If a full day of kayaking is in order, expect to paddle for about four hours. You'll generally paddle about two hours in the morning, stop for a long lunch break, and then paddle again in the afternoon. Most days on this itinerary are a blend of kayaking, hiking, natural history, or aboriginal tours, so the actual amount will vary by day and by group.
Our British Columbia Unbound tour dates are chosen specifically to place all of our guests right in the middle of orca season. The northern resident pods are found in the Strait between mid-July and mid-September when salmon, their primary prey, come from the ocean to spawn in the rivers of mainland British Columbia. With more than 220 individually-identified whales in 17 separate pods within the region and guides carrying radios throughout the tour, our guests have an excellent chance of seeing orcas in the area. However, we often recommend August for the best British Columbia weather.
Here at British Columbia Unbound, we follow the "Be Whale Wise" regulations for the protection of the whales. Within these regulations it states that no one is allowed within 200 yards/meters of an orca. We're privileged to have the opportunity for viewing these beautiful creatures from close vantage points. The very survival of the species, let alone the wonder of seeing them in their natural habitat, depends on everyone's cooperation in the "Be Whale Wise" regulations. Orca can travel much faster than kayakers, however, so occasionally they approach us much closer than the above guidelines. From land, you may have your closest encounters, as the whales often come within meters of the shoreline! Understanding the behavior and range of the orcas helps to better-set your expectations for your orca kayak tour. More details on their regulations can be found at their website, www.BeWhaleWise.org.
To our knowledge, the orcas of Johnstone Strait have never bumped a kayak or attacked a swimmer. While many believe orcas to be seal-eaters, some don't even eat mammals. The "killer whales" of the Johnstone Straight, in particular, come to eat the salmon in this narrow channel. Whales are acutely aware of their surroundings and we feel safe being in their presence. A wild orca has never killed or severely injured a human in recorded history.
We have two recommended trip extensions available through local experienced operators that can take you where the orca sightings are reported. These extensions are both by boat, which allow for a better opportunity to keep up with the whales. Our friends at Mackay Whale Watching tours or Stubbs Island Whale Watching can help you with this.
While we have a 98% success rate for seeing orcas on the appropriate tours, they are wild animals that roam at will. Thus, we are unable to guarantee a sighting. To increase your opportunities for seeing the orcas, or simply to enjoy even more whale watching, you might want to add an extra day to your vacation to go on a Stubb's Island Whale Watching trip that is operated by motor skiff. Their motorized boat allows them to cover more ground in search of orcas and humpbacks throughout the Johnstone Strait area.
Any hotel stays before and after your tour, transportation to the launch site, costs of a personal nature (shopping) and tips are not included in tour costs.