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At the northern end of Vancouver Island lies a maze of islands and waterways, full of wildlife, beautiful scenery, and the history and traditions of the Kwakwaka’wakw people (Kwakiutl). The Pacific Ocean funnels into the protected waters of Johnstone Strait creating strong tidal currents, and incredibly nutrient-rich waters. Millions of salmon, returning to spawn in the mainland rivers, must converge to pass through the Strait. Groups of orca (or killer whales) hunt the salmon in the passages.
Day 1: Port McNeill, Board “Island Odyssey”Days 2-6 : Johnstone Strait Day 7: Return to Port McNeill
On all our voyages we intentionally keep our itineraries flexible to take advantage of wildlife sightings, weather and tides, and the interests of the group. This sample itinerary describes a typical 7-day trip, however, activities may occur in a different order or be substituted by suitable alternatives. Day 1 - Our Orcas & Grizzlies sailing tour starts and finishes in Port McNeill, BC. Guests will meet in the morning at the top of the Cab’s Fuel Dock on the Port McNeill waterfront. Upon boarding “Island Odyssey”, cabins will be assigned and an introductory safety briefing will be completed. We have chosen Port McNeill as the starting point for this voyage because it is the closest port to the core killer whale area. We expect to discover our first pod or group of whales the first afternoon. You will agree that orcas are one of the most exciting marine mammals to watch as we see them foraging for salmon, spyhopping, and breaching (leaping clear of the water). Guests will learn about the behaviour of these fascinating creatures, listen to them calling on the ship’s underwater microphone, and learn how to identify individual animals. Each night we anchor in a secluded anchorage. Days 2-6 - Our focus these days will be on the waters of Johnstone Strait, the core whale watching area. In addition to multiple encounters with orca, we expect some wonderful experiences with humpback whales also. We have bveen gifted with visits from super pods of Pacific white-sided dolphins and Dall’s porpoise often come over to the boat to play on the yacht's bow wave. We will visit the modern Kwakwaka’wakw community of Alert Bay to visit the U’Mista Cultural Centre and see a fascinating collection of potlatch masks. If we have a good wind, we expect to raise the sails and enjoy the silence and beauty of sailing. There will be time to explore the protected waters using our stable, sea kayaks that we carry onboard. At the entrance to Knight Inlet is the abandoned Kwakwaka’wakw village of Mimquimlees. With permission from the local native band we will explore the old village to discover fallen totem poles and a rich heritage. With a good low tide, we may explore the shore for different species of colourful sea stars, anemone, and algae. We often hike into the coastal forest to see big trees and learn about the forest plants. Day 7 - Mid morning we return to Port McNeill to complete our voyage. Participants can catch afternoon flights back to Vancouver.
• Orca (Killer Whale)
• Humpback Whale
• Black Bear, Grizzly Bear
• Bald Eagle
• Black Oystercatcher
• American Dipper
• Chestnut-backed Chickadee
• Pigeon guillemots
• Rhinoceros auklets
The Island Odyssey is the sister-ship to Island Roamer. Originally built as a luxurious private yacht in 1984, she completed a major renovation in 2003 to update the cabins and all safety systems on this 68 ketch. She features 8 private cabins (double occupancy), 3 heads with hot showers and a comfortable salon with a natural history library. On deck, the large deckhouse provides a comfortable spot to watch for wildlife.
A certified Canadian Ministry of Transport passenger vessel, Island Odyssey has all of the safety equipment, electronic navigation aids, and features you would expect from a vessel of her standard. All of our cabins have adequate storage space for your bags, personal items and jackets. Coat hangers and life jackets are stowed in every cabin for your convenience. There is electricity in each room, so you can charge your camera batteries and enjoy a reading light as you relax in the evening.
We have 8 private cabins, based on double occupancy. At the time of booking, you may request a type of cabin you would like - single berths or if you and your travelling partner prefer, a double berth cabin. Single travellers do not have the choice of the double berth cabin. Specific room bookings are up to the crew once you have arrived onboard the vessel.
On our British Columbia Orcas and Grizzlies sailing tour, as in all of our destinations, our itineraries remain flexible. This allows the crew to take time to enjoy wildlife sightings, spend more time at an ancient village site, or simply cater to the interests of the group.
Usually on the Pacific Coast we have a good variety of constantly changing weather. Expect a mixture of sunshine, rain and wind on most trips. You will require waterproof rain gear and rubberboots as most of our landings will be wet, where you will be stepping into the water and onto the beach.
We travel in protected areas most of the time. On many days of the summer this coast is like sailing on a lake - flat and calm. Sometimes we cross into open water for short periods of time where we may experience greater motion. If you are prone to motion sickness it is a good idea to bring sea sickness medication. Check with your doctor.
All of our meals are served buffet style. We can usually accommodate most special dietary concerns if we are given sufficient advance notice.Typical DayIn the morning, you might expect to have breakfast served around 8am. If you are an early riser there is always the opportunity for a morning kayak around the secluded bay we are anchored in. After the meal, a shore excursion will take place - Either to search for wildlife, look at intertidal zones, or go for a culture/nature hike. We will load into the zodiacs and take off to see what nature has in store for us. Bring your backpack, water bottle and camera! You never know what you will see on these outings.
We come back to the boat for a gourmet lunch served by one of our amazing chefs. At this time, the skipper might take us to our next destination, while we look for more wildlife along the shores, or try to find pods of whales. The crew will be explaining all the places we are passing and all the species that you might see flying, swimming, or walking near the vessel. If something is of interest we will stop or slow down to enjoy. We are never in any hurry. We travel to all of our destinations only when the weather and wildlife is consistently good - And our skippers are experts and finding exciting things to show you. A stop at an ancient village site is always a unique experience for our guests. After lunch, we might spend some time relaxing, while the crew puts up the sails and takes you through a passage or strait. This would be a good time to reflect in a journal or take a book from our extensive reading library. If we are lucky, you may see some Humpbacks frolicking in the waters around the boat. If this happens we turn off the engines and float silently among them - quite spectacular. Before dinner we might do a light hike to bear stands to view some grizzly or black bears feeding on the salmon, or enjoy an afternoon kayak. We serve dinner and then might go for a dip in some remote hotsprings along the coast, and then come back to the boat and enjoy some BC wine.
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