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Whales and Grizzly Bears - Orca Waters Base Camp Tour

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Seeing a humpback whale lunging through a school of bait fish, a grizzly bear chasing a salmon through a shallow river, or a pod of killer whales surfacing in unison are often considered once in a lifetime experiences and all three are possible on Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures' "Whales and Grizzly Bears — Orca Waters Base Camp" tour.

There is no better place in the world to kayak with both humpback and killer whales (orcas) than Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound off the northeastern corner of Vancouver Island. This area is recognized as one of the most predictable places in the world to see these great marine mammals and Kingfisher's Orca Waters Base Camp is located right in the heart of these wildlife rich waters on an island covered in old growth rainforest. We spend the first three days of this tour viewing the diverse marine life by kayak and late each afternoon return to the comforts of our base camp.

Early on the fourth morning we journey by boat for two hours up Knight Inlet for a day of grizzly bear viewing. When we arrive at our destination in Glendale Cove the group moves to a flat bottom boat to view grizzly bears from the water. 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 inter–tidal life like crabs and mussels. Late August and September sees the return of pink salmon to the Glendale River and we time the tours to the tides to optimize viewing opportunities in the river. We return to Telegraph Cove late that afternoon where our van will be waiting to drive us back to Port McNeill.

In addition to this scheduled tour, a day of grizzly bear watching can also be added the day before or the day after any of our Vancouver Island kayak tours.


Whales and Grizzly Bears - Orca Waters Base Camp Kayak Tour

Departure Point: Port McNeill, Vancouver Island


Cost: $1550 CAD per person plus tax

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Kingfisher's guides are well acquainted with the natural history, whales, bears, and other wildlife of British Columbia's coast, knowledge which they eagerly share. It is hard to miss a killer whale's six foot dorsal fin as it passes your kayak, but your guides also help you spot the less obvious sea stars, urchins and anemones in the shallows and educate you about the other whales, seals, porpoises, and dolphins that frequent these waters.

The Orca Waters Base Camp offers a very comfortable camping experience and with Kingfisher's knowledgeable kayak guides this tour is suitable for adventurous travellers even if they have little or no kayaking or camping experience. Roomy tents, each raised off the ground on wooden platforms, are situated throughout the forest with views of the ocean. New for 2014 are tents providing standing room for most guests (1.9 metres tall) and are outfitted with wooden beds with the thickest and widest Therm-a-rest mattresses made. Sheets, fleece blankets, full size pillows, and hot water bottles are all provided to ensure a good nights sleep. For cooler nights, warm barrel style sleeping bags are also provided. A re-charging station for digital cameras, an extensive library of natural history books, a propane heated shower, a rustic beach side sauna, and a large covered kitchen and dining area made from locally milled red cedar makes for a very comfortable camping experience.

On the water we use stable single and double fibreglass kayaks and lightweight carbon/vinyl paddles. Waterproof kayaking jackets and neoprene kayaking mitts are provided to keep you warm and dry while kayaking. On a full trip with eight guests and two guides we use six single and two double kayaks allowing guests to spend time in each type. If you prefer to use a double kayak for the entire trip just let us know in advance and we will ensure one is available for you.

A Note on the Grizzly Bear Tour: Due to possible windy and bumpy conditions on the boat ride to view grizzly bears in Knight Inlet this tour is not suitable for people with back and neck issues, young children, or pregnant women. If this may be an issue please contact us to discuss this in greater detail.

Includes: We provide you will all the necessary kayaking and camping equipment, including kayaks, paddling jacket, PFD (life jacket), group shelters, tents, sleeping pads, camp chairs and sleeping bags(you may bring your own). A comprehensive list of required personal items can be viewed here. All meals during the kayak trip are provided and prepared by your guides. We’re proud of our menu that includes abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, a wide variety of international dishes, and freshly baked treats. Most dietary restrictions can be accommodated given sufficient prior notification. Transportation is all-inclusive from Port McNeill by our network of vans and water taxis.

What is not included: We do not provide transport from your home to Port McNeill, nor do we provide airport transfers. Accommodation in Port McNeill is not included. Any meals outside the kayak portion of the tour are your responsibility. Travel insurance for accidents or emergency evacuation is not provided; we recommend you purchase a policy before leaving home. The trip price does not include guide gratuities; should you feel that the service was exemplary, it is always appreciated.

Suggested reading: Our base camp has a library of field guides and local history books, including many listed below. We recommend the below books if you want to learn a bit about the area before visiting. Each title is linked to Amazon.com and will open in a new window. .

Operation Orca: Springer, Luna and the Struggle to Save West Coast Killer Whales
Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us
Full Moon, Flood Tide: Bill Proctor's Raincoast
Heart of the Raincoast: A Life Story

Charts: You do not need to bring charts on this kayak tour. Your guides have charts of the area and will review them with guests each day. If you wish to bring your own chart(s) they are listed below. Each chart is linked to the corresponding page on the Canadian Hydrographic Service's website and you can search where to buy these charts locally (links will open in a new window).

3546 - Broughton Strait - 1:40,000

*the grizzly bear photos on this page are courtesy of Derek Kyostia and Tide Rip Tours

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