Orca Camp: Kayaking with Whales

Launch off our beach on North Vancouver Island  to kayak with whales. Untamed, inspiring, remote and magical, Warden Beach on the Johnstone Strait is home to Orca Camp for over 40 years and is your staging ground for adventures both wild and mild. The very heart of Orca territory, our base camp is adjacent to the world’s only designated Killer Whale habitat at Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve. A blue crescent lapping at the skirt of its raw, rocky shores, you’ll find pure Canadian wilderness here. Remote, yet accessible, it’s a one-hour cruise from Pt. McNeill through the Johnstone Strait, one of the best places for whale watching on Vancouver Island.

Days that are measured in wildlife sightings and the number of Orca shots on your camera begin and end at base camp. Off the grid, unplugged, disconnected from urban living, this is where you’ll reconnect with the natural world…and with each other.

Ecosummer Orca Camp

There's a reason Travel and Leisure magazine has ranked kayak whale-watching on Johnstone Strait one of the Top10 Reasons to visit Canada this summer. (We'll add in an awesome exchange rate, a pristine location, and time away from life's busyness as extra motivation)

Posted by Ecosummer Expeditions on Friday, April 22, 2016


Serene Oceanfront Base Camp

An old-growth rainforest of cedar and fir hugs the rugged, rock-strewn shore of base camp. Sleeping tents are tucked into private nooks, scattered throughout the forest, overlooking the beach and the bay beyond. Find tranquility in your tent, listening to songbirds greet the morning. Drink in the mossy scent of the forest, restoring your energy after a day kayaking with whales. Fall asleep to the plunk, plunk, plunk sound of jumping salmon. Enjoy the deep kind of restful sleep you can only have in total darkness, beneath the canopy of the forest.

Slumber beneath a blanket of stars in tents that have been assembled with both your comfort and privacy in mind. Each tent is built on a stable wooden platform, waterproofed, and cushioned with tent pads. Single guests enjoy the spaciousness of a two-person tent, while couples can spread out in a tent for four people. Sleeping at the shoreline often means chilly nights, but you won’t notice that from inside the cozy sleeping bags we provide.

Days of Exploration – Kayaking the Johnstone Strait Tours

Weather and whales dictate the order of the day at Orca Camp. The pace of paddling? That’s defined by the group’s abilities. You can count on four to six hours of exploration every time you head out. Not all of that time will be spent paddling, though, there are plenty of rest stops to stretch your legs, indulging in snack breaks, and picnics on the beach.

Orca Whales

The Best Time to Whale Watch

July to September is the best times to whale watch in the Johnstone Strait, when Northern Resident Orcas feed on salmon running in their territorial waters. Transient Orcas, who only feed on other marine life, join the Northern Residents in our coastal waters each summer. Combined, their numbers reach well over 290, creating one of the greatest Orca populations found anywhere in the world, considerably increasing your chances of seeing Killer Whales in their own habitat. For your convenience, we recommend planning ahead and reserving your kayak camp seats early and plan ahead.

Whale Watching Vacation for Nature Lovers

Spotting Orcas in the wild is a privileged and exhilarating experience – each, and every, time you spy them. You’ll never forget any encounter, especially perched in an ocean kayak, watching a dorsal fin slice through the water, surfacing and retreating again. Witness it all, mere inches above the ocean, from the seat of a kayak, appreciating just how incredible the natural world can be.

While it’s exciting to see these mighty creatures in the wild, the safety of our guests and the whales is our primary concern. Our guides follow the Cetus Society’s whale watching guidelines requiring that all vessels and sightseers maintain a distance of at least 100 metres from the animal. Wild creatures can be unpredictable, which doesn’t rule out a close encounter of the Orca kind; but those once-in-a-lifetime moments only occur when whales decide to approach.

Fuel Up for Adventure - Kayak the Johnstone Strait,  BC

A hearty breakfast, overlooking the secluded bay, fuels your appetite for the endless possibilities and adventures ahead. Suit up and put in. Paddle the shoreline, searching for Orcas and Humpbacks. Raft up as a group to kayak across the Johnstone Strait, in the shadow of freighters and passing cruise ships. Which route you kayak varies each day, but one thing is certain, finding whales will be at the top of the agenda.

Drift and bob above an underwater grove of kelp, contemplating a pod of sea lions fishing for salmon, playing amongst the fronds. Marvel at the acrobatics of Pacific white-sided dolphins, dancing on top of the ocean. Picnic on a pebbled beach, scanning the horizon for signs of Orca activity, savouring those quiet moments in nature, reflecting on the morning’s paddle, recharging for your afternoon adventure.

Natural & Cultural Attractions

Most days you’ll put in after breakfast and return in the late afternoon. In between you’ll explore the natural and cultural attractions of the Johnstone Strait with expert guides at your side. Adventure guides all of them, they’ll not only teach you how to paddle, but share their intimate knowledge of the Johnstone Strait, the history of its First Nations people, and about the whales, porpoises, sea lions, and other marine life that call these waters home.

Continually in radio contact with fishermen and local whale researchers, our guides will direct you to quiet inlets, secret coves, and hidden bays where you are most likely to witness these mighty mammals skimming through the ocean.

On those rare occasions when Orcas are feeding elsewhere, there’s still plenty to explore. Hike an ancient rainforest trail of the Kwakiutl First Nation. A tribal elder and interpretive guide will lead you through the rainforest, sharing stories of his people, this fragile ecosystem and the majestic creatures that live here. Explore cascading waterfalls, just a short hike from Robson Bight Eco Reserve. Take a front row seat watching local fisherman practice the traditional form of purse seine fishing just off shore, in one of the most robust fishing grounds in the Johnstone Strait.


Gather Around the Campfire

A dry pair of socks, and dinner cooked over a blazing campfire is your reward for paddling each day. Gather around the campfire. Warm your toes, watching for whales passing by camp, en route to neighbouring Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve.

Take in the setting sun as it dips into the ocean, creating a pastel sky of pinks and purples that eventually fade into a twinkling blanket of stars. Listen to the pulse of the ocean bringing in the tide. Breathe in the salty sea air. Realize that life without laptops or TV is okay, Mother Nature puts on quite a show all her own.

Magical Moments - More than a Kayaking Tour

Something magical happens to people at Orca Camp. Transformative things. Restorative things. Stretching your boundaries is part of that experience, learning new skills, connecting with others, and communing in nature are all part of it too. Fresh, ocean air, wholesome food, and days spent kayaking with Orcas have a way of mysteriously transforming a group of 10 strangers into an intimate group of newfound friends, all in the course of a few short days.

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