August 31, 2020

Kayaking in Johnstone Strait

An invitation to go kayaking with friends landed us at a remote base camp on Hanson Island, northeast of Vancouver Island, in Johnstone Strait. During the summer months, the waterway is a busy feeding ground for many Orcas, Humpback, Grey, Fin and Minke whales, as well as; dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, eagles, and the list goes on.

Aside from the menagerie of wildlife, vast wilderness and stunning vistas (which are reasons enough to go), this region is one of the premier destinations for sea kayaking worldwide. Who knew?

I’ll be honest; this was not on my bucket list; a 3-day kayaking trip was pretty ambitious, even for this girl. I know, right?! Trying to tell both my son’s “I’m going on a 3-day kayaking adventure up north,” my oldest son sent me texts like “who are you?” and “LMAO!” Yes, yes, HILARIOUS, I get it! I have a reputation for being a city dweller, and I’m okay with it.

Truthfully, I had to get my head around this. Kayaking and base camping are not my usual, challenging me to get out of my comfort zone. That said, I was up for the challenge and didn’t want to disappoint.

It’s approximately a 6-hour journey from Vancouver, with an overnight in Port McNeill, where we met with our guide from Kingfisher Adventure Tours for a short orientation meeting. The next morning, it was early to rise with a quick water taxi to Hanson Island. We landed safely on the rocks with our dry bags and supplies, and the four of us were ready for three days of adventure with our guides. There was no turning back.

After a pot of french press coffee (hitting the spot) and an orientation tour of base camp, we were ready to go kayaking, cuz, that’s why I’m here, right?  Our guides were excellent, giving us a quick tutorial on the kayaks and preparing us for what we could expect on our first paddle.

The weather was overcast, and the water was crystal clear and calm; otherwise, perfect conditions, “Oh my god, I’m actually doing this!” 

Paddling with my guy in a double kayak made for a sturdier ride. It also gave me confidence knowing that he was behind me, just in case. It wasn’t long before we encountered our first whale, followed by dolphins, seals and eagles, not to mention one very pesky Steller sea lion! Trying to dodge him was not an easy task. It was our quick-reacting guide who distracted the sea lion by slapping her paddle in the water, shouting to us, “keep paddling!”

We must have been a sight, paddling as fast as we could, resembling more of a ski boat than a kayak. LOL! We finally managed to rid our sea lion friend, laughing at our efforts and realizing that wildlife can be unpredictable.

photo by Audrey Brassel, Kingfisher Tours

Camping isn’t for the faint of heart, or at least that’s been my case. A base camp offers comfortable camping (glamping) experience; all you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy. After a day of paddling, there’s nothing better than not having to cook. Fresh, healthy meals were provided with our tastes in mind.

Our sleeping quarters were not the usual pup tent style. No, these are roomy canvas tents built on wooden platforms, complete with beds, and cozy bedding, surrounded by forest with views of the ocean. In other words, I wasn’t complaining; I love my creature comforts; that said, it’s the 21st century; how is it that we still have outhouses?! Urrrrgh! Don’t worry. I survived!

We paddled along the coastline, exploring a variety of kayaking routes for three days. So many highlights to mention, but for me, taking in the wildlife and hanging out at our unique lunch spots with delicious food was the best! Oh, and my pesky friend, the Steller sea lion, he scared the shit out of us but made for a funny story in the end.

Our days went quickly, and it was finally another water taxi to the quaint town of Telegraph Cove for our last night, where we would all enjoy a well-deserved hot shower and flushing toilets, praise the lord! For a city slicker like myself, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What I’ve learned? Don’t say no. Say yes, and come prepared. It’s okay to be out of your comfort zone; you don’t know what you don’t know. Embrace a new experience; I’ll always be a city girl with a new appreciation for the wild.

The comments +

  1. Sylvia Slosel says:

    Love it!… This may now be put on my bucket list!

  2. That looks absolutely AWESOME!!!! This guy is so good for you, getting you out on motorcycles, challenging you to do new things. He travels with you, as well. You have it very good.

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