Kayaking in Johnstone Strait

Telegraph Cove Kayak  003Telegraph Cove Kayak  002Telegraph Cove offers a number of different tours for kayaking in Johnstone Strait with opportunities to see all sorts of wildlife.   And for those that want to see orcas, or killer whales, the best time of year to do so is during the months of July and August.

chinook2That is when the chinook salmon are running and a group of orcas called the Northern Residents arrive to feast on the tasty fish.   Johnstone Strait is the body of water between the northeast of Vancouver Island and the Broughton Archipelago.Orca-Sea-Kayaking-Map

A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to see some of the Southern Residents, the group of salmon eating orcas who frequent the waters around the San Juan Islands in Washington.orca range

The Northern Residents arrived in Johnstone Strait a few days before we got there. Some said that they were a bit late, but the timing varies according to the salmon run.

whale_labeledTelegraph Cove Kayak  004Our plan was to sign up with a kayak outfitter to look for the whales.   We wanted to go out with someone who knew the waters, as the tidal currents in the area can be quite complicated. Also, the kayak companies keep in communication with other boaters and get updates if whales are spotted.

Telegraph Cove Kayak  005North Island Kayak was conveniently located just below our RV park and we liked the fact that they kept their groups small. The day after we arrived in Telegraph Cove it began to rain, and the weather forecast was iffy for the rest of our stay in the area. So instead of making a reservation we decided to play it by ear.

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We targeted the day with the best weather forecast. That morning, however, it was raining hard just a couple of hours before the scheduled departure of the all day kayak tour. We were just about to bail when the sun came out. So we quickly got our stuff together and headed down to the launch.

Our group was very small, two ladies from Vancouver in a tandem kayak, Hector and I in singles and our guide, Jam. The weather remained a bit cloudy, but there was no wind and the water was dead calm.Telegraph Cove Kayak  006

Telegraph Cove Kayak  028As we started, Hector immediately spotted eagles in the trees, and soon after we came upon more eagles and Pacific harbor seals with their adorable pups. And lots of jumping salmon.  The area is also known for tidal life, but the tide was pretty high, so Jam said we’d check for tidal critters on our return.Telegraph Cove Kayak  016

Telegraph Cove Kayak  018Telegraph Cove Kayak  008We headed directly to Johnstone Strait. The scenery was beautiful and we made our way along the coast to a couple of islands. There was a report of whales heading our way but they were pretty far and moving slowly.Telegraph Cove Kayak  015Telegraph Cove Kayak  013Telegraph Cove Kayak  019Telegraph Cove Kayak  029telegraph cove kayak  010Telegraph Cove Kayak  012Telegraph Cove Kayak  009Telegraph Cove Kayak  035

Telegraph Cove Kayak  036Finding whales while kayaking is tricky because you are not moving very fast, so it’s really a matter of chance and time on the water. There is a better chance of spotting whales on multi-day kayak trips or in motorboats that can travel much more quickly to places where the whales have been spotted.

Telegraph Cove Kayak  026We paddled about five miles and stopped for lunch on a rocky beach. And, just as we were finishing our lunch, the whales appeared by the opposite shore of the two mile wide strait. It was tough to see them even with binoculars.Telegraph Cove Kayak  027

Jam said that we could paddle across, but it would take the better part of an hour and there was no guarantee that the whales would be there when we arrived. Ugh.  And by the time we got ourselves together after lunch, the whales were already heading away from the area so we opted to head back.Telegraph Cove Kayak  034

Telegraph Cove Kayak  040On our way, we spotted more Pacific harbor seals, and some tidal life – sea stars and sea urchins. And some Dall’s porpoises, the fastest short distance swimmers of all small cetaceans. They are fun to watch, but difficult to photograph, with their stocky bodies flowing in and out of the water rapidly.  And more jumping salmon.Telegraph Cove Kayak  041Telegraph Cove Kayak  033Telegraph Cove Kayak  022

Telegraph Cove Kayak  039Jam cut the bulb side of a piece of bull kelp and showed us how to play it like a horn. And I also had a mercifully brief experience getting stuck in the bull kelp, not pleasant.Telegraph Cove Kayak  037Telegraph Cove Kayak  017Telegraph Cove Kayak  042Telegraph Cove Kayak  025

Telegraph Cove Kayak  011We continued to enjoy the beautiful scenery and Jam was a very informative and considerate guide. And we were very fortunate that it never rained again during our time on the water.Telegraph Cove Kayak  020telegraph cove kayak  050Telegraph Cove Kayak  031

Telegraph Cove Kayak  043So, even though we didn’t get to kayak with the whales, it was a beautiful and fun day and a great paddle.  As for the the elusive whales … stay tuned.

~ BrendaTelegraph Cove Kayak  044

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  1. What gorgeous country! And the paddling looks wonderful (except of course for the kelp)! You two look so relaxed, and Hector’s beginning to look like a true mountain man. Enjoy you two!

  2. There may have been no whales but the time on the water seems to have been worth every penny spent… sure looks a great place to partake in such a sport…

  3. Reading this post made me long to go back out to that region! Two years ago my husband and I spend a week on San Juan Island and we did the same thing, kayaked looking for the resident whales! Of course, we didn’t see any from the water, but the owner of the home we were renting said they were playing in the cove just outside of the house for hours, just out luck, lol ! The amount of eagles we saw were so numerous that we lost count!! Being from the East Coast, I truly believe I left a huge part of my heart in the Pacific NW area! Can’t wait to start our full timing adventure to get back out there to see more of the area! Thanks for such an awesome post and pictures!!

    • Oh, no can’t believe they were in front of your rental house! Don’t know if you read our post The San Juan Islands and the Beautiful Orcas, but we weren’t able to go kayaking due to timing, wound up going out in a motorboat, and the whales were by the shore and breached twice right next to the kayakers! We just love this area. Best to you with your full timing plans!
      Brenda

  4. I found you through another blogger and you are now my favorite blog to follow. You seem to love the outdoors and sports that go along with it. We have a place in Venice, FL and Manitowish Waters, WI. I kayak all the time in the Wisconsin northwoods and enjoy taking pictures, too. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

    • Welcome to our blog Beverly and thanks for your kind words. We kayak every chance we get. So peaceful and quiet. Brenda has family in Venice and we were just there last year. Great kayaking in that area too. Glad to have you along for our journey.
      Hector