Northern Vancouver Island

The Whales of Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound

October 2021  •  6 Guests  •  Private Charters Available

There’s no better place on earth to observe killer whales, humpback whales, and many other marine mammals than in British Columbia’s Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound. Here, where the coastline and islands create a huge bottleneck, killer whales congregate to feast on massive numbers of migrating wild Pacific salmon.

On our Whales of Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound expedition, you’ll have an incredible opportunity to get up close and intimate with these iconic creatures. You’ll observe behaviours such as spy hopping and breaching, hear their distinct vocalizations via hydrophone, and learn the differences between the fish-eating “resident” orcas and their mammal-eating “transient” cousins.

These fast-moving and productive waters are also teeming with other marine species. Cold, nutrient-rich upwellings fuel marine food chains from the bottom up. Small fishes feed on resulting plankton blooms, and seabirds and humpback whales work in concert to feed on the fishes, often in spectacular fashion. We typically have numerous encounters with humpback whales, watching them feast, fluke, bubble, and breach. We often also encounter Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, seals and sea lions, and a wide variety of seabirds.

When we aren’t sailing and exploring, you’ll be able to enjoy forest walks, intertidal explorations, sea kayaking, and a stop at the Killer Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove. We hope you’ll join us!

Good thing my bucket list included a family sailing trip or this wonderful adventure would never have happened! Thanks to Russ, Joel, and Carmen for making it all happen. Loved the million whales we viewed, among all the other sea creatures, as well as the kayaking, exploring, eating, swimming, eating, learning, sailing, eating, and just plain old relaxing. Passing Cloud rocks!

– Patti, Alberta, CANADA

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Enjoy excellent opportunities for observing and learning about fish-eating and mammal-eating killer whales in the wild

Witness the exciting feeding behaviours of the humpback whales returning to this region in large numbers

Encounter the dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and seabird populations that flourish in this region

Itinerary Overview

DAYS 12: Johnstone Strait, Whale Watching, Robson Bight, Eagle Eye

Our expedition departs from the Northern Vancouver Island community of Port McNeill, where we set sail for Johnstone Strait. As we cruise along the south shore of Hanson Island, we’ll be on the lookout for the killer whales and other whales that frequent this region. By late April and early May, the marine life is returning to the region after wintering away. The shoreline bursts with wildflowers in bloom, the skies are filled again with migratory birds, and the ocean teems with life. Our Expedition Specialist will give us an introduction to the biology, ecology, and conservation of killer whales on the BC coast. We’ll go sailing in the vicinity of the Robson Bight Killer Whale Ecological Reserve, a unique protected area where killer whales come to socialize and use the “rubbing beaches” found within the reserve. Throughout our voyage we hope to encounter killer whales engaged in such diverse behaviours as feeding, resting, socializing, travelling, breaching, spy hopping, and tail slapping. We’ll use our underwater hydrophone to listen to the vocalizations that killer whales use to communicate and locate prey. We plan to go on a beautiful forest walk up to Eagle Eye, an observation platform where BC Parks wardens monitor the movements of killer whales in and out of the reserve.

DAYS 34: Whales, Dolphins, Clam Gardens, First Nations Cultural Heritage 

We’ll be sure to visit Blackney Passage, a known hotspot for whales, dolphins, and seabirds due to its active tidal currents. We’ll enter Blackfish Sound (“blackfish” being another name for killer whales) and scan the area for whale spouts and dorsal fins. Blackfish Sound has recently become an area where large numbers of humpback whales congregate and actively feed on the abundant forage fishes found here. We’ll learn about the spectacular recovery of humpback whales on the BC coast, and observe their exciting feeding behaviours. We’ll spend the rest of the day sailing and exploring this highly productive area and viewing the whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other marine wildlife that we inevitably encounter here. During a low tide shore excursion, we hope to show you a clam garden and shell midden, both testament to thousands of years of occupation by the indigenous ‘Namgis First Nation of this region and their close connection with marine resources. Over dessert, we’ll reflect on all that we have experienced and learned over the past four days.

DAY 5: Port McNeill

As we travel the short distance back to Port McNeill this morning, we’ll be on the lookout for our last wildlife sightings – perhaps a lone minke whale, or a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins! Upon arriving back in Port McNeill, we’ll disembark and say farewell to our new friends and this spectacular region.

Departs From

Campbell River, British Columbia

Cruise Distances

50 nautical miles (~93 km), or 10 nm (18.5 km)/day


5 days / 4 nights

Physical Requirements


2021 Expedition Dates and Availability

October  •  6 Guests •  Private Charters Available


October 13-19


$4,350 CAD/Person




Port McNeill

Our prices are based on double occupancy (priced per person), quoted in Canadian dollars, and subject to 5% Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST). All payments must be made in Canadian dollars, by cheque or credit card. All prices are subject to change without notice.

Check out what our guests have to say about this expedition!

“Good thing my bucket list included a family sailing trip or this wonderful adventure would never have happened! Thanks to Russ, Joel, and Carmen for making it all happen. Loved the million whales we viewed, among all the other sea creatures, as well as the kayaking, exploring, eating, swimming, eating, learning, sailing, eating, and just plain old relaxing. The Passing Cloud rocks!”

— Patti, AB, CANADA

“Thrilling experience, we enjoyed every minute, especially the wonderful immersion in the Outer Shores World. Life is all about experience & learning and we go away with much to think about. The food and care was so excellent. We felt in secure hands with our great crew. Excellent educational talks and information!”

— Hans and Sharon, BC, CANADA

“Russ and Joel were the friendliest and most helpful people we could have. I had my 14th birthday on this trip and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. We saw so many things, such as a pod of 25 orcas, a whale that tail slapped for a solid 10 minutes, and 7 porpoises riding our bow wave. Thank you so much for everything!”

— Julian, AB, CANADA

“We came to this trip with very high expectations – but you have exceeded all of them! The boat is beautiful, clean, and comfortable. The food was fabulous. The marine mammals gave the performance of a lifetime. You were all knowledgeable, patient, and the BEST! Thank you for the greatest vacation EVER!”

— Ziskind Family, ISRAEL

“Whales and Sails! Mission accomplished for sure. And as for allowing me to take the wheel on Passing Cloud – Wow! Thanks for sharing all this with us. The trips was amazing, certainly did/saw what we set our to do – even a sailing race, what more could we ask for. Thanks for the experience.”

— Sandi and Steve, BC, CANADA

“I had a “whale” of a time on this great trip. Joel taught me some crazy knots, like the bowline and the sailors knot. Russ took us fishing and I think I found a new passion. We spent hours catching huge salmon, one even broke our line. Carmen made some great food and kept us well fed. I made some great memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you very much!”

— Erik, AB, CANADA

Preparing for your visit to Northern Vancouver Island’s
Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound

Northern Vancouver Island is world-famous for the killer whale (orca) and humpback whale populations that inhabit its waters. Each year, large numbers of whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and other marine wildlife congregate in this region to feast upon abundant populations of salmon and herring. Below is a list of websites that will help you prepare for experiencing and understanding the region.

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    Office Hours

    Monday  Thursday
    9:00 15:00 (Pacific Time)


    1-855-714-7233 (Toll-free)
    1-250-220-2311 (Local)


    PO Box 361, Cobble Hill, BC, V0R 1L0, Canada

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