Johnstone Straight

British Columbia Canada: (ZZ-SKBC-20)

British Columbia Canada
Kayak with orcas in Johnstone Strait, the BEST place in the world to observe killer whales as they feed on salmon off northern Vancouver Island. This is the only itinerary to spend 6 days in the heart of the areas where orcas roam, optimizing your chances of special encounters with these magnificent whales.

Some people are content to simply watch whales, sea kayakers yearn to experience them. Maximize your orca experience in the breathtaking scenery of Vancouver Island's inside passage. Here in Johnstone Strait, summer home of the northern resident orcas, paddle whale-rich waters and explore the marine wonders of their ecosystem.

If weather permits, you'll stay at three different base camps on three different islands in the heart of the orca loop. Full-height canvas wall tents with sleeping cots await you at each of these wilderness base camps, so you can enjoy the orcas without the hassle of making and breaking camp or hauling a tent. Part of your tour will be spent in Blackfish Sound, home of orcas and a high concentration of humpback whales!


All nights of this tour are spent camping in the Johnstone Straight area.

Full-height canvas tents with sleeping cots await you at each of these wilderness base camps, so you can enjoy the orcas without the hassle of making and breaking camp or hauling a tent. Part of your tour will be spent in Blackfish Sound, home of orcas and a high concentration of humpback whales! If weather permits, you'll stay in 3 different base camps on 3 different islands.

We provide all of the camping and kayaking gear, so you just need to bring your clothing!
Please, note that no showers are available at the campsited. Guests can wash up in water or bring disposable wet wipes.
We bring a portable outhouse/port-a-potty with us on the tour.

There is no electricity at any of the campsites so it is best if you can bring a backup battery charger or a solar charger.

All meals are included during this trip.
Meals are fully-catered with gourmet food prepared daily from scratch like our fresh salmon bake, and daily happy hour with wine and hors d’oeuvres.
This trip includes some wine with dinner.

Special diets and dietary restrictions:
We do our best to accommodate special dietary requests, working within the parameters of the destinations in which we operate. If you have a very strict diet, we recommend packing extra snacks that you know you can eat.

This trip includes some wine with dinner and can accommodate special dietary requests.


Tandem kayaks are used unless guest requests a single kayak (limited availability).

Physical requirements
In general, all trip participants must be able to do the following: 
- Wear all protective and safety equipment that are required by the operator 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 the 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 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.


Sample itinerary - subject to changes

Note on Itinerary: Approximate paddling distances listed and can vary depending on group size and weather. We will do our best to adhere to the schedule listed below. However, the itinerary may change due to reasons beyond our control such as wind, waves or inclement weather. Although there is a very good chance we'll see orcas throughout the week, the frequency, proximity, and quality of sightings will ultimately be determined by the orcas' travel patterns.

B = Breakfast  L = Lunch  D = Dinner

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. We recommend staying at the Haida Way Motor Inn, where your guides will host the trip orientation meeting at 7:00PM 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.
Meals Included: none
Overnight not included 

Day 1: Paddle Orientation & Kayak Launch
Early in the morning, we provide transport from the Haida Way Motor Inn south to the launch site in charming Telegraph Cove, where your guides will provide a kayaking safety and orientation lesson. We launch from Telegraph Cove, paddling immediately out into the roadless, thickly forested, sheltered Johnstone Strait, in the heart of orca territory and home of the world's only orca preserve. 
Enjoy happy hour including local wines and hors d’oeuvres while the guides prepare a special surprise for dinner. Recap the day's highlights over fresh baked dessert around a crackling campfire and gaze at the starlit sky or the glowing blue bioluminescence of the ocean before snuggling into your tent to sleep.
Paddle Distance: 6 miles
Accommodations: Camping
Meals Included: L, D

Day 2-3: Sea Kayaking, Hiking, Whale Watching, 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 tidepools, reading a book, or watching a pod of passing orcas. You will kayak throughout orca territory in Johnstone Strait, and explore the adjacent channels and islands around Blackfish Sound where humpback whales may be spotted. Expect to kayak over four hours per day, broken up by lunch hour and floating rest breaks.
Paddle Distance: 7-8 miles
Accommodations: Camping
Meals Included: B, L, D

Day 4-5: Sea kayaking, Hiking, Whale Watching, First Nations Culture, and Tidepooling
You will paddle to Robson Bight Orca Preserve as well as to First Nations pictograph sites on various days of your trip. Orcas can appear at any time on our tour. Killer whales can cover dozens of miles per day and often swim up, down, and around the strait hunting salmon or playing. You can also spot eagles, seals, porpoises or other marine mammals or seabirds at any time. Evenings and dinner will be spent relaxing in camp around a cozy campfire; toasting the day's adventures and listening to the guides spin tales and recount local legends. Orcas blowing offshore make for a spectacular lullaby.
Paddle Distance: 7 miles
Accommodations: Camping
Meals Included: B, L, D

Day 6: Sea Kayaking & Whale Museum
After breakfast and breaking camp, you will spend the day kayaking to our take-out at Telegraph Cove, stopping for lunch along the way and a visit to the Telegraph Cove whale museum. A taxi will return your group to Port McNeill in the afternoon (usually around 2pm), after unpacking the kayaks. We recommend that you overnight in Port McNeill and join us for a no-host farewell dinner with your group.
Paddle Distance: 7 miles
Meals Included: B, L

Rates and Dates for Johnstone Straight

Rates include:

