We are excited to present a Brand New Expedition Tour for 2022: an Epic One-Way Exploration of Magnificent Toba Inlet!

Over the years we have been slowly expanding our expedition tours beyond Desolation Sound, and each season the demand for these more adventurous and remote trips eclipses that of the year past.

Our 5- and 7-day loops have been some of our most rewarding tours (for guests and guides alike!) but we’ve always been searching for a way to go even deeper into Toba Inlet – to an area very few have ever had the pleasure of paddling, right in the heart of the Coast Mountains, amongst thunderous waterfalls and impossibly blue ocean waters fed by glaciers and alpine lakes hidden thousands of feet above.

Now, with the partnership of an awesome new water taxi and transport company in Lund, we are finally able to offer this incredible and truly unique tour to our guests: our ‘Epic Toba Inlet & Waterfalls’ One-Way Expedition!

A kayaker paddles towards a large waterfall on a sunny day in Toba Inlet

Why Toba?

Toba Inlet has long been one of our favourite kayaking destinations – difficult to reach, but immensely rewarding!

J. Austen Bancroft, writing for the Geological Society to Canada in 1911, said about Toba and Bute Inlets:

“In the grandeur of their scenery these inlets surpass all the others within this area and must rival in their magnificence all examples of the fiord type in the world.”

Indeed, as you paddle here you really get a feel for the sense of helplessness that Captain George Vancouver – attempting to find a safe and accommodating passage through these mountains in 1792 – must have felt each and every time he was turned back by them.

Peaks over 7200 feet high rise steep on both sides of this fjord that cuts through the mountains at a depth of over 1600 feet below sea level. This is truly some of the most dramatic mountain scenery that can be kayaked on the entire west coast of British Columbia.

High above the inlet, icy peaks and cirques carved by ancient glaciers hang majestically above alpine lakes – and during the spring and the summer this suspended water returns to the ocean in countless streams that carve massive gorges and ravines; and in certain spots, thunder tremendously into the fjord in waterfalls hundreds of feet in height!

These cascading waterfalls are one of the highlights of the tour, a real tour de force in an otherwise silent and imposing landscape. Yet there are other reasons to visit …

Wildlife in the remote passages north of Desolation is ever present – from roving orcas and migrating humpbacks to huge pods of Pacific white sided dolphins, from eagles and osprey to massive groups of seals and sea lions hauled out on rocks and cliffs, from deer and elk in the forest to black bears – and even Grizzlies – foraging in the intertidal zone at the mouth of great river valleys, like the Brem River deep in Toba.

And as with all our tours, the service, guidance, camaraderie – and yes of course, the food – continue to set us apart as a tour provider on the west coast of British Columbia. Fresh coffee in the morning, with breakfast being prepared in the camp kitchen behind you, as you contemplate the simple meaning of life in the shadow of these great coastal mountains – where else would you rather be than here..?

Picture moment in Toba Inlet

Why One-Way?

Our previous 7-day loop expeditions gave guests a nice taste of Toba Inlet – with many groups spending two nights at our tenured campsite near the mouth of the inlet and using the base camp to explore up to a quarter or a third of the way to the head of the inlet, before returning to Okeover over the last 3 days of the tour.

This one-way pick-up tour allows us to travel deeper into the fjord and camp much closer to the head of the inlet, spending far longer deep beneath the mountains and amongst the crashing waterfalls. Still mornings, silent paddles and clear evenings amongst these giants are maximized, affording more time to truly soak up this incredible landscape.

Most trips will plan to spend 3 nights in Toba itself – though final route and campsite decisions will be made by the guides depending on many factors such as weather and group dynamic. The final morning will see the group paddle from our secret camp to the Brem River estuary – and possibly sight a Grizzly bear or two – before our water taxi arrives in the early afternoon to load up and bring everyone back to our Okeover Inlet base.

