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: Embarkation, Port McNeill
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: Johnstone Strait
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: Departure
Mid morning we return to Port McNeill to complete our voyage. Participants can catch afternoon flights back to Vancouver.
Departures & Prices
More dates may be available than those listed - contact us for more information.
Tour Price Includes
- All meals from lunch on Day 1 to breakfast on the last day
- All accommodation onboard ship; skipper, cook, naturalist;
- Full use of all onboard facilities, including kayaks.
Tour Price Does Not Include
- Transportation to the start point and from the finish point of the trip
- Accommodation or meals prior to the start of the trip or after the completion
- Travel or cancellation insurance
- Airport transfers
- $100 CAD / $85 USD Sustainability fee
- Taxes (5% GST)
- The only money participants require during the trip is for optional purchases and gratuities for the crew.
What to Expect
What to Expect
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.
Ship & Deck Plan
Ship & Deck Plan
Joining us in 2003, this 68 ketch, 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. 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.Learn More
The newly built, SV Island Solitude is 82′ long and accommodates twelve guests in six cabins. Each is furnished with two lower berths and a private ensuite bathroom, complete with a hot shower. The spacious wheelhouse, located on the main deck, accommodates the entire group during meal time where guests will enjoy healthy and deliciously prepared food surrounded by 360-degree views.
Built on the British Columbia coast with the environment in mind, the engines exceed EPA emission standards. Designed specifically for expedition travel, Island Solitude provides elegance and comfort in while exploring some of the most remote and beautiful coastal areas.
There is plenty of space on deck for wildlife watching with 2 zodiacs for daily shore excursions and 5 stable sea kayaks for guests to use whenever the vessel is at anchor.Learn More
Even though we cannot guarantee a sighting of the animals below, we feel quite confident that an encounter with the ones listed below is quite likely.
- Orca (Killer Whale)
- Humpback Whale
- Black Bear, Grizzly Bear
- Bald Eagle
- Black Oystercatcher
- American Dipper
- Chestnut-backed Chickadee
- Pigeon guillemots
- Rhinoceros auklets