Do David Attenborough documentaries leave you wishing for your own Blue Planet adventure? Then I would suggest heading to the northern coast of Vancouver Island, where I spent several days on a kayak tour in search of whales, dolphins and bears.
Our group spent mornings sipping coffee and watching orcas glide past the beach, and afternoons paddling the coast in search of bears. Luckily dolphins made a (very) surprising visit for us during evening paddles!
I booked our trip with Wildcoast, which is a good option for adventurers that like a bit of luxury with their travels (natural hot tubs and saunas, that is). Watch the video for some more David Attenborough-inspired excitement, and then read below to learn more about booking your own Canadian whale watching kayak tour.
Whale Watching Kayak Tours in Canada: The Best Time to Go
Whale watching can only be organised in the summer season in Canada, as that is when whales migrate to the area to feed. The Johnstone Strait, which separates Vancouver Island from the mainland, becomes a salmon hotspot during this time. Consequently, dolphins, orcas, whales and bears are all attracted to this one stretch of water to feed.
With so much wildlife in one space, kayakers are nearly guaranteed to see whales, dolphins or bears at least once during a multi-day tour. Northern Vancouver Island is an ideal location to camp and kayak, as it can be accessed by boat from nearby Quadra Island, and whale researchers regularly make base in the area. Not to mention, there are several beaches in the area where kayak tour companies know whales return to annually.
Kayaking Around the Johnstone Strait with Wildcoast
Having only kayaked once before starting the trip, I was a little nervous when we arrived. Luckily our kayak tour guides Jon, Chris and Bender were pros and had us paddling along the coast in search of starfish in no time.
In the evening we chatted around the fire, went for a swim in the river, or played endless rounds of card games in between dips in the cedar hot tub.
Our homes for the next few nights was adorable safari tents, complete with cosy blankets and pillows.
The first full day on the water was calm, and we scoured the coast for whales and bears. Luckily some humpback whales waved their tails at us first thing in the morning, and a bear woke from its slumber to join us on the coast for a morning paddle.
For lunch we snacked on sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies on the beach, with some dogs from a nearby campsite for company. Although I suspect they were more interested in the food. We explored the area further, and came across an abandoned play area:
And a much more interesting waterfall:
Overnight the weather changed, and by morning the sea was rolling 4-foot swells. As novice kayakers we paddled hard, and our guides found inlets at regular spaces to help us rest. We even learned to form group rafts with our kayaks, and celebrated with an afternoon tea from our kayaks. The whales didn’t seem to mind the swell so much, and a pod of orca whales greeted us as we prepared to paddle out from the beach that morning.
On our last full day at orca camp, the smoothed and we paddled out for one last look for whales. They seemed to sense we were leaving as well, and saw humpback whales and orcas in the distance, following the salmon further down the strait.
Not content with a day paddle, a smaller group of kayakers went for a night paddle, and got stuck right in the middle of a megapod dolphin feeding frenzy. I think David Attenborough would approve.
Whale and Bear Kayak Tour Pack List
- Camera(s) with charged batteries
- Water bottle – it’s surprising how thirsty you can get paddling
- Sports bra
- Fleece jacket or wool sweater – basically something warm
- Rain coat
- Water shoes, i.e. neoprene shoes or sturdy sandals for getting in and out of the kayak
- Sunhat and a warm hat
- Headlamp or quality small flashlight
- Kayak gloves (optional)
- Insect repellent
- Natural toiletries
- Fast-dry towel
- Book or journal (for resting in the evenings)
- Binoculars (sometimes the whales might be shy)