A Great Time For Wildlife Viewing on Northern Vancouver Island

Photo courtesy of Northern Vancouver Island Tourism/Steven Fines.

A trip to Northern Vancouver Island is a sensory experience. There’s the smell of the dense coastal rainforest, the sight of a massive humpback whale breaching clear of the water, and the sound of a Dall’s porpoise as it glides softly through the ocean.

June is a great time of the year for wildlife viewing on Northern Vancouver Island, a month when humpback whales, porpoise, harbour seals, Steller sea lions, minke whales, and dolphins are all active, but there are fewer visitors to the area.

Local operator Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures knows this well. Based out of Port McNeill, they have been operating in these coastal waters since 1999. The company is dedicated to providing exceptional experiences and professional guiding services, evident in the guides and guests who return year after year.

Why June Is the Best Month for Wildlife Viewing

Besides being early tourist season, June coincides with summer solstice: the longest day and shortest night of the year. The sun doesn’t set until 9:30-10pm, allowing you to bask in sunlight long after dinner is finished.

Summer solstice also ushers in the warmest season of the year. With it brings sunnier skies and increasingly warmer temperatures.

It’s also a time to celebrate new life on the coast. Humpback whales return from their winter breeding grounds in Mexico and Hawaii, showing their new calves the wonders of these colder Pacific waters.

Finding food is top priority: the sky is filled with eagles, ravens, and numerous sea birds flying to and from their nests to feed their hungry chicks. On the water herring balls attract large groups of gulls and eagles diving one after another to catch their food.

Bait balls (as these herring clusters are called) attract returning humpback whales where you’ll see them lunge feeding, trap feeding, or blowing a ring of bubbles to form a “net”—all techniques to trap the fish in their mouths. Other marine mammals attracted to these nutrient-rich waters are harbour seals and Dall’s porpoises.

On the shoreline, black bears feed on sedge, barnacles, and crabs in the intertidal zone. In June, they’re not yet migrating to the rivers to catch salmon so your chances of spotting one is especially good.


Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures: Base Camp- or Expedition-Style Trips

All of the wildlife visible in June are frequently sighted from Kingfisher’s kayaks where you can choose from base camp- or expedition-style trips, depending on the time you have and your taste for adventure.

Base Camp-Style Trips

Guests on a base camp trip explore the Johnstone Strait, an area known for being one of the most predictable places in the world to see whales and other marine life. The journey begins aboard a motorized water taxi to base camp. At camp, all the amenities await to make sure your stay in the wilderness is comfortable. Tents sit on raised wooden platforms with ocean views, equipped with beds, sheets, fleece blankets, and hot water bottles. Camp is cozy: you’ll find a library of marine and ecology books, a bucket shower, charging stations for electronics, and a comfortable dining area. Fresh meals like BBQ salmon on cedar planks and homemade cheesecake are prepared daily by the chef.

Expedition-Stye Trips

For those looking for a bit more adventure, expedition trips offer a chance to explore more of this unique region in British Columbia. Kayak between wilderness campsites, setting up camp under a new forested canopy, rocky point, sandy beach, or oceanside platform each night. Every guest stays warm and comfortable in a three-season tent with sleeping pads and warm sleeping bags. These trips are a chance to go deeper into the wilderness and explore hidden inlets and beaches while gliding through the coastal waters off Northern Vancouver Island that teem with wildlife.

Day Trips

For those who don’t have the time to join a longer kayak tour consider joining the one-day tour package joining a half day kayak tour with Alder Bay Kayaks or a half day whale watching tour with Seasmoke Whale Watching.

No matter which trip you choose, visitors are encouraged to add a day before and after to explore more of Northern Vancouver Island. Discover the oceanside village of Telegraph Cove, join Indigenous owned- and operated-Sea Wolf Adventures for a grizzly bear viewing tour, or make a trip to Alert Bay to be immersed in local First Nation culture at the U’mista Cultural Centre.

For those who don’t have the time to join a longer kayak tour consider joining the one-day tour package joining a half day kayak tour with Alder Bay Kayaks or a half day whale watching tour with Seasmoke Whale Watching.


Responsible Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife viewing operators on Northern Vancouver Island are dedicated to making sure encounters with marine life are safe and sustainable. Captains and guides adhere to guidelines that dictate appropriate distances from all wildlife and noise reduction. Learn more about responsible wildlife viewing and the guidelines


Things To Know Before You Go

Spring Specials: Be sure to check out the www.alderbaykayak.com for a specially priced trip that combines their kayak day trip with a whale watching boat tour with Seasmoke Whale Watching.

Getting There: Northern Vancouver Island is accessible by BC Ferries and Pacific Coastal Airlines from the mainland of British Columbia. Learn more about getting to Northern Vancouver Island.

Book: Visitors can book a trip with Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures and the other  Northern Vancouver Island tour operators listed above directly on their individual websites.