Bluewater Adventures invites you to watch whales, see the elusive all-white Spirit Bear in the wilderness, visit ancient Native villages along remote shorelines, shower under a waterfall, soak in a remote hotsprings or kayak up to an unexplored beach.

Voyage around Vancouver Island North


Northern Vancouver Island

Northern Vancouver Island

Johnstone Strait is the best place in the world to see orcas / killer whales. Visit Alert Bay and Village Island, see diverse marine mammals and view grizzly bears up Knight Inlet! Departs: Port Hardy, BC / Port McNeill, BC

 

...A maze of islands and waterways, full of wildlife, beautiful scenery, and the history and traditions of the Kwakwaka’wakw people...


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 orcas (or killer whales) hunt the salmon in the passages.

Trip Highlights
The waters of Johnstone Strait are considered the best place in the world to observe Orcinus orca (killer whales). Here are a few of the exciting whale behaviours we have seen from “Island Roamer”:

• Orcas swim over to the boat, surface, giving us a chance to see their full bodies under the water, and sometimes roll on their side to look at us.

• Breaching is when an orca leaps clear of the water and falls back with a huge splash

• Orcas often spyhop, raising their upper bodies clear of the water to look at the above-water environment

• The ship’s hydrophone (underwater microphone) enables us to hear orcas vocalize – communicating under the water

• Large numbers of orcas congregate in Johnstone Strait a few times each summer. These ‘superpod’ groups are extremely exciting and we can only hope to be there - and have lots of film on hand.

Johnstone Strait is considered the core killer whale area. However, we could encounter orcas at any point during the voyage as they travel miles every day. Some of our anchorages are chosen so that we may hear orcas swim past. This is truly a unique opportunity to see whales in the wild.

Very close to Robson Bight is the old Kwakwaka’wakw village of Mimquimlees. In 1921, police arrested the elders holding a “potlatch” ceremony here, and confiscated their prized ceremonial masks.

The potlatch is a community event to witness changes in status (weddings, deaths, achievements). The government outlawed the ceremony believing it would help native people gain a good work ethic and speed their conversion to Christianity. Many of the masks and priceless pieces of art were then secretly sold to museum collections across North America. Today, at Mimquimlees, with permission of the band, we will see elaborately carved totem poles and the remains of native “great houses”. Inhabited for perhaps thousands of years, the village withstood attack, disease epidemics, and the laws banning the “potlatch”, before abandonment earlier this century.

The Kwakwaka’wakw people from most of the old villages moved to the government cannery town of Alert Bay. The excellent U’Mista Cultural Centre now holds some of the famous potlatch masks and other interesting artifacts. Today in Alert Bay, children are once again being taught the native language, traditional dances, and art and family stories.
Black bears are frequently spotted among the islands on these trips. They like to roam the shore, feeding on crabs and other intertidal organisms. However, it is the opportunity to see grizzly bears feeding on spawning salmon that makes this trip unique! It is a classic wildlife experience. There are few places in the world that can provide consistent, safe and incredible grizzly bear viewing. Glendale Cove up Knight Inlet is one of them, and has now become one of British Columbia’s premier wildlife viewing sites.
This area has a very rich and varied bird population. Many people will be amazed at the number of bald eagles we see on the trip. Colorful seabirds such as oystercatchers, pigeon guillemots and rhinoceros auklets are common and we see large numbers of smaller water birds, such as phalaropes. With the help of interested trip members we will keep a list of the birds and animals we sight during the trip.

Click to Download Brochure

Vancouver Island North - Trip Brochure


Download your 4-page brochure on Vancouver Island North.
You will need a pdf reader to view the brochure.
Includes: Coastal History, Whales, Bears, Birds, Research and more.

View Brochure

Gallery
Photos
Northern Vancouver Island - Orcas Humpback tail - Bruce WhittingtonNorthern Vancouver Island - The Black BearNorthern Vancouver Island - aboard the vessel Totems - Northern Vancouver IslandRoamer Misty Morning - Jen Pukonen 

 

Map & Location

Trip ItineraryOrca watching in Johnstone StraitOn 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 - This trip 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 orca watching area. We expect to have multiple encounters with the orcas. Each experience is different. Humpback whales are usually in the area, and Dall’s porpoise often come over to the boat to play on the 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. For additional information specific to your trip please refer to your Bluewater Adventures Reservation Package or contact our office.

Click to Download Itinerary

Vancouver Island North - Trip Itinerary


Download your 3-page Trip Itinerary on Vancouver Island North.
You will need a pdf reader to view the itinerary.
Includes: daily activities, travel information, accommodations & contacts.

View Itinerary

2015 Schedule, Prices & Trip Availability
Orcas, Totems & Grizzly Bears


Observe grizzlies feeding on spawning salmon up Knight Inlet, orcas and humpback whales feeding in Johnstone Strait. Join us onboard the Island Odyssey for a great adventure through Northern Vancouver Island.

Aboard Island Odyssey Duration Price Embark / Disembark Availability
 July 31 - Aug 6  7 days   $ 4,150 CAD  Port McNeill / Port McNeill Booked
 August 7 - 13  7 days   $ 4,150 CAD  Port McNeill / Port McNeill Call for Availability
 August 14 - 20  7 days   $ 4,150 CAD  Port McNeill / Port McNeill Call for Availability
 August 21- 27  7 days   $ 4,150 CAD  Port McNeill / Port McNeill Space Available

To support conservation efforts on the west coast, a $100 Sustainability Fee will be applied to rates at time of booking. Dates and prices are subject to change. Some departures may be reserved for groups. If you are interested in chartering a date for your group, special pricing is available.

Please contact us