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Spirit of the West Adventures | Whale & Dolphin Watching


The Tour: Kayaking with killer whales

Our adventure begins the moment we step off the docks of Campbell River and Quadra Island, onto our high speed Catamaran. Relax in comfort as we whisk you up the scenic waterways of the inside passage to our remote wilderness camp on the edge of Johnstone Strait. Our camp, located directly across from Robson Bight, is considered to be one of the best Killer Whale observation areas in Johnstone Strait.

As we follow the coastline north, our journey by sea provides us with optimum wildlife viewing opportunities. Chances are excellent for sighting Porpoises, Dolphins, Black Bears, Eagles and Killer Whales while en-route. The Johnstone Strait Ultimate adventure offers the best opportunity to paddle in the realm of the Orcas. On the rare occasion that we do not see the whales there will be plenty of other wildlife viewing opportunities. It is not uncommon to see Black Bears foraging along the shores for seafood during low tide. Equally as fascinating is the abundant and colorful marine life one can see below the surface. From our base camp we will spend our days exploring the area, and return back to our established campsite for the evenings.

"Why is this is our most popular tour? "

We have listed a few ideas here. Once you try it, let us know if we missed anything.

Killer Whales and Kayaks
Maybe its because we take you right to the heart of the world of the Orcas. Nearly 230 of these majestic and playful creatures (the killer whale label only applies when it comes to salmon or seals) inhabit the area surrounding our permanent Spirit of the West base camp. With a better than 90% sighting success rate during the season, and the opportunity to see humpback whales, sea lions, dolphins, black bears, and eagles, this trip is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream come to life.

Getting There is Half the Fun
Your Johnstone Strait adventure begins when you climb aboard our high speed ‘Orca Express’ catamaran and head north from the Campbell River waterfront through treacherous Seymour Narrows and into the wilderness beyond. Having a supply boat take our group in to a base camp means we can haul in extra gear, extra food, and get to our remote destination extra fast. What could take 2 or 3 days of hard paddling is compressed into an exhilarating 2.5 hr boat ride through some of the most striking scenery on the planet. More than one guest has mentioned they enjoyed the run up (and back) almost as much as the rest of the trip. When you arrive you’relaxed, rested and ready for adventure.

Our Base Camp
For those who haven’t tried it, base camping has some big advantages over a typical multi-day kayak trip. There is less time spent making and then breaking camp each day, and more time on the lookout for Orcas or exploring the shoreline. Comfortable amenities include big tents on platforms, a wood-fired hot tub and on-demand propane hot water shower, our permanent wilderness gourmet kitchen, and what may be the nicest bush toilet on the West Coast of Canada this takes camping with a kayak to a whole new level.

    ‘the sun was shining, water was crystal clear, whales swimming around us and some even singing to us; life couldn’t get any better!’”   

—Connie L, Calgary Canada

Listening to the Whales Sing
Our base camp is equipped with an underwater hydrophone so we can listen to their beautiful songs of the orca as they pass by our camp. We also carry portable hydrophones with us for use while we are in the kayaks.

What’s Cooking?
We just have to mention it. One of the perks that come with the base camp is a permanent kitchen for our cooks to prepare your food. This means mostly organic fresh fruits and vegetables, gourmet meals, and 24-hour snacks. It is a Spirit of the West guarantee you will never go hungry, even after a hard day’s paddling in the fresh air. On the first evening we feature a traditional wild salmon Barbeque.

Sample Itinerary

Day 1: A warm welcome and introduction to your Tour Guides and Captain will prepare you for your adventure. Our route takes us up the waterway of the Discovery Passage, and safely through the infamous Seymour Narrows renowned for its treacherous tidal flows and whirlpools. Killer whales, black bears, and porpoises may be seen en-route. After an approx. 2.5 hour journey we arrive at our remote wilderness base camp, situated across from the pristine Tsitika River valley and the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. After settling into our new surroundings, we will go over kayak orientation and safety procedures before setting off on an afternoon paddle. That evening relax and enjoy the view from our wood-fired hot tub overlooking the water.

