Telegraph 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.
That 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.
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.
Our 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.
North 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.
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.
As 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.
We 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.
Finding 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.
We 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.
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.
On 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.