Kayaking with orcas in Johnstone Strait allows for once-in-a-lifetime orca encounters every week from early July through mid-September (depending on salmon runs). Nature-lovers of all backgrounds venture to Vancouver Island’s inside passage, where over 220 salmon-eating orcas follow bountiful summer salmon runs through this narrow channel. The geography of the Strait ensures generally calm waters, which make for a paddlers paradise.
Sea Kayak Adventures offers two different itineraries on our Johnstone Strait orca kayak tours. Our classic, 6-day Orca Waters Expedition tour loops through killer whale territory in the Strait and up through the islands around Blackfish Sound. The 4-day Orca Base Camp kayak tour is held at our exclusive beach campsite, a short paddle from Robson Bight, the world’s only killer whale preserve. Both tours are suitable for novices in good health, as we paddle about 4 hours per day, broken up by lunch hour, on each tour.
How do you choose which tour is right for you?
6-days of Kayaking - Orca Waters Expedition
The 6-day sea kayaking expedition utilizes 2-3 campsites that are located along the travel routes used by the orcas. Given this loop route and length of trip, you will see more wilderness areas and a greater diversity of marine life including an area frequented by humpback whales on the 6-day tour, versus a shorter tour.
- The campsite we use on the Vancouver Island side of Johnstone Strait, by exclusive permit, is one of the closest to Robson Bight. No one can paddle inside of Robson Bight, but the orcas travel all along the Johnstone Strait coastline. Orcas regularly cruise past this campsite close to shore as they hunt for salmon or rub their bellies on the smooth gravels below the water's surface. This is also the site for our 4-day basecamp tour, so you don’t miss out on this fantastic spot on either trip.
- Our other camp on Compton Island is located in Blackfish Sound, adjacent to the myriad of small islets that make up the Broughton Island Archipelago Marine Park. From Compton Island you can explore a maze-like group of islands, hidden coves and narrow passages. The Compton Island/Blackfish Sound area is full of wilderness areas for exploration. You can also observe First Nations pictographs and ruins on this tour.
- Blackfish Sound regularly hosts humpback whales! Besides Orcas, porpoises, seals, sea lions, you can see breaching humpback whales and many varieties of seabirds in Blackfish Sound. As well, we may even see the elusive Pacific White-sided dolphin and minke whale.
4-days of Kayaking - 4-day Orca Basecamp
One campsite, four days. No setting up or taking down tents every day, so you can settle in without having to repack the kayak. More time to relax and enjoy the wildlife and beautiful scenery. Families with teens, novice kayakers, or those who prefer a slower pace would be ideal for this tour.
- The campsite we use on the Vancouver Island side of Johnstone Strait, by exclusive permit, is close to Robson Bight. The basecamp's shoreline is composed of sea-polished stones that lure an orca to rub its 6-ton body along the beach, or herd salmon into the curve of the shore. Orcas regularly pass by directly in front of camp. Paddlers can scramble down the rock outcropping and stand at water’s edge to watch orcas cruise by just below their feet. The camp offers great orca viewing right off shore. The camp is located in the center of whale activity.
- We never just “wait around for orcas” on the basecamp! We will keep you entertained. We take daily day trips, paddling to different beaches for lunch, hike, observing wildlife. Each trip includes about 4 hours per day of kayaking: two hours paddling in morning, and another two hours paddling in the afternoon after lunch. Often there is a hike at the lunch stop, and the evenings will be filled with campfires, games or fishing.