It’s the end of another glorious day on the water in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands. I’m first in line for dinner. “Did you wash your hands?” There’s a smile in his eyes but his voice is serious. Our mask-covered, rubber-gloved kayaking guide has caught me dirty-handed. I slink back to the wilderness hand-washing station feeling like a naughty kid, but grateful for the precautions. Back in January, my friend Trish and I had booked a summer 2020 kayaking trip with Spirit of the West Adventures, before COVID-19 was on our radar. Miraculously, the trip went ahead, albeit a very different one from what we had signed up for.
In March, when the pandemic abruptly shut down “normal” life here in Canada, I didn’t expect it to jeopardize our trip. “It’s still five months away; surely this will blow over by then.” It wasn’t long before I was jolted out of my naivety, but I held on to a sliver of hope for the trip. Not surprisingly, Spirit of the West Adventures was forced to cancel their regularly scheduled tours. They did however leave open a small window of possibility for their clients from British Columbia. By mid-June, when non-essential travel restrictions within the province were eased, the company announced they would be offering a limited selection of private bubble group tours. Trish and I were over the moon. We recruited our hubbies and another couple from our neighbourhood, and voilà…our private bubble group of six was created.
Kayaking and wilderness camping in the Discovery Islands, located in the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, is pure bliss. We launched from Quadra Island—Spirit of the West’s home base—and spent five peaceful August days circumnavigating Read Island and exploring the rugged coastline.
We fell into a rhythm of paddling on mostly mirror-like water, camping at idyllic islands with sun-warmed pebble beaches, and feasting on amazing meals created by our guides Beverley and Brandon. Most of our bubble group enjoyed daily ocean swims, plunging into the cold, clear water with the enthusiasm of resident seals and otters. I was happy to bask on a warm rock. One afternoon, we paddled across to Cortes Island where we hiked to Robertson Lake, a lovely water-accessible only spot that we had all to ourselves. The water temperature there was perfect, even for a chicken like me.
It was a nice change to simply soak up nature and leave the logistics of tide tables, currents, weather forecasts and search for the perfect west-facing campsites to our guides. As we paddled, Beverley and Brandon pointed out eagles, porpoises, all kinds of sea birds and local landmarks. Lively conversation and quiet contemplation were easy in our bubble group. Sometimes, we played trivia games. Here’s a question that got lots of laughs: What animal has the largest penis to body ratio? You’ll find the answer at the end.
Prior to this trip, I had been on two other kayaking tours with Spirit of the West Adventures. Our Discovery Islands tour completely lived up to my high expectations from previous trips despite the COVID-19 curve ball. The staff did an outstanding job seamlessly integrating safety protocols in a way that never felt onerous or took away from the easy enjoyment of the trip.
Somehow, our guides managed to set up the hand washing station before I could even haul myself out of the kayak. We all used individual drinking cups and were given our own supply of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Our meals were served plated, rather than buffet style. Attention to detail was impressive: Our sleeping pads came with an antiseptic wipe carefully attached to the inflator valve.
After my hand washing faux pas, I diligently pulled my orca-patterned buff over my mouth and nose as Brandon filled my plate with grilled salmon, potatoes and salad—what a treat having yummy meals made for us. The stretchy neck buffs, which we were asked to wear if we could not maintain 2-metre distance from our guides, are a brilliant idea. Not only did they serve as masks, they did extended duty as sun protection, nighttime eye shield, head warmer and fashion accessory.
Pandemic worries and generalized stress melted away during our five days kayaking in the Discovery Islands. Good friends, immersion in nature, physical activity and delicious food all wrapped in the competent hands of Spirit of the West Adventures—it was the recipe for another perfect stay-close-to-home get away in beautiful British Columbia.
Interested in a guided kayaking trip?
Spirit of the West Adventures offers kayaking tours in coastal British Columbia (and internationally) for novice to experienced paddlers. Tours of varying length are either expedition style (camping at wilderness sites) or “glamping” using a basecamp. Kayaks and all camping equipment are provided. Hopefully, by next season they’ll be back in business with their regular tours for domestic and international visitors. Check out my post from a previous trip to the Broughton Archipelago with Spirit of the West Adventures (the whales were incredible).
Answer to the trivia question: Barnacles, tiny crustaceans, have the longest penis relative to body size of any animal—up to eight times their body length. (Thank you for the laugh Brandon)