The days paddling and the fresh air will likely have caused you an appetite, which will be satisfied by our healthy and filling dinner. After dinner, enjoy some games or take a stroll along beach. Alternately hang around the campfire and get to know the other members of your group. If weather permits, an evening paddle may be on the cards. If not there is always tomorrow! At bedtime, snuggle into your sleeping bag and enjoy feeling of sleeping under the stars that only a camping experience can provide.
Three Day Orca Sea Kayaking Safari – Day 2
Wake up to the aroma of coffee and the great outdoors. After a hearty breakfast it’s into the kayaks to explore deeper into Johnstone Strait and to the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve about 6km away. While this whole region has been identified and is protected as critical habitat for the Northern Resident Killer Whales, Robson Bight is where they head for the rubbing beaches. As this sanctuary is so sensitive, one may only paddle to the borders – we may not actually enter. We will take a picnic lunch on a beach adjacent to Robson Bight. Here we can stretch our legs on a short hike to a waterfall and overlook before heading back to camp in the late afternoon.
When we find ourselves in the vicinity of a pod of Orca, your guide will deploy the research grade hydrophone they carry so we may hear their communications. We use an external amplifier and speaker so all may hear. If you have a video mode on your camera, this can allow you to capture the sounds as well as the sight of these spectacular animals. Enjoy a second evening at one of our remote beach camps and dinner from our ‘Orca View’ beach-side BBQ. Reminisce about all the day’s activities and fun. Thumb through our library to identify any creatures you may have seen on your excursion and learn more about them. Watch the sunset and if you are lucky a moonrise while your cozy tent awaits. The lack of light pollution this far away from civilization allows for spectacular star-gazing on dark, moonless nights.
Three Day Orca Sea Kayaking Safari – Day 3
You will wake up once again to a camp breakfast cooking and the smell of coffee. After the kayaks are packed you paddle, once more among the marine mammals of the Pacific Northwest while we slowly start the homeward journey. The route home will vary depending on our afternoon weather forecast but our focus will remain on wildlife viewing. Your guide will always have the hydrophone at the ready so no opportunity to listen in on whale talk will be missed
Lunch will be had on a remote beach before the last leg towards Telegraph Cove. On arrival and after the group photo has been taken, you can just grab your belongings and enjoy the rest of your vacation. We do the entire cleanup! Many guests stay a while, reliving the adventure with new friends and exchanging contact information so pictures can be shared. Be sure to take time to visit the Whale Interpretative Center before leaving this pristine wilderness haven.
This is a sample itinerary. In order to provide the most exposure to wildlife and scenery we plan to camp at up to two of our six base camps in the area, however on some occasions we may need to make changes due to weather or tidal considerations; Our goal will always remain to provide you the best possible wildlife and kayaking experience
Over 200 Northern Resident Killer Whales call this area home for the summer. These fish-eating mammals forage Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait for their favorite food the Chinook Salmon, the largest of the salmon species.
An increasing number of Humpback Whales also inhabit these waters, feeding on the abundant krill and herring Queen Charlotte Strait & Johnstone Strait provides. These giants arrive in the Straits in late May and stay until October.
The Stellar Sea Lion, the largest of the sea lions, calls the area home year round as does the Harbor Seal, Bald Eagle (and many other sea birds), Pacific white-sided dolphin, Dall’s porpoise, Black bear, mink and salmon while the cold, nutrient rich waters create an incredible inter and sub-tidal invertebrate ecosystem to explore.
A few times a year we will see Minke whales and on rare occasions Fin whales or Cougars.
See our tour Wildlife Tab for further details.
Base Camping with a difference
Choosing North Island Kayak gives you the unique opportunity, on a tour of this length, to stay at multiple camps in different locations, scattered throughout the area. This allows us to explore further and see more, because we do not have to come back to the same camp each evening. Your kayaking tour with us takes you on a journey through the wilderness and the wildlife that inhabits it, while enjoying the increased comfort that our pre-erected base camps can provide.
We have six different Base Camps located in Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait; all within the summer range of the Northern Resident Orcas. These camps have been specially selected by us to provide access to the diverse micro-environments to be found in the region. Each camp is configured with facilities to a similar comfort level but each provides a different view, a different beach to explore and new opportunity.
