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Brooks, Bunsbys, and Back: Sea Kayaking Vancouver Island’s Northwest Coast

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In order to reach the Brooks Peninsula, most of which is now protected as a 51,631-hectare provincial park, you must first pass through several groups of islands. Paddlers with campsites in mind will find the most appealing ones in Big Bunsby Marine Park. In fact, if you’re only exploring for a few days, the Bunsby group of five major islands constitutes a fine destination in itself. The one drawback there is a lack of fresh water. The nearest source is an hour’s paddle away at Battle Bay on the Vancouver Island mainland. Brooks Peninsula lies a further three hours paddle north of the Bunsbys.

If you’re pressed for time, the best option for reaching the heart of Kyuquot Sound is to arrange for a ride on the local water taxi. Skipper Leo Jack operates the Voyager Water Taxi from his base in the village of Kyuquot (ky-oo-cut). Jack started his business 13 years ago because “there was no work. The mining, fishing, and logging jobs are all gone.” Now his days are busy ferrying groups of kayakers back and forth to drop-off points just about anywhere in the sound, with the exception of several islands which require advance permission from the Kyuquot First Nation band office to visit.

Jack provides more than simple transportation. With his guidance, you may well find yourself being steered towards a special place to camp, such as Island 195 in the Bunsbys or a cluster of beaches around Jackobson Point on Brooks Peninsula’s south coast.

Island 195 is so named because of its maximum elevation in feet above the ocean. The diminutive island is the most westerly of the Bunsby group and its white shell beach faces the open ocean. There’s hardly room for more than two tents above the tide line, which makes for an intimate setting from where to survey the nearby kelp beds. Above the roar of the surf which cannons against distant reefs and sea stacks can be heard the mewing of sea otter kits and their mothers who paddle back and forth along a watery highway. Sea otters are surprisingly large, as much as 45 kilos in weight and 150 centimetres long, and are covered in a thick, soft coat which made them such a prized catch centuries ago. Easily spotted, they play, preen, and munch on shellfish as they float lazily on their backs. At night, they wrap themselves in bull kelp tendrils anchored to the ocean floor, which make for secure places to sleep.

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