Kayaker in Toba Inlet

2022 Dates
To begin, we are offering five exclusive dates for this epic Toba Inlet exploration for 2022:

  • May 19-25 *8 Spots Left*
  • June 30-July 6 *Sold Out*
  • July 13-19 *7 Spots Left*
  • July 28-August 3 *1 Spot Left*
  • September 1-7 *Sold Out*

We expect these dates to fill in fast however, so be sure to check our availability calendar for remaining spots, or email us at  for any additional information you may need!

We are also offering 2 dates throughout 2022 for our traditional 5-day loop trip – however for next summer and beyond we have added an extra day to this awesome experience to give guests more time in beautiful and remote Lewis, Pryce and Waddington Channels before paddling back to Okeover. The dates for these 6-day loop expeditions are:

  • June 9-14 *9 Spots Left*
  • August 11-16 *6 Spots Left*

To learn more about these expeditions, and to reserve your spot for next summer, click through to our expeditions page and get excited for a remote adventure in 2022!

When is the best time to visit Desolation Sound?

Many will argue that summer in British Columbia is when this beautiful part of the world really shines, and away from winter sports in the mountains – and certainly in Desolation Sound – this is certainly true for us at Powell River Sea Kayak.

While the midsummer months of July and August are often considered to be the optimum months to kayak in Desolation Sound due to the greater certainty of perfect weather, all months in the spring and summer – from May to September – are fantastic for their own reasons.

Here are some of our favourite reasons to visit at each time of year:

 

Early Season (May & June)

At PRSK we call the early season months the ‘green season’ – but that doesn’t mean it’s always wet and gloomy. Early season trips into Desolation Sound are when the rainforest trees and mossy bluffs are at their freshest and greenest, and the temperatures are pleasant on even the sunniest days.

For wildlife lovers, much of the varied and diverse marine wildlife is present during these months, including many birds that head inland to freshwater lakes during the summer months and others that are still showing their varied winter plumage, including surf scoters, marbled murrelets, and plucky Bonaparte’s gulls. This is also a good time to view massive sea lions before they head off to their summer breeding grounds in Alaska and California.

The days are long – meaning almost endless daylight for exploring, relaxing, and socialising in one of the most beautiful areas on the BC coast. After a full day of kayaking, swimming, snorkelling, and socialising, watching the sun set slowly and beautifully over Vancouver Island to the west is a quintessential coastal BC moment on our camping tours.

Finally, from a logistical standpoint, tours before the Canada Day weekend are usually free from some of the stresses associated with summer travel on the coast – from ferry traffic (and long waits at the terminal) to busy and fully booked accommodation providers. Plus, tours before June 14th qualify for some great off-peak ‘green season’ discounts!

 

Peak Season (July & August)

The two month period between Canada Day and Labour Day are considered the prime summer months for vacationing in British Columbia – and indeed the weather on the coast during these months is generally warm, the days are still long, and the winds are (relatively) predictable.

This is the time of the classic Desolation Sound kayak trip. Day trips to freshwater lakes and snorkelling with the sea stars and the sea urchins – no wetsuit needed! Endless sunsets throwing incredible shades of red, orange and yellow across the western sky. Paddling along varied shorelines and through intricate passageways with the warm sun on your arms and your face. Delicious food served with refreshing beverages at camp after a long and rewarding day of exploration and adventure.

Peak season is certainly popular – both in Powell River and on the water in Desolation Sound – but it is popular for a reason: idyllic summer days and nights in paradise that will be remembered by friends and family for years to come.

Powell River and the Upper Sunshine Coast is also a thriving small coastal town that shines in the summer months – with multiple festivals and street parties for all ages, a burgeoning restaurant scene, a bustling weekend farmers market, and one of the best microbreweries in British Columbia!

 

Late Season (September)

Perhaps the best kept secret of paddling trips in Desolation Sound, the late season period after Labour Day in September is constantly (and sometimes surprisingly) rewarding for those who want to squeeze one last adventure out of the summer.

Critically, the weather generally remains solid during this month, with just a noticeable cooling of temperature that can often be seen as a blessing after months of heat on the water. The days are slight;y shorter, but the sunsets are no less spectacular in the evening to the west.

There is a feeling of relief in the air, a collective catching of the breath as the summer winds down. Campsites are empty, anchorages are solemn and quiet, and tours go at their own pace to the beat and the rhythm of nature. 