Day 2 & Day 3: After our hearty breakfast we will paddle up the scenic coast in search of the Orca. During low tide we will also keep a look out for Black Bears as they are known to forage along the shores rummaging for intertidal snacks. We may choose to hike up forest trails to the high viewing platforms used by researchers studying the habits of the whales. Lunches will be savored on one of the many beaches of the Strait. Sightings of Dalls porpoises, sea lions, seals, otters, cormorants, marbled murrelets, and the eminent bald eagle are common. Although these days can be packed full of activities, there is also plenty of opportunity for those who want to kick back and relax at camp and enjoy the stunning surroundings.

Day 4: This is our last day to Kayak with killer whales or at least hope to have a good sighting, or simply enjoy the marine environment of Johnstone Strait. Our boat transport will pick us up in the afternoon and we will arrive back on Quadra Island and Campbell River by late afternoon (between 4 & 6 pm weather and wildlife dependent).



June • July • August • September



Vessel types

Kayak / Canoe

Times and prices


4 Day Johnstone Strait Tour 2012 

Kayak with killer whales 

CDN $1145

(US prices may fluctuate as they are based on current exchange rates)

Tour Dates:
June 28 - July 2 Special 5 day tour (call us for details)

July 2-5, 5-8, 8-11, 11-14, 14-17, 17-20, 20-23, 23-26, 26-29, July29-Aug.1
Aug. 1-4, 4-7, 7-10, 10-13, 13-16, 16-19, 19-22, 22-25, 25-28, 28-31, 31-Sept 3
Sept. 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15, 15-18, 18-22 (special 5 day tour, call for details) 


Tour price:

Prices are quoted in Canadian dollars. Where US prices are quoted they are only approximate. Payment in US$ will be credited at the current exchange rate. Price includes qualified guides, kayaking equipment, tents, sleeping mats, first-aid and safety supplies, meals and watertaxi transport to Johnstone Strait. Prices do not include 12% HST. (Harmonized sales tax) 



About our skippers and naturalist guides


Our staff are simply exceptional and match the culture and spirit of our organization. They all have an amazing passion for kayaking Vancouver Island and for the killer whales in the BC waters that make it such a great experience.

Terms like self-reliance, adaptability, responsibility, confidence, and sense of humour all come to mind when describing their qualities. Considering that guides must perform in the multiple roles of wilderness guide, gourmet chef, role model and educator, it's no surprise that they come from a wide variety of professions and backgrounds to each bring a unique and valued perspective to the way our business runs.

Our guides are extremely skilled in kayaking, back country travel, responsible environmental practices, and high levels of first aid and safety procedures, continually upgrading their training and striving to improve knowledge and skills. And all our staff are adventurers in their own right - traveling and wilderness tripping does't pause for us when the season's over! Personal and training trips around the British Columbia coast and around the world keep us on top of our game. At the end of the day, what we ensure is that every trip is as safe and memorable as can be, and that you will not be disappointed kayaking the British Columbia coast.



Carbon neutral • Deck with 360?vision • Naturalist guide(s) as well as skipper • On board hydrophone • Reading material available • Restrooms / toilets on board • Scenic backdrop to encounters • Snacks / drinks • Support conservation • Use a code of conduct

We frequently

Listen to whale song • Listen to whales and dolphins • See a whale's tail • See leaping dolphins • See leaping whales • Watch whales and dolphins

Baleen Whales

Humpback Whale

Toothed Whales

Killer Whale / Orca

Ocean Dolphins

Pacific White-sided Dolphin


Dall's Porpoise • Harbour Porpoise

Town / City
Heriot Bay
State / County
British Columbia
Zip / Postcode
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2013 Responsible Whale Watch Partnership:Click here to read more about the partnership