The Strait is set amongst steep fjords, small islands and lush rainforest with old growth red cedar and Sitka spruce up to 1000 years old. Subsurface upwellings and penetrating ocean currents result in a rich marine environment that is home to five species of salmon, numerous sea birds, and Orca whales. According to whale researchers, Johnstone Strait is recognized as the best place in the world to observe wild Orca whales. Along the entire West Coast, there are approximately 30 pods of Orcas, with 10 to 20 whales in each pod. The northern pods congregate in Johnstone Strait every summer to feed in the salmon-rich waters, socialize, and rest in shallow bays.
Orcas are magnificent creatures that can grow to a length of 10 metres (30 feet) and a weight of 8 tons. Observers are impressed by the beauty of these powerful but gentle creatures as they spyhop, breach, and fluke. A highlight of the expedition is paddling in the vicinity of Robson Bight on Vancouver Island. Protected as a BC Ecological Reserve, Robson Bight has shallow waters and a pebble bottom where the whales converge to rub their bodies.
Orcas are noted for their high intelligence and have a sophisticated communication system that consists of squeaks, whistles and moans that can be heard up to 8 miles away underwater. Each of the 30 West Coast pods has its own dialect. Using underwater microphones (hydrophones), participants can listen to individual whales and be able to identify them above and below the surface. Our six day sea kayaking expedition travels through areas frequented by the whales in an effort to maximize photographic and viewing opportunities.
The itinerary starts 20 km (12 mi.) south of Port McNeill in the small community of Telegraph Cove. Located on northeastern Vancouver Island, it is accessible by highway (5-6 hour drive from Nanaimo) or by scheduled air service to nearby Port Hardy.
Why book with Tours of Exploration?
- We specialize in customized, personalized tours that can suit the needs of any type of traveller or adventurer. No matter your fitness level or kayaking expertise, we will be able to curate a tour that is perfect for you.
- We choose to work with local partners, not only to guarantee an immersive, culturally authentic experience; but also to economically support the area's local population.
- We take careful measures to ensure you can book risk-free and with confidence.
3 Day Expeditions
2021 Departure Dates & Cost
Save $ 230 per person for bookings June - early July
June 25-27, June 29-July 1, July 2-4 and July 6-8
Cost: $745 CAD / $ 610 USD (plus 5% GST)
July 9-11, 13-15, 16-18, 20-22, 23-25, 27-29, July 30-August 1
August 3-5, 6-8, 10-12, 19-21, 24-26, 27-29, Aug. 31-Sept. 2
September 3-5, 7-9, 10-12, 14-16, 17-19
Cost: $975 CAD / $ 799 USD (plus 5% GST)
6 Day Expeditions
2021 Departure Dates & Cost
July 4-9, 11-16, 118-23, 25-30
August 1-6, 22-27, August 29-Sept. 3
Cost: $1,600 CAD / $ 1,350 USD (plus 5% GST)
Departure Point: Telegraph Cove, BC
Maximum Participants: 12 (2 guides)
Itinerary (3 day)
All participants meet at the lawn in front of the Telegraph Cove Resort office (right next to the boat launch) at 8:00 am. Here the guides will assign you to a kayak and help you get your personal gear stowed away. When everyone is ready, we’ll go over some basic paddling fundamentals and a safety orientation and then launch into the pristine waters of Johnstone Strait. With helpful advice and instruction from your guides, it won’t take long till you feel you’re getting the “hang of it” as we paddle along the gorgeous Vancouver Island coastline. These waters are the territorial range of many resident orca pods, as well as transient orca, and it is not uncommon for us to encounter these magnificent mammals within the first few hours of our day and throughout, during your time in this spectacular area. After a couple of hours, we’ll land on one of beaches and you can sit back and enjoy a delicious lunch the guides will prepare. After lunch we’ll launch the kayaks and make our way to our campsite at Kaikash Creek (one of the rubbing beaches in the area where we’ll be staying for our 2 nights). We’ll then make camp, set up our tents and you are free to explore the beaches, trails, relax or perhaps join one of the guides fishing (great salmon opportunities in these waters!). A sumptuous dinner around a cozy campfire with a canopy of stars above is the evening entertainment... don’t be too surprised if you hear the whales blowing as they go by during the night.
