Kayak @ Vancouver Island – Whales, Orca, Grizzly Bears
My friend, Amanda, had wanted to visit western Canada for a few years now. I’d been before, but
that was 20+ years ago, so…a bit of New Year’s madness soon led to ideas flowing back-and- forth.
Somethings we agreed on pretty quickly - that we wanted to kayak somewhere on Vancouver Island,
and that we wanted to have a good chance of seeing humpbacks, orca and grizzly bears. The
camping with no flush toilets or shower may have been my idea…
Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures 4 day/ 3 night ‘Whales and Grizzly Bears – Base Camp’ tour fit the
bill – and so in late August 10 of us (+ guides) hopped on a water taxi and got dropped off at Hanson
Island, at the north eastern end of Vancouver Island.
We were on the water from that afternoon, and soon spotting humpbacks “blow” in the distance
and frolicking seals much closer. I was impressed with the kayak gear, and the care of the guides.
Some of the group had never paddled before but by the end of the afternoon they were hooked on
how being in a kayak can get you so close to nature. Amanda and I were the most experienced
paddlers so had been put in the singles on day one. By the next day there was a queue for the single
kayaks and no-one keen for Big Bertha (a triple running as a double). The food was amazing, and our
guides often delivered dessert to us “on the point” as we sat watching the incredible scenery.
The next day and a half were pretty foggy, but that also meant the most amazing calm seas. The VHF
radio was kept busy checking in with other tour operators (motor boat and kayak) about where the
whales and orca were spotted. We were incredibly lucky to see plenty of both as well as sea lions,
harbour dolphins, seals, occasional deer, a wide range of seabirds – and 200m from camp was a
smaller island with nesting bald eagles including a juvenile being taught how to fish. Often as we
relaxed back at camp or headed for bed you would hear another “blow” and turn back to a vantage
On the last night at camp - and after a short night paddle/ float to watch the sun go down - we heard
major splashing and laughter. The guides had found phosphorescence in the bay and soon there
were a whole group of us trailing hands in the water, skipping rocks and generally enjoying this
wonder of nature.
The last day we had a 2-hour motor boat ride to Knight Inlet where grizzly bears come to feed before
hibernation. The salmon was not yet running freely, but the mums with 1 year and 2 year cubs were
definitely keen to eat the grasses.
We were definitely lucky in the wildlife we saw, no doubt about that. But the location and the
experience would have been magic with much less. If you are planning to be on Vancouver Island,
definitely recommend putting aside 3-10 days to join one of the major kayak tour companies in the