Coast Mountain Expedition Adventure Tours & Multi-Day Sea Kayaking Trips on Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Wildlife in our area
The Discovery Islands are one of Canada’s most diverse and abundant natural environments and on our kayak camping trips you will enjoy opportunities to observe many kinds of west coast wildlife close-up. In the temperate rainforest, nature is often camouflaged to challenge observing eyes, but much of our sea and shore life is brightly visible.
Wildlife varies throughout the season, depending on the availability of food and lifecycle behaviours. Many sea and shore birds are abundant and especially active in early summer – also when the area’s plentiful population of bald eagles is mating, nesting and highly visible. The Discovery Islands wilderness is also home to the world’s last near-normal population of the tiny and endangered Marbled Murrelet.
While kayaking, you can expect to see wildlife in the air, on and under the water, and along the shores. Seals are frequent companions, in the water and onshore. Mink, otters, raccoon, and blacktail deer are also common. Summer brings large active pods of pacific white-sided dolphin and harbour porpoise. We are just south of where summer resident orca (killer whales) are common, but transient orca (killer whales) frequently traverse local waters. Venturing into the mainland fjords we sometimes seen black bear along the shore.
From the kayak we also see many species of marine sea birds, as individuals and in large flocks. Which birds we see, when we see them, and flock size has changed over the years, no doubt due to many factors, including climate change. Nesting times (April through June) are the best times for bird viewing but various species show up throughout the summer, taking advantage of the rich marine food supply to recover from nesting in-land or on extended stays during intercontinental migrations. Here is an abbreviated list of our most common birds: Common Loon, Surf Scoters, Merganzers, Coots, Oyster Catchers, Murres, Marbled Murrelets, Guillimots, Golden Eyes, Grebes, 6-8 varieties of Gulls, Buffleheads, Turkey Vultures, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Sandpipers, Harlequin Ducks.
Seals, Sea Lions & Otters
Harbour Seals are our most common marine mammal. They frequently inspect us as we paddle and following our kayaks their little heads pop up to meet us anywhere and everywhere. It’s also fun to watch groups of them hauled out on inter-tidal reefs and rocks. Steller and California sea lions are less common, but also inhabit local waters. They often travel alone, and they haul out in large bachelor groups in some preferred areas. The Discovery Islands are the northern boundary for Elephant Seals so sightings are rare and exciting. River otters are common to this area and it’s fun to watch them playing along the shore – or on our docks and floats!
Whales & other Cetaceans
The Discovery Islands are home to transient orca (killer whales), humpback whales, and other cetaceans which can be seen on a regular basis. Whales are frequently sighted from our lodges and transit our kayak routes, but not so regular that we can guarantee day to day sightings. There are also other cetaceans common to the area, including Harbour porpoise, Pacific white-sided dolphin, Dall porpoise and Minke whales.
Studies point to human activity as a primary reason for the decline in whale populations and locally, tourism is a significant disturbing activity. We fully understand the appeal and excitement of being close to these gentle and magnificent wild creatures, but we are also concerned about the constant impact of human observers and paparazzi power boats. Surprisingly, the silent approach of kayaks is also known to disturb and stress orca (killer whales). We treasure our opportunities to observe whales and promote the guidelines for safe and respectful viewing.
Local mammals common to the area include mink, weasel, racoon, beaver, mice, voles, blacktail deer, black bears, wolves and cougar. Spotting these creatures from the kayak is challenging because west coast forest is dense and because survival for these creatures includes blending visually with their environment. The large predators are shy and avoid meeting up with humans. We are thrilled when we occasionally hear a chorus of wolves howling in the distance.
Grizzly bears need large territory and BC’s wild mainland inlets provide an exceptionally rich and varied habitat. On rare occasions there have been (short term) grizzly bear sightings on a few of the large Discovery Islands – bears swim, too! – but the islands aren’t big enough to support these bears that roam the vast high country in summer. Despite their reputation, Grizzlies are usually shy and prefer to avoid people, so opportunities for seeing them are pretty much limited to mainland sites (e.g. Bute & Toba Inlets) in late summer and fall at the rivers where salmon are running. This is where grizzlies come to fatten up on high protein salmon before heading back to the high country for hibernation. Best viewing opportunities are along salmon streams – when bears tend to fixate on fishing and ignore quietly observing humans. Nevertheless, extreme caution must be exercised in these areas and appropriate bear safe protocols are important.
The grizzly bears feed at many salmon streams in Bute Inlet, but Orford River has the highest concentration and most reliable chances for exceptional viewing. In Bute Inlet we use services of the local Xwemalhkwu First Nation because they provide a safe opportunity for intentional encounters with grizzlies. You can join our Orford River Grizzly Expedition if you want to see bears really-up-close and really-safe!
Our Kayak Tours
Our goal is to provide safe, environmentally responsible, educational and fun-filled sea kayaking Vancouver Island adventures along British Columbia’s most beautiful wilderness coast! No previous experience is required for our Vancouver Island kayak tours; we’ve designed our kayaking trips to accommodate different levels of experience and ability. Many people on our tours are first-time kayak paddlers, but seasoned kayakers will also have challenging and rewarding journeys exploring some of British Columbia’s most extraordinary west coast wilderness. We welcome everybody, all we ask is that you bring along your spirit of adventure – and be ready for a lot of fun!