With another spectacular day ahead of us, we’ll wake to a hearty breakfast. After everyone has had their fill, we’ll pack for the day (we return to our site in the later afternoon) and launch ourselves again into the orca waters of Johnstone Strait... bring along your camera today, because you’ll need it! Our destination today is a paddle further along the coastline down to the Michael Biggs Ecological Reserve. The area around the reserve is home to several well frequented “rubbing beaches” where the orca have displayed a unique behaviour only witnessed in this area of swimming right along these beaches, rubbing themselves along the small pebbles on the beaches here. We will stop for lunch on one of these beaches and hopefully witness this behaviour. Some of the other wildlife the area boasts that we may see are bald eagles, deer, bear, porpoise, dolphin, seals and even sometimes the occasional humpback or grey whale that decides to take the inside waters of the Strait as opposed to the outside west coast route around Vancouver Island. In the afternoon, we’ll make our way back to our campsite at Kaikash. Dependent on weather, we may also venture to an old Whale Research Observation site, high up on one of the bluffs in the area...the hike and the view from above is spectacular. Another delicious meal and warm campfire to put a great end to a magnificent day!
We’ll wake to the aromas of coffee, cooked breakfast and the sounds of the lapping waves for our final day in Johnstone Strait. After breakfast, we’ll break camp and load up all the kayaks with our gear...”this stuff should all fit, shouldn’t it?” We’ll take the route back along the Vancouver Island coastline, cameras ready and ever prepared for a final encounter or encounters with the orca along the way. With the tides in our favour and the sunshine on our faces, we should arrive back atnTelegraph Cove between noon and 1:00pm.
Please note that weather and sea conditions may affect the itinerary. In addition, although we operate during the time of peak whale activity in the area, we cannot guarantee their presence.
- All meals from lunch Day 1 to lunch Day 3 or 6
- Services of two fully qualified guides
- All kayaking and safety equipment
- Group cooking/camping equipment
- Transportation between your home and Telegraph Cove, BC
- Hotel accommodations or camping fees before and/or after trip
- Airport transfers (*between Port Hardy and Port McNeill)
- Parking fees, if leaving your vehicle while your away
- Tent rentals are available for $15 per day
- Personal belongings as listed on 'Clothing & Equipment List'
- Goods and services tax of 5%
- Taxi service (often a passenger van) from Port Hardy airport to Port McNeill is approximately $40-$60 CAD, which is shared by the number of passengers using it
On each sea kayaking expedition you have a fully qualified guide and with numbers over five, another highly competent guide.
Your Sea Kayaks
A variety of single kayaks and double ocean kayaks are used on the expedition. Everyone will have the opportunity to experience paddling in both vessel types.
Summer weather on Vancouver Island's east coast is variable. Mid-summer can be shorts and t-shirt weather with daytime temperatures of 21'C - 24'C (70'F - 75'F), though there are often cool breezes off the water. Evenings are cool with temperatures near 12'C (55'F). Extended periods of rain are unusual, but possible, and mornings may be foggy. The water temperature remains close to 8'C (48'F) year-round.
Your safety while participating in this expedition is one of our prime concerns and therefore we provide you with the best equipment and extremely competent guides. The guides are well trained in wilderness first aid techniques, and well-experienced in this environment. Ultimately your guide makes decisions with your comfort and safety in mind, yet tries to maximize the experience of the adventure for each individual. We must stress that listening to instructions and directions given by the guide is your ultimate responsibility and in the best interest of yourself and the group. The expedition is equipped with a VHF radio communication for logistics and emergency transmissions.