The sheltered waters along Vancouver Island’s northeast coast are amongst the best places in the world to view orcas in their natural surroundings.
Robson Bight (Michael Biggs) Ecological Reserve, 20 kms south of Telegraph Cove in Johnstone Strait, provides ocean adventures with a sure thing when it comes to whale watching.
In this case it’s actually killer whale watching (large dolphins called orcas).
Pods of orcas come to this part of Johnstone Strait each summer to rub themselves on the barnacle-encrusted rocks, pebbles and gravel seafloor at Robson Bight. As the top predator on the inland-water food chain, they are also attracted by the annual salmon runs that funnel through the strait beginning in late June. There are few sights more thrilling than a killer whale in the wild breaking the surface and shooting spurts of mist from its blowhole.
The marine portion of Robson Bight Ecological Reserve was established in 1982 in recognition of the importance of this area to killer whales. An upland buffer zone was subsequently added to provide further protection for the whales, increasing the total park size to 5,460 hectares.
Although this Johnstone Strait ecological reserve is closed to the public to reduce disturbance of the whales, the areas surrounding the park provide an excellent opportunity for camping, boating and whale watching.
Camping is permitted at Telegraph Cove and Kaikash Creek on Vancouver Island, and at Boat Bay or Growler Cove on West Cracroft Island. The latter two sites offer good anchorages and are ideal locations for whale watching.
Tours to view whales, bears and other wildlife can be arranged from Telegraph Cove and several other locations in the area. Long-term parking can be arranged in Telegraph Cove for those setting out on extended boating trips in Johnstone Strait. Telegraph Cove, one of the last boardwalk communities on eastern Vancouver Island, is well worth a visit even if you’re not planning to do any offshore exploring.
Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve is located 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Port McNeill, on the northeastern shore of Vancouver Island, and incorporates Mt. Derby, Mt. Sir John and the Tsitika Mountain. Access to Robson Bight Provincial Park is prohibited. Whale watching is restricted to access in Johnstone Strait – be sure to follow the Federal Watching Guidelines.
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