Camp to Camp kayaking with Base Camp facilities = Unmatched value for money and the best possible wildlife opportunities!
The Best Start Location – Telegraph Cove, British Columbia
Telegraph Cove is the departure and return point of choice for north island sea kayaking tours and North Island Kayak is based in Telegraph Cove – No time wasted on a bus transfer – Be first on the water. Relax and unwind in the peaceful haven.
Visit the Whale Interpretive Center at the end of the ‘old time’ Telegraph Cove boardwalk. You will frequently see Bald Eagles, Mink, River Otters, Black Bears or even whales before we leave the dock!
A great itinerary – 3 Full Days kayaking where Orca call home!
First on the water and into Johnstone Strait from delightful Telegraph Cove.
Discover the wildlife and scenery of Johnstone Strait while paddling towards camp and listening to the Orcas with hydrophones;
Enjoy free time at camp – Stay with the group or explore the beach and forest alone;
Seek out the waterfall or laze in a hammock watching for wildlife.
Approximately 5-6 hours a day on the water.
Wonderful food – You will not go hungry
Picnic lunches, hearty breakfasts and spectacular dinners plus delicious deserts, snacks, coffee, tea, various juices and water. Our menus have been specially developed to provide great taste and variety while being safe to carry and nutritious.Don't worry, we bring some chips and other snacks too.
Ingredients are sourced first from our local communities.
We provide all of the camping and kayaking equipment. Come with the clothing and personal items noted in ‘What to Bring’ and we do the rest.
We even provide you with quality dry bags to keep your clothes and gear dry.
What do I need to Bring on my multi-day kayaking adventure?
Kayaking is an outdoor activity and the part of the world you will be visiting is identified as being within a Temperate Rainforest. Our summer daytime highs are rarely much over room temperature and our nighttime lows can be described as cool. It also rains on occasion, sometimes for extended periods.
If you are familiar with spending time outdoors then you are likely already equipped with most of the clothing and accessories that you will need to bring with you. Likewise, you are aware that cotton is not your friend when there is any chance of getting wet.
We recommend that you bring two sets of clothing for your kayaking tour. One set that you will primarily wear while paddling. This should consist of layer-able clothes that will cope well and remain comfortable should they get damp or even wet. The second set of clothing is for around camp and should be selected to keep you warm and cozy during the evening. Again layers provide maximum flexibility. Avoid jeans and cotton shirts or sweaters, as once they get damp they can be very tough to dry and provide you with minimal residual warmth. If you can stick with synthetic quick dry materials or wool for your clothing, you will likely have a much better experience in our wilderness.
What you need while on the water
- For your head; A Hat, cap or tuque – something with a peak or brim is ideal in the rain.
- For your upper body; A base layer, a long sleeve mid-layer and a light Fleece or other warm non-cotton sweater.
- For your lower body; Non cotton underwear & shorts or long pants – long synthetic or wool underwear under shorts can be a great combination.
- For your feet; Wool or synthetic socks – bring a few pairs, your feet will get wet. Water shoes or sandals. Rubber boots can also be good unless you have big feet.
- Consider a pair of quality, light-weight rain pants. Frequently you will sit on something wet.
- Gloves – Look for paddling or cycling gloves to keep hands dry & blister free.
What you need while at camp
- Your normal outdoor camping wear will typically work fine but remember it is always cooler near the water. Synthetics and wools are again better than cotton.
- We provide you a jacket for paddling but bring rainwear or other outdoor jacket to wear at camp.
- A base layer, a long sleeved mid-layer and a warm sweater, sweatshirt/hoody or outer layer fleece. Warm pants. Bring one layer more than you think you need!
- Hiking shoe or running shoe & warm wool socks. Do not bring thongs or flip-flops.
- Warm nightwear & a Pillow Case (to stuff with clothes, etc. for your pillow)
- When we have campfires, they frequently emit sparks; consider bringing an old top layer.
Comfort and convenience items
- A water bottle.
- Camera and binoculars.
