*Please note that the the following information is meant to provide a general overview of your tour. The specifics of your trip will be contained in a pre-trip letter you will receive prior to your confirmed departure.
Important Trip Details:
MEETING PLACE: Haida Way Inn, Port McNeill
MEETING TIME: 6:30 PM PST
TRIP MILES: Varies depending on group size, weather and kayaker's abilities
PUT-IN: Telegraph Cove, 25 miles Southeast of Port McNeill
TAKE-OUT: Telegraph Cove, 25 miles Southeast of Port McNeill
RETURN TIME: Approximately 2:00 PM PST
THE LAST SUPPER: Join your guide and fellow trip guests for a non-hosted farewell dinner at a favorite local restaurant.
TRIP LENGTH: 4 days
AGE LIMIT: Minimum age is 14
BOAT TYPE: Sea Kayak (Tandem kayaks are used unless a single kayak is requested and rented. The use of single kayaks is limited and determined by a variety of trip factors.)
NEAREST AIRPORTS: Port Hardy (YZT)
Orca Basecamp Kayak Tour Itinerary
Day 0: Arrive in Port McNeill & Orientation Meeting
Travel to Port McNeill, a working waterfront fishing village just 30 minutes south of the Port Hardy airport. Many of our guests choose to stay at the Haida Way Motor Inn, where your guides will host an orientation meeting on the evening before your trip. You will have a chance to meet your fellow guests and acquire your drybags and wetsuit booties to pack for your coming adventure.
Day 1: Paddle Orientation & Kayak Launch
- Paddle Distance: 7 miles
- Accommodations: Camping
- Meals included: Lunch, Dinner
Day 2-3: Sea kayaking, Hiking, Whale Watching, First Nations Culture, Tidepooling
Awake to the smell of fresh brewed coffee and tea as the sun crests over rainforest boughs. Your guides will be wide awake and hard at work preparing a warm breakfast, but you can relax with a steaming mug of your favorite drink while wandering the beach for tide pools, reading a book, or watching a pod of passing orcas. You will kayak throughout orca territory in Johnstone Strait. Expect to kayak over four hours per day, broken up by lunch hour and floating rest breaks. You may paddle to Robson Bight Orca Preserve
- Paddle Distance: 6-7 miles
- Accommodations: Camping
- Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4: Sea Kayaking & Whale Museum
- Paddle Distance: 7 miles
- Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Travel to Port McNeill:
The easiest way to get to Port McNeill by air, is to fly through Vancouver International Airport (airport code YVR) to Port Hardy, BC (airport code YZT). From Vancouver International's South Terminal you can catch a flight on Pacific Coastal Airlines direct to Port Hardy. Once in Port Hardy, it's a 35-40 minute taxi ride to Port McNeill (taxi recommendations provided below). If arriving from outside of Canada, be sure to give yourself 1.5-2 hours between your arriving flight at Vancouver International and your departing flight from the South Terminal to Port Hardy, as you will have to clear customs and take a 15 minute shuttle from the International Terminal to the South Terminal (there should be signs to guide you). The South Terminal Courtesy Shuttle pick-up is located outside the International Terminal Building, you’ll need to exit the International Arrival on level 2 and go to the shuttle pick-up location at Bus Bay 3.
If you fly into Port Hardy, you will need to arrange a taxi for the 35-minute drive South to Port McNeill. You can expect to pay about $45-60 CAD for the one-way fare, however rates do vary. We recommend sharing the ride with other members of the tour if you meet one another on the plane (or are on the same flight when departing). Please bring cash to pay the driver. The taxi company’s change regularly, but we recommend Waivin Flags Taxi, 1-250-230-7655 and Town Taxi 1-250-949-7877 on the North Island.
Travel to Port McNeill by Car:
Port McNeill is also accessible by car, via a beautiful drive following BC Route 19 from Nanaimo to Port McNeill. Vancouver Island can be reached from the Canadian or U.S. mainlands by utilizing one of multiple ferry crossings from the Vancouver metro or greater Seattle areas. BC Ferries and Washington State DOT Ferry websites are very helpful resources if you are planning to drive to Northern Vancouver Island.
