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Canada: Kayaking with bears and whales off Vancouver Island

Updated: 4 days ago

Canada Kayak Whale Close

Kayaking in the Broughton Archipelago is an unforgettable experience! We see orcas, humpback whales and observe bears. At night we camp under a starry sky. Where? You can find all the information here.

Suddenly the water ripples next to our kayak:

Not ten meters away from me a humpback whale emerges from the sea.

I only see a small part of the huge animal, which shows us its back in a gentle undulating motion. The magic lasts only a few seconds, then it dives back down again. We sit in our paddle boat with our mouths open. Somewhere between panic that the whale will come closer next time and total euphoria that we have seen it so close.

On Canada's coasts, all boats must stay at least 100 meters away from whales, and even 200 meters away from orcas. Apparently no one has told this humpback whale that yet.

We were actually just watching a horde of sea lions sitting on a rock in the surf. In the waves between two islands, we were busy keeping our distance from the animals and watching them, so we didn't see the whale until it surfaced. Now we don't know where to look first: to the right, where the whale has just dived, or to the left, where a few sea lions are at each other's throats, roaring loudly.

Four-day kayak tour: In search of bears and whales off Vancouver Island/Canada

My mission? I want to see bears and whales while kayaking off Vancouver Island in Canada. The campsite looks promising - it is located on the southwestern tip of Hanson Island. Campsite is an understatement - glamping would be a better description of my new home: I have my own canvas tent with a wooden bed. The real luxury, however, is the location: right outside my "front door", a cliff drops steeply into the sea. In the evening, the sun sets over the Johnstone Strait behind the mountains of Vancouver Island and bathes the landscape in a golden light. Shortly after sunset, the silhouettes of the hills appear in a delicate blue-violet, and to top it all off, a crescent moon rises. I sit on the bench until late at night and can't get enough of the colours. The darker it gets, the more stars appear. The sky seems to glow, the Milky Way stretches over me like a silver ribbon . The area is sparsely populated, there is hardly any light pollution.

I have rarely seen such a clear starry sky...

The coast off Vancouver Island is full of life

The wonders don't stop during the day, the coast is full of life. As soon as we get into our kayaks and paddle along the rugged coast, we see a variety of animals. A bald eagle rises majestically from a hemlock and spreads its wide wings to glide over the sea. "Did you know that sea eagles always live in pairs?" asks Kelsie Maas, our kayak guide. We didn't know. Below us, sea anemones, sea cucumbers and starfish bob in the crystal-clear water. It's low tide and so we have a clear view of everything that clings to the rocks. Kelsie deftly pulls a huge sea cucumber out of the water that looks like an alien from Star Wars. We enthusiastically photograph the spiky monster before she carefully puts it back where she found it.

In search of grizzly bears
Skipper Alan Hunt Sea Wolf Adventures

On the last day of our expedition, we set off with the indigenous-led Sea Wolf Adventures to search for grizzly bears. To do this, we take a motorboat deep into the fjord-like Knight Inlet. Unfortunately, I don't have enough time to paddle here for several days.

Our indigenous skipper Alan Hunt belongs to the Kwaguʼł tribe and is also an artist who has even exhibited at the Documenta in Kassel.

We drive north through the narrow channel in the thick morning fog. Will we even see anything in these visibility conditions? Alan is confident and passes the time with facts about the grizzly bear:

A grizzly bear needs 25,000 calories a day (for comparison: the average calorie consumption of a human is between 2,000 and 3,000), can swim up to 25 kilometers a day and its sense of smell is 40 times stronger than that of a bloodhound .

When the fog clears a little, we see our first bear. Alan identifies it as Leonara, a female bear of about 20 years.

At this time of year, grizzlies feed mainly on crabs , which they search for under rocks. Leonara effortlessly turns over huge boulders with her paw and her inch-long claws. At this moment, I am glad to be sitting on a safe boat. A little later, a young bear climbs down an almost steep rock face to the shore. He slowly walks along the water and then climbs into the sea to swim around a larger boulder. He effortlessly reaches the other side and majestically shakes the water out of his thick fur.

Moments that are etched in my memory: a whale that suddenly appears next to my kayak, the majestic bear on the shore of the turquoise sea, the clear starry sky over Vancouver Island.

These memories will continue to bring a smile to my face.


General information on travel destinations, accommodation and activities is available on the German website

The Parks Canada website provides detailed instructions on how to behave when observing marine animals.


There are several scheduled flights from Germany to Vancouver every day. An electronic travel document (eTa) is required to enter Canada.

From Vancouver by bus and ferry to Nanaimo. From there on to Port McNeill.

If you want, you can also book a rental car, e.g. via .

Grizzly bear turquoise water Canada rock climbing


Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures offers various kayak tours. If you want, you can also put together your own tour. The text describes the four-day "Whales and Grizzly Bears - Base Camp Kayaking" tour. 4 days including accommodation, transport and meals approx. €1500.

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