- Small hand towel and a face cloth.
- Sunscreen, lip balm & bug repellant.
- Sunglasses and a retainer
- Head Light (for reading in your tent and to light your way to the washroom)
- Book/magazine, writing materials or other personal entertainment.
- Personal toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, biodegradable soap, feminine hygiene products, etc.) – A packet of Wet Wipes works great to help personal hygiene.
- If bringing any electrical/ electronics, bring spare batteries or a portable recharging unit. There are no power outlets.
- If you must bring your phone, consider investing in a waterproof case for it.
- If you have allergies for which you carry an EPI Pen – Bring it!
- An extra set of any essential medication and correctional lenses.
- Alcohol and/or Pop. We do not supply this and there are no stores after we leave Telegraph Cove. The general store in Telegraph Cove sells beer, wine, spirits & pop.
Please try to avoid bringing too much as space is limited.
If you do not have your own sleeping bag or prefer not to bring it, we have one pre-packed for you to use at no charge. Our bags are cleaned after every use and are rated to 0°C (32°F) or lower.
If you choose to bring your own sleeping bag, please make sure it has no cotton in the lining and that it has a compression style stuff sack. Place a garbage bag inside the compression sack and stuff your sleeping bag inside the garbage bag, inside the compression bag. Squeeze out the air, twist the neck of the garbage bag to keep out any moisture and close the compression stuff sack.
Did we mention to avoid cotton?
Honestly and joking aside, we cannot overstate this. Once cotton gets wet it stays that way and provides minimal residual warmth. Synthetic materials and better yet wool, are your best bet.
Do not forget to check the label on your underwear, virtually everything you choose to sit on will be damp. Wet cotton next to your skin will become very unpleasant very quickly; ask any toddler.
How to Pack for my Multi-Day Kayak Tour
We provide you two dry bags; one 10 and one 20 litre bag per person. When you arrive in Telegraph Cove before your trip, please feel free to come pick them up so you can pack in the comfort of your room.
The 10 litre dry bag will be your day bag, in other words the bag you will have access to on the water. We suggest you put the following items in your day bag:
- Small camera and/or binoculars - If bringing a large or expensive camera, see below.
- Extra sweater
- Sunscreen & lip balm
The 20 litre dry bag will be your overnight bag, put things in here that you will want once you get to camp and won’t need access to on the water.
- All camp clothes and spare clean, dry paddling clothes
- Personal toiletries.
- Towel, book/magazine
- Head light, spare batteries, car keys, money & travel documents, etc. Place these items in zip-lock bags for extra protection.
- Do not put shoes, rain jackets, drinks, etc. in the dry bag.
Do not fill the dry bags more then 3/4’s full in order to properly close them, squeeze all the air out, roll the top over itself 3 times and do up the buckles. Your bags will now keep your belongings dry!
How to pack my Camera
Salt water & DSLR can spell trouble if not looked after. What to carry it in becomes a compromise between ease of access and security. The most secure way to carry it is in a hard shell waterproof case; an otterbox for instance, however this can be difficult to stow and awkward to open while on the water. Next best would be a good quality dry bag. Take your camera with the lens you expect to use to a good outdoor store and find a dry bag that fits your camera well, but leaves enough room for you to get your hands in and around it. There also needs to be enough room to have a small super absorbent cloth so you can ensure your hands are dry when inserting and removing the camera. Both these options would have the camera and case strapped to the deck of the kayak under bungee lines. Consider adding a carabiner or similar locking mechanism to ensure the container remains secure.
When you want to take a photo, you remove the camera from its protection, take the photo, replace the camera and reseal it. Never put it down on the spray skirt or kayak deck. We usually recommend against changing lenses while on the water.
It is also worth checking your home or travel insurance policy. Most camera equipment can be covered for loss or damage by this policy. You may need to register serial numbers, etc. with the insurance company.
There are Orcas in the area around Telegraph Cove all year, but the chances of seeing them are not equal.