We strongly recommend that all guests overnight at the Haida Way Motor Inn on where your orientation will be held at 7:00 PM on the day you arrive. Make your reservations well in advanced, as the short summer tourist season books up quickly for the limited number of hotels on the North Island. Please note, hotel nights before and after the tour are not included in your tour cost.
For More Information about getting to Port McNeill in BC, please visit our Blog on How to Get to Port McNeill, British Columbia.
Things to Do In and Near Port McNeill:
- Whale Watching: Prince of Whales: Whale and Marine Wildlife Adventures, Sea Smoke Whale Watching
- Grizzly Bear Tours: Tide Rip Tours
- Cultural Tours & Museums: U'mista Cultural Centre, Sea Wolf Adventures, Port McNeill Visitor Centre, Alert Bay Museum, and Sointula Museum
- Parks and Trails: Cape Scott Provincial Park, Raft Cove Provincial Park, Nimpkish Lake Provincial Park, Telegraph Cove, Mount Cain, Sointula on Malcolm Island and Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. As for marine routes one must consider exploring the Johnstone Strait, Broughton Archipelago, Kingcome Inlet, and Knight Inlet.
- Restaurants: Northern Lights Restaurant, Cluxewe Waterfront Bistro, Archipelagos Bistro
Port McNeill Weather
We highly recommend checking the weather prior to your trip for an updated forecast and current conditions. We recommend the followinng websites.
Weather in Port McNeill - Weather Underground
When To Go?
The northern resident pods of orca (killer whales) currently number over 220 individually identified whales in 17 separate pods. They are generally found in Johnstone Strait when salmon, their primary prey, come from the ocean to spawn in the rivers of mainland British Columbia. The whales arrive after about the first week in July, and stay through late September. Our tours are scheduled only during the times when the whales have historically populated the area. Transient killer whales are found in the area beyond this narrow summer window, but are fewer in number and offer infrequent sightings. Humpback whales return from their breeding grounds in Hawaii early summer, and remain through the autumn. Though once hunted to extinction from the area, humpbacks have returned to the area as a tremendous success story, and are almost more common than orcas!
Sea Kayak Adventures Physical Requirements
Here at Sea Kayak Adventures our first and foremost goal is for you to have an enjoyable and safe experience. While most of our trips are suitable for beginners, some of our trips are more active than others and it’s important that you understand the physical requirements of the trip you choose.
All of our sea kayaking trips are active adventures that involve some level of physical exertion and possible exposure to the elements including but not limited to wind, rain, heat, sun, cold temperatures and cold water conditions. Sea Kayak Adventures is able to accommodate people with physical limitations, disabilities and medical conditions; please speak with your Adventure Consultant if you think you will require any additional assistance while on the trip. We ask that you consult your Doctor if you have health or medical conditions that could impact your ability to participate in an active and outdoor adventure. In general, all trip participants must be able to do the following:
- Wear all protective and safety equipment that are required by Sea Kayak Adventures and recommended/required by industry wide standards.
- Load and unload, on their own or with the aid of a qualified companion, the bus and/or van providing transportation for Sea Kayak Adventures activities.
- Reach the water access points (put-in and take-out) on their own, or with the aid of a qualified companion.
- Enter and exit the raft, kayak and/or inflatable kayak on their own or with the aid of a qualified companion.
- Remain seated and balanced in a floating raft, canoe, kayak or inflatable kayak w/ the aid of adaptive equipment, if necessary.
- Float on their back when entering moving and still water. The participant must be capable of turning from face-down to face-up in the water with the aid of a Personal Floatation Device and must be able to hold their breath while under water.
- Remain calm and keep breathing under control in the event of a swim.
- Climb into the kayak, with the help of another person, should an involuntary swim happen at any point on the water.
- Make progress toward the shoreline or a boat by swimming in moving water and must be able to exit the water and ascend the shoreline once reached.
- Participate as an active paddler when instructed by the guide for the duration of the trip.
- Move about the campsite on their own or with the aid of a qualified companion on all trips that include overnight camping and/or lunch.
