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Campbell River Wildlife Tour for Nature Lovers

If you need a nature fix, Vancouver Island and the Discovery Islands off its east coast are an ideal destination. The ocean here is known for its wild currents, whirlpools and standing waves. It’s also an area that is spectacularly good for viewing seabirds and marine life like whales, seals and sea lions.

A half day Campbell River wildlife tour will deliver nature up close. You can’t help but me mesmerized by the sight of a whale spouting or even a bald eagle checking you out from a perch in the tree.

Looking for Wild on a Campbell River Marine Wildlife Tour
The currents are wild in the Discovery Islands so it’s worthwhile to go with someone who knows the waters well

Campbell River Wildlife Tour – what you’ll see in just 3 hours

I highly recommend the three hour wildlife tour run by Painter’s Lodge. It takes you from Campbell River down the length of Quadra Island through the Penn Islands. Then the boat heads north to Sonora Island before turning back towards Campbell River via the area that once was home to the infamous Ripple Rock.

(In 1958 it was the site of the largest non-nuclear explosion in the world when a large submerged outcrop was blasted to smithereens to make the passage through the waters less treacherous.)

The humpback whale is the star of the tour

There are a number of stops along the way, with the humpback whale decidedly the star of the show.

Humpback whales can show up at any time – or not at all. On our three hour outing we saw them in a couple of different spots.

Never did they breach but they certainly made their presence known. I’m thrilled that they are back in the Discovery Islands because the last time I kayaked here in 2008 there were none. Now there are close to a dozen whales and as we were told by our guide Robin Pears, “they just started making a comeback about five years ago.”

Looking for Wild Things on a Campbell River Marine Wildlife Tour
A couple of blows off in the distance and we knew we were in luck for whale sightings
Looking for Wild Things on a Campbell River Marine Wildlife Tour
This group of whale watchers got really lucky
Looking for Wild Things on a Campbell River Marine Wildlife Tour
Look at the position of the whale in relation to the shore

In between whale sightings we’re happy to get close to bald eagles especially around Jimmy Judd Island. The fishing is obviously very good here as there are bald eagles in what looks like every second tree.

It’s in this area we also see 100 plus seals hanging out on an island across from the high-end Sonora Resort.

I never tire of looking at the bald eagles
I never tire of looking at the bald eagles
There are over 100 seals on an island across from Sonora Resort
There are over 100 seals on an island across from Sonora Resort

Amazing seabirds on the Campbell River wildlife tour

Although the focus of the wildlife tour was not on seabirds, they were certainly in abundance especially the handsome Bonaparte’s gull. I also saw pigeon guillemots, mergansers and a great blue heron.

Bonaparte's gulls - including the immatures were around in huge numbers - also near Sonora Resort
Bonaparte’s gulls – including the immatures were around in huge numbers – also near Sonora Resort
The handsome Bonaparte gull can be seen on a Discovery Island nature tour
The handsome Bonaparte gull

We did see a couple of sea lions and I for one was happy to observe them from a distance. I’ve seen how aggressive they can get from the seat of a kayak and appreciate their 500 plus pounds from a distance.

Although I didn’t see the Pacific white-sided dolphin on the wildlife tour, I did the next day when I was out fishing,

Don't get too close to these sea lions
Don’t get too close to these sea lions

It’s always a thrill to see nature in the wild. In three hours we got a big dose of it – comfortably as we were all suited up in dry suits that kept us warm, even in a light drizzle.

As a kayaker I particularly enjoyed exploring waters I would never venture into without tide charts and a tremendous amount of planning.

Where to stay in Campbell River

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

Stay at Painter’s Lodge, if you want to be outside of Campbell River proper. It’s in a lovely location on the water.  If you’re into fishing or nature, it would be an excellent choice as tours leave right from its docks.  There is a sister property  about a 15 minute boat ride away on Quadra Island. While April Point Resort & Spa is a bit more rustic – I liked the ambiance and the first-rate views.

The Coast Discovery Inn in Campbell River where I’ve stayed on several occasions is predictable, and fine for a night or two

Further reading on things to do on Vancouver Island

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Looking for the Wild Things on a Campbell River Marine Wildlife Tour

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tourism Vancouver Island. All opinions as always are my own.

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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