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Treat Yourself to an #OceanKayak Vacation in Canada Subscribe to comments to this posting
Posted by Richard Phillips   •   Sunday, 2016-July-31

By Gary Ward

If you are an adventurer looking to pick your next vacation, consider taking an ocean kayak tour. There are some amazing destinations all over the world to get into an ocean kayak and see the marine life. If you are particularly looking for abundance and diversity of sea life, the temperate waters are incredible. The west coast of Canada fits this perfectly. During the summer months, the kayaking possibilities around Vancouver Island are immense, ranging from warm, calm waters to misty, Pacific swell.

The Gulf Islands are on the east side of Vancouver Island, protected from the weather and waves of the open Pacific Ocean. These islands are a paradise, so the residents tell. The communities are small and quaint, but leavened with an international flavor from the diversity of backgrounds of the residents. The southern Gulf Islands sit in a rain shadow stretching from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state to about mid-Vancouver Island. The drier climate allows the beautiful arbutus trees to grow in abundance and makes for some award winning vineyards. Touring by kayak among these islands means paddling by sandstone cliffs that look like they were foamed up from the earth and the bubbles popped, leaving an incredible landscape. The southern resident orcas also ply these waters, often swimming through the areas looking for the salmon. Kayaking here can be a close and intimate experience with a life that few live, but is dreamed about by many.

The west coast of Vancouver Island has some of the most abundant and diverse waters on the planet. A number of locations offer protected paddling, yet fully reveal the west coast, Pacific experience. The Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound are about 100 small islands, forming a roughly rectangular group. The eastern part of this group is near a large bay and several other small island groups. These groups are full of oysters, although mostly claimed by commercial interests. In the eastern half of the group, the summer waters are warm and calm. Because of the number of islands, the ability to paddle around for days and see many new things each day is possible. There is so much to explore in a small area. Moving beyond the middle of the group, the waters get a bit more movements and are more prone to wind waves as well as ocean swell. The outer island can be challenging for beginners, but also bring a wildness that is not found anywhere but just at the boundary of the open ocean. This is where the sea lions haul out and play, the whales swim by, and the surf crashes onto the beaches. Just inside these outer islands, a beginner can get the feeling of the wildness without committing to dynamism of the open ocean side. The diversity of sea life here explodes into a scene of color everywhere.

Another west coast destination that is more remote, but just as diverse, is around Nootka Sound. One of the most interesting area around the sound is at the northwestern tip of Nootka Island where the Nuchatlitz Inlet opens into the island. This area has a number of small island groups that offer protection from much of the ocean swell, but allows visitors to peek out into the open ocean. This area is prime habitat for the endangered sea otter. Rafts of hundreds, floating on their backs together among the kelp beds can be seen from the small islands. Whales pass by on their migrations. Eagles call their shrill cry overhead, and ravens cackle their mimicked calls of many strange sounds in the trees. The diverse history here connecting the First Nations peoples of the area and the explorers that came and took control has had world importance, affecting European history in big ways. For west coast adventures by kayak, this is one of the best.

Although there are many more possibilities around Vancouver Island and up the BC coast, These destinations are important because of their accessibility to beginners. A number of guiding companies offer guided tours of these areas, catering specifically to beginner kayakers, or those who have never kayaked before. So, if you are looking for a Canadian ocean kayak experience, look at one of these. You will get a new appreciation for the sea and our planet.

Gary Ward has been leading trips and teaching in wilderness areas for 20 years. Having traveled from desert to sea, he spends most of his time now in coastal areas, exploring the boundary between land and sea, land and sky, and sea and sky.

He can be found leading tours on the North and West Coast Trails, teaching, and writing for his business, Coastal Bliss Adventures.

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