The BEST time to see Orcas from a kayak is between the last week of July and the first week of September with most sightings occurring during August. This is when the almost 300 Northern Resident Killer Whales who come every summer to gorge on salmon are most prevalent and active. These whales start to arrive each summer between July 10 & 15 but the smaller numbers at the start of their migration do not always provide predictable opportunities for us to experience them from a kayak. Towards the middle of September their numbers also start to decline as they need to move further each day to find food.
From mid May through the middle of July it is rare to see Orcas as those that inhabit the area at this time tend to be the Transient, or Biggs mammal eating Killer Whales. These whales hunt seals, porpoises and other mammals, rather than salmon. The nature of the prey defines the nature of the predator and mammals are much smarter than fish. To be successful hunters, the Biggs Killer Whales need to be fast and stealthy, so on those occasions when we do see them, it is typically a short experience. They will generally be in the area only a couple of times in any two week period.
For more information, take a look at our 'Wildlife Tab' on each tour description.
The amount of time on the water will vary but will typically be in the region of 5-6 hours per day.
We recommend that you bring two sets of clothing for your kayaking tour. One set that you will primarily wear while in the kayaks. This should consist of layer-able clothes that will cope well and remain comfortable should they get damp or even wet. The second set of clothing is for around camp and should be selected to keep you warm and cozy during the evening. Again layers provide maximum flexibility. Avoid jeans and cotton shirts or sweaters,as once they get damp they can be very tough to dry and provide you with minimal residual warmth. If you can stick with synthetic quick dry materials or wool for your clothing, you will likely have a much better experience in our wilderness.
Please take a look at the “What to Bring” tab on each tour description page.
While tipping is not mandatory it is very much appreciated. Your guide works very hard to make sure you get everything you hope for from your trip. If you think you were well looked after a suggested guide tip is 10% of your trip cost.
There is no ATM in Telegraph Cove however, you may tip them via your credit or debit card on return to our store.
Go ahead - make their day.
Ocean touring sea kayaks are surprisingly stable and comfortable, especially the tandem kayaks we use for our less experienced guests. A pre-launch training session will give you some of the basic skills that will help keep you safe while your guides are well versed in paddling, the area and general safety. They are right there with you the whole time to ensure your safety and enjoyment.
Our average group size is 5 people, however we conduct our tours with as few as 2 and as many as 12.
Our customers come from all over the world. They may be younger or older than you but you can be sure they are just as excited to be here as you are. We have found that those traveling without children tend to prefer to kayak with adult only groups. In order to try and ensure all of our guests get the maximum enjoyment from our tours we run separate tours for families.
It will be a fully enclosed Sea Kayak from one of a variety of manufacturers including Seaward Kayaks, Boreal Designs, Necky Kayaks and Current Designs.To ensure we can provide all guests with a great experience, we predominantly use tandem kayaks on our tours. Our kayaking tours focus on wildlife observation and having fun. As such, we often need to cross open water and paddle against wind or ocean currents to be in an optimal viewing spot. For those who are not experienced ocean kayakers, paddling single kayaks when others are in faster, tandem kayaks can become very tiring, very quickly and have a negative impact on the safety and enjoyment of others in the group. On occasion, if tour capacity allows or there are an odd total number of participants, we may add some single kayaks to the trip, which will be shared among guests interested in paddling them. Unfortunately as people have wildly differing opinions of their skill levels, stamina and endurance, we do not guarantee exclusive use of single kayaks to any of our guests.
We prefer to use our kayaks as we are familiar with their capacity and appropriateness for a given trip. We have also found that those who bring their own typically do not wish others to paddle them. Should you really wish to bring your own, we do require it be an appropriate kayak for the type of trip you are undertaking and we will need to utilize space within it for the group gear. Contact us, identifying kayak make and model and we will see what we can do. We do reserve the right to inspect the kayak prior to departure and have you paddle one of our kayaks if necessary.
We choose guides based on many variables. Naturally they must be appropriately qualified and able to kayak, provide instruction and keep you safe on the water, but we demand much more than this. We employ guides from Canada; Many of them have grown up around our coast or have migrated to BC as they have grown up. We employ guides who can interpret our environment; They need to be able to identify our local fauna and flora and communicate their knowledge to you. We look for language skills; Many of our guides are fluent in both English and French, while others bring Spanish or German to the mix.