For wildlife lovers, this may be the best month to visit. While transient orcas can be seen at any time of year as they roam up and down the coast in search of their prey, the re-emergence in the last 10 years of the inside passage of Vancouver Island as a migratory route for humpback whales has seen a surge of these amazing creatures in Desolation Sound, and they tend to congregate more often in the later months of summer.

California and Steller’s Sea Lions are often seen returning in September after a summer away at their respective breeding grounds, an impressive sight whether they are in the water or hauled out in the sun on intertidal rocks.

Finally, our off-peak rates are available for all tours running after September 10th, and those spending some time in the Powell River area before or after the tour really get to experience a more genuine slice of life in a coastal BC community – vibrant in the waning days of summer, but not bustling at the seams with touristic fervour anymore!

[This is the second and final instalment of a series written by PRSK guide Luke Raftl. Read the first Part of the series here]

Day 4

After 3 days on the move and paddling around 40 nautical miles, the middle day of our adventure was a rest day of sorts. Using the Toba Inlet camp as a base for a whole day, we woke and ate breakfast without the usual hustle, and launched without having to pull down our tents just after 10am.

Our destination was deeper into Toba Inlet, with no set itinerary or plans other than to experience the thrill of paddling into the mountains. Huge granite cliffs plunged on both sides straight into the turquoise waters of the fjord, and every corner we turned gave us a new perspective of the rugged Coast Mountains we had come to explore.

Already, as early as it was, we could feel the first breath of wind being pulled into the inlet by the rising temperatures of the day. These sea breezes – or anabatic winds – are prevalent amongst the coastal inlets of British Columbia. With the warm air over the mountains rising in the heat and being replaced by the cooler ocean air from the west, these winds can easily reach over 25 knots on an otherwise calm day and create wind waves in Toba of over 6 feet!

While for now it was still just a nice breeze at our back, we paddled along the steep cliffs and came underneath a cascading waterfall that dropped from a glacial lake many hundreds of metres above – not quite as thunderous as it would have been in May, still a impressive sight in the mid-summer heat. After paddling a little further into the inlet and taking pictures underneath the silent and majestic peaks, we turned back a with a small pang of regret and made our way back to camp into the building wind.

Using the varied shoreline as cover to get out of the gusts as they funnelled up the centre of the inlet, we comfortably returned to camp in time for a late lunch and some relaxing swimming and reading on the beach, content in the knowledge that more good days of paddling remained on the loop home.

Day 5

We were on the move again on day 5, crossing the mouth of Toba Inlet just after 10am and entering Homfray Channel for our long return journey to Desolation Sound. One guest was overheard over breakfast lamenting that the mountain scenery was all behind them starting from today, and Kyle and I smiled in the knowledge that there were still many breathtaking mountain vistas to come on another perfectly clear and warm day.

We were making great time as we entered Homfray from the north. Our guests were by now supremely confident and comfortable paddling for extended periods with efficient strokes that they could continue all day long. There wasn’t a ripple on the water, our only enemy was the beating sun, that we know would increase in intensity as the day went on.

We paddled past Atwood Bay on the mainland side of the channel in serene conditions, idly chatting away and enjoying the mountain views. Iconic Mount Denman looked much different but no less spectacular from this direction, rising jaggedly above our heads.

Suddenly Kris, one of our guests, stopped mid conversation and stared into the distance.

“I’m not sure, but I think I just saw…”

“Wooooooaaaaaahhhhhh”

We all exclaimed in disbelief as a massive humpback whale came up in the distance, its entire body almost leaving the water and becoming airborne down towards the mouth of Homfray Creek in front of us.

We came together and waited, seconds ticking slowly and breathlessly by.

And then again, on more time, the giant repeated its breach after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 15 seconds, as we waited and held our breath.

We all whooped and hollered and the whale – or whales, as we could now see that there were two of them – began moving in front of our path towards the middle of the channel.

For 25 minutes the group sat together, rafted up in silence, taking photos and watching the slow drift of the whales north as they came up together for air, one by one, over and again, before they were long out of sight, and we returned to the paddle ahead.

