Thar She Blows: A World of Whales
The best place to see wild orca whales are the bays and inlets of the Canadian Northwest. While orcas can be observed from large vessels, nothing beats a sea kayak for close encounters. Some of the best orca trips are led by David Arcese's Northern Lights Expeditions. This able outfitters' 6- and 7-day kayak tours explore the Inside Passage along Vancouver Island to Robson Bight, in close proximity to the whales. Northern Lights has this trip wiredfor the past several seasons, its guides have been able to identify many individual whales who return to these waters every year. Price is $949.
Northern Lights also conducts a special 7-day trip at the end of the season in which kayakers stay in Farewell Harbour Lodge (hot tubs included) instead of camping. Cost of this tour: $1,495. For information contact Northern Lights Expeditions, 6141 N.E. Bothell Way, #101, Seattle, WA 98155, 800.754.7402, 206.483.6396. If Northern Light's trips are booked, Discovery Expeditions, 2755 Departure Rd., Nanaimo, BC V9S 3W9, Canada, 800.567.3611, 604.758.2488, also offers 6-day and 4-day kayak trips to the Northwest's prime orca grounds. Their trips run continuously from July 1 through mid-September and cost $750 and $600 respectively.
For viewing orcas from a larger craft, we recommend Adventure Canada's 8-day "Whales and Glaciers" June trip on the comfortable 65-foot sailing yacht Ocean Light. The vessel will navigate the protected inland waters of Johnstone Straight, Desolation Sound and Robson Bight, following three or more orca pods. Hydrophones are fitted to the vessel, allowing participants to hear the whales communicate. Trips cost CDN$1,995 (roughly US $1,500) and depart from Port Hardy in British Columbia. (Call early, this very popular trip fills up fast.) Contact Adventure Canada, 800.363.7566. If you want to voyage in mid-summer, similar orca-watching trips on the Ocean Light also run in the Queen Charlotte Islands from July through August. This trip departs from Sandspit, BC also at a cost of CDN$1,995. The sailing route is a bit further south, but you should still see many orcas.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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