North Island Kayak has been providing sea kayak tours on northern Vancouver Island since 1991. The current owners took over in 2006.
Yes! To legally conduct these sea kayaking tours, one needs permits from many different organizations including BC Parks, to operate in any of the local marine parks; The BC Ministry of Natural Resource Operations, to utilize any of the government owned lands, Private Individuals and businesses to utilize launch sites, water, etc. and our many North Island First Nations in order to utilize their lands and traditional homes. You can be assured that we have covered all bases. This is a great question to ask anyone who you intend to book a sea kayaking tour with. Permits are time consuming and expensive and not everyone you find on google bothers to adhere. Not only can operation without appropriate permits void any liability insurance they may have but it can also ruin a vacation if ejected from a park or other location.
People of all ages and fitness levels enjoy kayaking as it can be a very low impact activity. You need only be in average physical condition – For our multi-day sea kayak tours, if you can manage an easy day hike, you will likely be able to participate comfortably. Should you have upper body conditions affecting arms, wrists or hands, please contact us.
It can happen – but it is not likely on a guided sea kayaking tour. Part of your pre-launch training session is instruction and demonstration of what to do in the event of capsize. Should it happen, your qualified guides have had extensive training in rescue and have the skills to deal with any situation that may arise. Their focus is on prevention rather than cure.
There have been no incidents involving wild whales and humans or kayaks. On occasion they have come very close and even under our kayaks but we have never had one actually touch us.
You multi-day tour will be returning to Telegraph Cove typically between 3 and 4 pm, however it can occasionally be earlier or later due to weather or logistical reasons. Should you have tight connections to be made on the day of return, please let us know at booking or prior to departure so we can try to meet your expectations. After your trip, why not visit the Whale Museum or relax on the deck of the Old Saltery and watch the comings & goings of Historic Telegraph Cove.
We welcome children on the tours, however we try not to mix adult groups and family groups on the same trip. We can accommodate your children in a number of ways; triple kayaks or paired up in a double with a strong paddler. It is a safe and wonderful experience for kids and as family! We offer discounted rates for children on some tours. For multi-day kayak adventures we have found it is typically best to schedule small family groups, please contact us for further information.
One of the most frequent questions we are asked is - Will I see Orcas? The table below details the animals we see and a color coded description of when they are most regularly seen on our sea kayaking tours.
|Green||Expect multiple sightings during your 3 day tour|
|Blue||Expect to see the animal on maybe 1 of your 3 days|
|Yellow||If we are lucky we will see it on one day|
|Orange||50/50 - Do not count on it|
|Red||This is a once a year occurance|
|June||Early July||Mid July||End of July to Mid August||Mid Aug to Mid Sept||Mid Sept to End Sept|
The calendar below shows the departures dates for our Three Day Orca Sea Kayaking Safari. Please select the date you are interested in and click the "Book Now" button. You will not be requested to provide a credit card at this time as, to avoid disappointment, we need to double check these spaces are still available. You will be taken through some forms that will gather required information. Please complete them as fully as possible. If you are unsure about any questions, please provide you best guess as yours is most likely better than ours!
On completion of these forms, your Booking Request will be forwarded to us, we will double check spaces and send you an email with a link to our Secure Credit Card gateway where you can pay the required Deposit. If we are sold out of the tour you specify, we will suggest any alternatives we may have. If you need immediate confirmation of space, please call us on (250) 928-3114 or 1-877-949-7707.
You should wait until you have received confirmation and payment instruction from us before you commit to related travel expenses.
Hanson Hide-Away Base Camp featuring the ‘Orca Lounge’
Spy Hop Point - Johnstone Strait
Square Notch Bay - Blackfish Sound - Hanson Island
Kaikash Creek Orca Camp - Johnstone Strait
We specifically selected this beach in Johnstone Strait for the home of the Kaikash Creek Orca Camp because it has so many benefits over other beaches in Johnstone Strait. We believe it offers the best possible location on the Vancouver Island shoreline to serve as a base for sea kayaking tours, when your goal is too see Wild Killer Whales and other local marine wildlife, in their natural environment.