Whether you are an avid sea kayaker, or it is your first time, you’ll enjoy these incredible trips, and share in our passion for adventure, commitment to conserving the environment, and relishing unique experiences. For those new to the sport, kayaking is easy to learn in the sheltered waters that we visit, and we provide all of the camping gear, kayaking equipment and guidance needed. In addition, we keep our groups small to allow you to not only travel intimately among nature, but to ensure you receive the necessary attention from our guides.
Orca Basecamp Kayak Tour Packing List Overview
We are excited to see you soon for your kayaking and camping tour with Sea Kayak Adventures! The packing list outlined below is meant to serve as a guide to help you plan, prepare and outfit yourself for your upcoming travels. We have provided our best recommendations and suggestions. These suggestions are based on the outlined itinerary, the geographic region, our knowledge of British Columbia, and our personal experience.
Gear Provided by Sea Kayak Adventures:
Sea Kayak Adventures will provide all necessary paddling equipment including: personal flotation devices (PFDs), all kayaking equipment, and neoprene booties. Sea Kayak Adventures will also provide all necessary camping equipment for your tour, including: tent, cot, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and pillow.
Provided Dry Bags:
At the orientation meeting we will provide each guest with 3 dry bags (one 10 Liter and two 20 Liter). The guides will provide a full explanation of how to use and pack your dry bags. That evening you will pack all of your gear for the kayaking trip into your three dry bags. The rest of your luggage can be checked into the locked hotel closet the following morning before departing for your tour.
Each set of dry bags will have a name (Sea Otter, Humpback, Orca) to help you in identifying your personal gear while out on tour. While you will have a total of 50 Liters of space, it is important to embrace “packing light.” This doesn’t mean that you have to pack light for your entire vacation, just think small and light for anything you plan to bring kayaking. If you have any questions or need gear suggestions please don’t hesitate to call the office or shoot us an email. We are happy to help!
Sea Kayak Adventures trips are best enjoyed if you travel light. We think it is wise to avoid checking any luggage under the plane. If you do check a bag, make sure that you have everything that is either essential or would be hard to replace, with you in your carry-on.
We recommend packing in one soft sided, roll-on (ideally a non-hard-sided version) or duffle luggage that meets carry-on requirements. Alternatively, if you must have a checked bag; make sure your personal item is packed with your “hard to replace items.” You will be able to leave luggage not needed for your kayaking trip in hotel storage.
We also recommend bringing one small day pack. This dual purpose pack can serve as your personal item during your flights as well as your day pack for hikes during the tour. Outside zippered pockets are nice and allow you to organize your travel gear. Carry medications, travel documents, important personal items and other essentials or “hard-to-replace” items in this on the plane.
Orca Basecamp Kayak Tour Packing List
- Passport – be sure it is valid for at least six (6) months after the date of your arrival
- A photocopy of your passport, inside a zip lock bag and stowed elsewhere in your luggage (as an additional precautionary measure, consider leaving a photocopy with family or friends at home as well)
- Copy of your air tickets with ticket numbers, placed elsewhere in your luggage
- Cash for gratuities
- Credit card that works internationally, ideally with chip technology (Call your bank and let them know where you will be traveling)
- Waterproof watch or small travel clock with alarm (if you are taking a phone, this can serve as your alarm clock)
- TSA-accessible lock for luggage security when not on your person
*We recommend synthetic or quick-dry materials while kayaking
- One pair of paddling gloves (optional)
- One pair long, lightweight, nylon pants with zipper pockets (Zip off legs give you more options)
- One - two pair nylon shorts or capris (this can double as a swimsuit for the guys)
- One - two pair(s) synthetic or merino wool long underwear
- One - two short sleeve shirt(s) of tank top(s) (synthetic is best)
- Two long sleeve shirts with sun protection
- Two - three pair synthetic or merino wool socks
- One wide-brim, tie-on hat
- One warm hat
- One lightweight, packable jacket and/or vest
- One wool or synthetic sweater or jacket for warmth in the evenings and mornings
- One waterproof jacket and pair of waterproof pants
- Paddling jacket (optional, if you do not have a paddling jacket your regular rain jacket can be worn while paddling if needed)