Camp accommodation while on tour, All meals while on tour, Transportation to and from the launch site, Kayaking instruction, All kayaking and camping equipment & Service of our professional Guides.
Sleeping bags, sleeping pads, dry bags for your gear and neoprene booties are provided

Packages and Options

  • SeasonYearDescription US$
    20236 day trip, AP$1710

GST (VAT): 6% (12% for Canadian Resident) * prices are per person based on double/twin occupancy
    GST (VAT) 6% (12% for Canadian Resident)

Season Tour Dates  Min / MaxReserve
A 2023 07/03 - 07/08 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve
A 2023 07/10 - 07/15 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve
A 2023 07/17 - 07/22 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve
A 2023 07/24 - 07/29 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve
A 2023 07/30 - 08/04 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve
A 2023 08/07 - 08/12 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve
A 2023 08/14 - 08/19 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve
A 2023 08/21 - 08/26 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve
A 2023 08/28 - 09/02 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve
A 2023 09/04 - 09/09 6d / 5n 6 day trip, AP 8 /16 Reserve

Dates Note:

Rates do not include:

Transportation to and from Port McNeill, Hotel before and after the tour, Meals before or after the tour, Taxes & Gratuities

Other Info
Meeting: Haida Way Motor Inn
Airport: Vancouver, Port McNeil

                                            Port McNeill area














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Source: NOAA

Summers in Port McNeill are generally sunny with day-time temperatures averaging 68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and night-time temperatures averaging 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The summer months are usually drier than the rest of the year but precipitation can occur infrequently in the form of rain, showers or drizzle. Foggy mornings are common in mid-August and September. The water temperature averages 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

Special note – whale watching
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!

What To Bring:
Follow this list when packing.  On most of our tours, we'll be paddling totally self-contained, which means we carry our food and water in the kayaks.  Please keep in mind that your gear (with exception of sleeping bag and pad) has to fit in the waterproof bags handed out at the group meeting, so we recommend following our list below.  Casual, comfortable camping clothes are perfect.

Duffel bags make good traveling luggage.  Use a small one for your clothes and essential items and take as carry-on luggage.  Suitcases, duffels and travel clothing may be left at the hotel.   Please note that airlines are imposing stiffer restrictions on the number and size of carry-on luggage.

We will provide all necessary paddling equipment including: personal flotation devices (PFDs), all kayaking equipment, and neoprene booties. ROW will also provide all necessary camping equipment for your tour, including: tent, cot, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and pillow. It is vital that all of your kayaking clothes are synthetic or wool, not cotton. As we like to say in the world of kayaking, “cotton is rotten!” Synthetics are also ideal for hiking in as they wick away moisture from the body and dry quickly. 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 trip. This additional clothing and luggage can be stored in a secure closet at the hotel while you are on your kayaking tour.

At the orientation meeting we will provide each guest with 3 dry bags (two 20 Liter and one 10 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.

□ 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 (optional- can buy these at any outdoor or travel store.)

British Columbia Kayaking & Camping Clothes: Only synthetic or quick-dry materials should be worn 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 pair synthetic or merino wool long underwear
□ Swimsuit for gals
□ One - two short sleeve shirt(s) of tank top(s) (synthetic is best)
□ Two long sleeve shirts with sun protection (You can buy tight-weave nylon shirts with 30 SPF protection made by companies such as Patagonia, Columbia, Exofficio or REI etc. Sun protection is essential)
□ Four to five pair underwear (synthetic is best)
□ Two - three pair synthetic or merino wool socks
□ One wide-brim, tie-on hat (the floppy nylon variety is ideal, as it packs well)
□ One warm hat
□ One lightweight, packable jacket and/or vest (Synthetic is ideal for packing light)
□ 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 sandals with ankle straps to wear while kayaking, on the beaches, walking around camp, etc. (Chaco, Keens or Crocs are preferred but there are many other brands that are suitable)

Gear and Other Essentials:
□ Headlamp (it’s a good idea to pack extra batteries and possibly an extra bulb)
□ One water bottle (1 Liter works best)
□ One buff or bandanna for sun protection and cooling off
□ Camera, batteries, battery charger (Mophie battery packs (external battery pack) for all USB enabled devices are a great option)
□ Binoculars (Optional but nice for bird and wildlife watching)
□ Sunglasses, polarized are highly recommended for sun protection and enhanced clarity
□ Retaining strap for glasses and sunglasses (Chums, Croakies or similar item. We will have these for sale at the orientation meeting)
□ Extra pair of sunglasses and glasses/contacts
□ Three to four kitchen garbage can liners (These are great for wet clothes, dirty laundry, soiled shoes, etc.)
□ A few quart-size or 1-gallon Ziploc bags (Very handy for personal items as well as packing sunscreens, lotions or anything that might make a mess)
□ Books or E-reader, pen and note pad, deck of playing cards or other games, etc. (we recommend 1-2 books at most; keep games and “extras” small in size and to a minimum)

Toilet Kit/First Aid:
□ Standard toiletry kit including general hygiene products (keep liquids under 3.38 oz. for carry-ons)
□ Dry Shampoo (optional)
□ Sunscreen & lip balm with SPF 15-30
□ Pre-moistened toilette packets or disposable shower wipes to refresh
□ Personal medicines/prescriptions (Dramamine-motion sickness, Benadryl -allergic reactions, Advil or Aspirin, etc.)
□ Insect repellent
□ Skin lotion
□ Small squeeze bottle of hand-sanitizer gel

Note:  There will be no opportunity for fresh water showers once we leave the hotel.  However, bathing with salt water, regular shampoo & towel does the job well and will not leave your skin feeling sticky.