white beach
Kayaking the Inside Passage with Northern Lights Expeditions

To start off with, I have to say that this trip was one of our top vacations ever. The scenery was beautiful, the animals were amazing, and Northern Lights is a class outfit. On top of that, we lucked into a combination of good weather, good luck with whale sightings, and a great bunch of fellow trip members. Our two guides, Luke and Laurel were great hosts for the week. Knowledgable, friendly, organized, great cooks, and it turns out, great dancers as well.

This trip was a 6 day sea kayaking trip to the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland. To keep this trip report from getting too sidetracked, I'll put a lot of the details into separate pages in a list below.

The highlight of the trip had to be the whales. Killer whales (orcas) are common in the waters around Vancouver Island, and seeing orcas was a major reason why we did this trip. On the first day of the trip, our guides asked what everyone's priorities were for the week, and we were pretty much unanimous that it was all about the whales. Fishing, hiking, and other wildlife were all good, but the whales were what we were all here to see. To cut to the chase, we were not disappointed. We saw whales on 5 out of 6 of our days. We saw them traveling through, and we saw them hang around and hunt/play for a while. We saw them in the distance, and we saw them up close and personal, (Sorry Sharon, but they weren't quite close enough to hug), we saw them from land, from the kayaks and from the water taxi.

The trip was a nice mix of exertion and relaxation. Typcially, each day we would have breakfast, take to the boats, listen to an inspirational reading, and be off on our morning paddle (typically for between 1 and 3 hours). We'd eat a great lunch, lounge around socializing or just laying in the sun. Then we'd have an afternoon paddle, followed by dinner and more socializing and relaxing. The food was fantastic, better and healthier than we eat at home. Because kayaks can carry so much gear, we were able to have plenty of gourmet ingredients and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The islands of the Inside Passage are beautiful... rugged but with thick lush vegetation. The temperate winters and abundant rain fall make for thick green tree canopies, with thick blankets of moss and lichen covering the ground, rocks, and the trees. Vancouver Island is a large island and is thickly forested. Much of the island is covered by mountains, some high enough to have permanent snow capped peaks.

Vancouver Island is an great multi sport adventure destination. The mountains offer granite climbing and mountaineering. The camping and kayaking is top notch. There is a fair amount of logging on the island, so the logging roads have the potential for providing good mountain biking. And the waters around the island would be a great scuba destination (provided you had a thick wet suit) The water was incredibly clear, probably 60' to 80' visibility or more. The Inside Passage is as deep as 1400', and even relatively narrow channels between islands can be hundreds of feet deep. The rocky shores are thick with anemones, urchins and star fish.

The entire week was a single solid highlight. But there were plenty of things that stood out. Besides the whales, some of the other wildlife we saw were... humpback whales, sea lions, a harbor seal, frequent porpoise sightings, a bear, and tons of bald eagles. The nighttime paddle to the Farewell harbor lodge (with a hot tub!) was special... a clear sky and great stars above, and bio-luminescent plankton below. Each paddle stroke created glowing trails. While waiting for the right currents to cross one of the large straights, we played bocce ball on a rock covered beach. And after Taylor discovered the camp guitar, each evening had a sound track as he sat on the beach or on our overlook and played. And of course, again there was the food. Each meal was memorable, as was the blackberry cobbler we made from the 4 quarts of berries we gathered one day at lunch. And closing down the bar at the Haida-way during our post trip farewell was a great way to end up the trip. (It would have been better if we didn't have to get up so early for our flight out the next day)

I'd like to thank all of our trip companions, starting with Luke and Laurel. Great job guys, your cooking, your organization, your attitude, and your focus on meeting the groups personal goals all made for a wonderful trip. It was great to see you as excited about the whales as we were. The inspirational readings from anyone from the Wall St. Journal to Edward Abby were a nice touch. And to our fellow guests, Maris, Sue, Anne, Marilyn, Gar, Taylor, Sharon and Warren, you were great. You never know what your fellow travelers are going to be like on a trip like this, but you all were one of the things that made this trip so enjoyable. Good luck on your future adventures, and hopefully we'll see each other again on the road, on the trail or on the water.

Back Except where noted, Copyright 2003 Andy Welter Last Updated: September 21, 2003