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Orcas and Totems (5 or 7days)

The Island Odyssey, 68’ ketch is the sister-ship to 'Island Roamer'. Originally built as a luxurious private yacht in 1984, she completed a major renovation in 2003 to update the cabins and all safety systems. She features 8 private cabins (double occupancy), 3 heads with hot showers and a comfortable salon with a natural history library. On deck, the large deckhouse provides a comfortable spot to watch for wildlife. A certified Canadian Ministry of Transport passenger vessel, Island Odyssey has all of the safety equipment, electronic navigation aids, and features you would expect from a vessel of her standard. All of our cabins have adequate storage space for your bags, personal items and jackets. Coat hangers and life jackets are stowed in every cabin for your convenience. There is electricity in each room, so you can charge your camera batteries and enjoy a reading light in the evening.

This natural history voyage explores the protected waters of Northern Vancouver Island. Whale researchers consider this area the best place in the world to observe orcas or killer whales. In addition, you can expect to see humpback whales, black bears, bald eagles and sea otters. The Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations people have lived here for thousands of years and you will explore their culture and art. Combine these incredible wildlife and cultural experiences into one week… and you’ll have an amazing trip!

Day 1

The trip starts and finishes in Port McNeill, BC. Participants will meet late morning at the top of the Municipal Dock  on the Port McNeill waterfront. Upon boarding the ship, cabins will be assigned, an introductory safety briefing completed and then you will set sail for the islands near Port Hardy.

Orcas are one of the most exciting marine mammals. See them foraging for salmon, and breaching (leaping clear of the water). Participants will learn about the behaviour of these fascinating creatures, listen to them calling on the ship’s underwater microphone, and learn how to identify individual animals. Each night you will anchor in a different, secluded anchorage.

Day 2

Today is spent among the islands at the western end of Queen Charlotte Strait looking for different species of marine mammals, walking a remote beach and observing a variety of sea birds. Nearby, Pine Island has one of the largest seabird nesting colonies on the coast.

Days 3 to 6

On these days the focus will be on the waters of Johnstone Strait, the core orca watching area. You can expect to have multiple encounters with the orcas, and each experience is different. Humpback whales are usually in the area, and Dall’s porpoise often come over to the boat to play on the bow wave. Visit the modern Kwakwaka’wakw community of Alert Bay to visit the U’Mista Cultural Centre and see a fascinating collection of potlatch masks. If there is a good wind, you can expect to raise the sails and enjoy the silence and beauty of sailing. There will be time to explore the protected waters using the stable, sea kayaks that are carried onboard. At the entrance to Knight Inlet is the abandoned Kwakwaka’wakw village of Mimquimlees. With permission from the local native band, explore the old village to discover fallen totem poles and a rich heritage. With a good low tide, explore the shore for different species of colourful sea stars, anemone, and algae. Hike into the coastal forest to see big trees and learn about the forest plants.

Day 7

Late morning return to Port McNeill and the completion of the voyage. Participants can catch afternoon flights back to Vancouver, or continue their holiday on Vancouver Island.