Why You Should Kayak British Columbia’s Inside Passage
Rowing southeast along Vancouver Island’s coast, my kayak emerges from the first rock notch: I see a black bear idling underneath the warm sun. Stroking his fur and itching wherever his paws can reach, he pays me no mind. The sun is his main attraction, his refuge, and he soaks in it. Flexing his long, muscular legs, he shifts his body in one last skyward salute before disappearing into an open crevasse in the cliff face. As he slowly prances his way back into the dense forest canopy, I revel in the finite moment that just unfolded before me. A second feels like a long linger in time when in humble distance of a large creature in such a wild place.
During my week-long expedition with ROW Adventures, moments like these become routine, yet they never lose their novelty. Depending on the time of year, on a typical day at sea, you can expect to see humpback whales, sea lions, seals, and perhaps even orcas. In search of adventures like these, myself and a team of kayakers pack a day’s worth of provisions each morning, leaving our basecamp at Little Kaikash to explore British Columbia’s Inside Passage each day.
One morning, we row to a neighboring beach near the Izumi Rocks. Going against the wind, we pass a bluff of submerged rock to witness a flock of seagulls soar into the air, shrouding the sky in a blanket of white like fallen ash embers leaving the recesses of a fire. Once we hit land, we tow our vessels to shore before de-layering in the afternoon sun. Resting my head on driftwood and burying my body between the slick stones, I drift off on this small spot, cocooned around volcanic cliffs that formed nearly 65 million years ago.
As we begin to eat, a pod of transient orcas swarm the area. We see their slick, slate bodies bobbing up and down in the water, emerging in a synchronized staccato with the passage’s current. Unlike resident orcas, which largely swim these waters in search of salmon, transient orcas feast on smaller porpoises and seals, making them feared by most creatures that call this passage home.
Before we leave our lunch spot, I climb a bluff for the island’s best vantage point. Small pools form in circular pockets of the rock bed, some orange, some the color of caramel. The ocean’s surf crashes below, and all I can see are small jellyfish within the dark-specked water, as stately pine and cedar trees cast their shadows below.
I spread my arms and let the wind blow through the ridges of my fingers. I feel free. It’s my final day camping and kayaking the Inside Passage, and I no longer care that my hair is slicker than usual, that my clothes are cast with bands of salt, that my feet are soggy within my boots. This experience supremely supersedes any notion of discomfort that a cruise ship or boat may offer. To enjoy these moments, you have to meet nature where it is. You have to go all the way in.
Kayaking requires a certain finesse, and there’s always a risk of turning the vessel over while in the water. But with instruction from a guide, you’ll find your rhythm quickly. No matter, it’s essential to pack a dry bag to keep your equipment safe while at sea. Each kayak is equipped with a storage area in front of your seat, so you will be able to quickly access your camera for photographing orca, humpback whale, and seal emergences. If you have an extended zoom lens, bring it. Although a kayak is the closest you can possibly get to British Columbia’s wildlife, you will love having the opportunity to capture these creatures in full form.
Article by: Michaela Trimble