We had lunch in a nice bay at Homfray Creek, and then jumped back in the kayaks and continued south past Homfray Lodge. High up on the rocks just north of the lodge you can spy old pictographs created in a time long past, and we sat and admired them and tried to interpret their meanings amongst ourselves.

On our left we paddled beyond Forbes Bay and Forbes Creek, directly below Mount Denman itself. The day was getting on and the sun was hot in the sky, and we could feel the energy of the group slowly seeping away.

“Just a little further”, we urged. “Not long now, a couple more bays ahead.”

Finally we reached our goal: a beautiful campsite that looked both north up Homfray Channel to the mountains had left, and west down beyond Desolation Sound again to the rugged spine of Vancouver Island far beyond. It was a wonderful point of land shimmering in the golden afternoon light, and our guests took to the water and swam in the warm ocean temperatures as Kyle and I prepared dinner and appetizers under an incredible Maple tree that reached it’s arm like branches out and over the sea.

Day 6

The day dawned hot and bright again, and we prepared for our return to Desolation Sound.

We had planned the Mountains Tour to avoid Desolation during the August long weekend, and now hoped to return to the Sound at the tail end of the busiest weekend of the year and avoid most of the crowds.

We paddled south along the final mainland potion of Homfray Channel. As we came upon Prideaux Haven – an area renowned as a busy and popular anchorage for sailors and yachts – we could see a number of boats coming and going from the sheltered cove. Passing by along the northern edge of the anchorage, we avoided the traffic jam and then cut in amongst the islands and bays on Prodeaux haven’s western edge, before deciding to continue on and land on the idyllic Curme Islands before lunch, thus giving us all an extended afternoon of rest and relaxation after some long and rewarding days on the water.

The Curmes are popular with kayakers, especially in August, but we arrived early enough in the day to claim the entire southern Curme Isle for ourselves. As the afternoon dragged into evening and the sun began to set in hues of orange and yellow and red over Mink Island to the west, there was plenty of swimming and even some self-rescue practice by some of our more committed guests!

Finally the day ended and we all started to head to our tents, only for another cry to be heard in the night.

“Who wants to see the phosphorescence?!”

Kyle had gone down to clean one last dirty dish in the dark and had discovered that the magical, glowing lights of bioluminescent plankton were dancing beneath the surface of the water. We lingered for half an hour or more as sticks and rocks and eventually a few brave guests went into the water and swam amongst the glowing lights, before we all eventually made our way to our tents for the final time on this grand adventure.

Paddling towards Homfray Channel from Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound is one of British Columbia's premier kayak destinations

Day 7

We didn’t rush on our final morning, and after getting on the water just after 10.30am we crossed in more perfect conditions to the south shore of Mink Island and paddled all the way to the western point, before crossing back into Malaspina Inlet and the final stretch towards home.

The current was rushing into the inlet as we approached, and we relaxed and let the surge of inflowing water carry us almost effortlessly towards our lunch spot in Grace Harbour. After one final meal together upon the bluffs overlooking Okeover Inlet to the south, we silently made our way to Penrose Bay and our launch site, vaguely recognizing the sites we had seen on the first morning of the trip a week ago.

Civilization returned as we closed in on home: first vacation homes on the inlet, then the sight of kayakers looming up in front of us and leaving Okeover for the start of their own journey into Desolation Sound, and then finally we turned the corner and entered Penrose Bay and our destination was in sight.

Friendly staff from PRSK came down to hail us and help us with our kayaks and gear, and in no time we were all standing on the shore and packing our vehicles and saying our goodbyes.

After being threatened with storms of wind and rain in the lead-up to the tour, this turned out to be some of the best paddling weather we experienced all summer in Desolation Sound! With a group of committed guests – with fantastic attitudes – that were all eager to learn and experience this special area of the BC mainland coast, this 7-day Mountains Tour was a highlight of the season for us here at Powell River Sea Kayak.

 

For more information about out 5- and 7-day kayak expeditions, please click through to our Expeditions page on this website!