- One pair sturdy trail shoes, or running shoes, to use for hiking and around camp
- One pair of sandals with ankle straps and closed toes to wear while kayaking, on the beaches, walking around camp, etc. (If you elect to wear the provided neoprene booties, sandals can be optional)
Additional Gear and Other Essentials:
- Retaining strap for glasses and sunglasses
- Flashlight or headlamp
- One pair of paddling gloves
- Small day pack or fanny pack for hikes
- One water bottle, 1 liter or larger
- One buff or bandana for sun protection and cooling off
- Camp towel (small lightweight towel, backpacking style works great)
- Camera and appropriate charging mechanism
- Back up battery pack for electronic devices
- Waterproof camera or valuables case
- Binoculars or monocular
- Glasses or contacts if needed
- Polarized sunglasses
- Reusable dirty/clean gear bags for wet or soiled items
- Small reusable, leak-proof bags for liquid or spillable personal items
- Books or E-reader, pen and notepad, headphones, etc
Toiletries and First Aid
- Standard toiletry kit including general hygiene products, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. (keep liquids under 3.38 oz.(100ml) for carry-on)
- Insect repellent
- Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 15-30
- Pre-moistened toilette packets or disposable shower wipes to refresh
- Prescriptions and any necessary personal medicines (please be sure to bring necessary prescriptions and any needed emergency medicine such as an EpiPen, Benadryl, etc)
- Heavy duty skin lotion for dry, sun-baked, and salted skin
- Small squeeze bottle of hand-sanitizer gel
- Shampoo and soap (we recommend biodegradable, multi-purpose options)
- Female urinary device (allows women to urinate standing up without removing clothing). Silicon or hard plastic ones work great. Popular name brands include Gogirl and Shewee.
Note on Packing Light: Packing efficiently will make loading your kayaks easy and enable you to quickly find your gear during the tour. Plan to use 1-2 kayaking outfits and 1-2 camp outfits that you will reuse throughout the trip. You are welcome to bring extra clothing for before or after your tour. This additional clothing and luggage can be stored in a secure closet at the hotel while you are on your kayaking tour.
Sea Kayak Adventures - Recommended British Columbia Reading List
- Allen, S., Mortenson, J., & Webb, S. (2011). Field Guide to Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
- Bell, C., & Paterson, R. (2008). Protection of First Nations Cultural Heritage: Laws, Policy, and Reform. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press.
- Bernard, H. (1993). The Oceanic Society Field Guide to the Humpback Whale. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books.
- Carwardine, M. (1995). Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises. London, UK: Dorling Kindersley.
- Chadwick, D. (2008). The Grandest of Lives: Eye to Eye with Whales. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press.
- Fox, C. (2016). At Sea with the Marine Birds of the Raincoast. Victoria, BC: Rockie Mountain Books.
- Gordon, D., & Flaherty, C. (1992). American Cetacean Society: Field Guide to the Orca. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books.
- Hoyt, E. (1990). Orca: Whale Called Killer. London, UK: Robert Hale.
- Livingstone, R. (1990). Beyond the Gate: Artists’ Journeys to Save the Tsitika Valley and Robson Bight. Vancouver, BC: Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
- Morton, A. (1993). In the Company of Whales. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers.
- Morton, A. (2004). Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us. New York City, NY: Ballantine Books.
- Morton, A. (1990). Siwiti: A Whale’s Story. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers.
- Neering, R. (1993). A Traveler’s Guide to Historic British Columbia. Vancouver, BC: Whitecap Books.
- Proctor, B., & Maximchuk, Y. (2003) Full Moon, Flood Tide: Bill Proctor’s Raincoast. Pender Harbour, BC: Harbour Publishing.
- Vaillant, J. (2006). The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed. New York City, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Additional British Columbia and Sea Kayaking Information
- Is It Safe to Kayak with Orcas - Find out more about sea kayaking with whales.
- How to Get to Port McNeill, BC - A short travel guide on getting to Port McNeill, BC.
- Port McNeill Guide - Things to do in and around Port McNeill.
- Birding by Kayak in BC - Read about the birdlife you're likely to see on a BC kayaking tour.
- 7 Tips for Staying Clean on an Ocean Kayaking and Camping Adventure - Helpful tips for staying clean on your sea kayaking tour.
- Weather Report- Check the local weather before you go.
- Trip Advisor - Read guest reviews.
Terms & Conditions
Please see our full Terms & Conditions HERE.