Vancouver Island Photo Tours

You will find many answers here. We constantly updating this page

sustainability certified

1. Ethical tours?

Absolutely, I'm known for 40+ years as a very ethical wildlife and travel photographer, very respectful of First Nations and acknowledging the Traditional Territories of the Kwakwaka'wakw People of my tours are done in which Territory my marine-based boat tours are operated. Wildlife is always first, right after the safety of my guests.

2. Certified?

Absolutely, I'm a certified Skipper/Captain (SVOP, Transport Canada), professional bear-watching guide (CBVA) and a marine mammal guide (MERS)

3. What special equipment should I bring on tour?

We will be on the fully covered hardtop boat all day, so no special footwear or gear is required. Just dress comfortably in layers. We will have fleece blankets and drinking water on board for you. Depending on the weather, you might like to bring a hat/gloves/sunscreen/sunglasses/rain gear to make you more comfortable.

Photographers - bring full batteries and empty memory cards, Rolf recommends at least a 100 - 400mm lens, and you can leave your tripod at home.

4. Is there a toilet on board?

There is a small toilet onboard the boat and public toilets at the back of the office in Alder Bay where we will usually launch the boat launch from. 

5. Who can go on tour?

Almost everyone! We are very inclusive and try to cater to (almost) everyone's needs. We love having children on board and welcome family bookings. Since we are on the water all day (sometimes up to 12 hours), we do not recommend booking if you are pregnant, have back problems or have small children under the age of 2 as it can be physically demanding on your body being on the boat all day.

6. Where are we based?

We are based near Port McNeill and Telegraph Cove on North Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island is a 2-hour ferry ride from the mainland and Port McNeill Alder Bay is an additional 3.5hr hour drive from Nanaimo where the ferry docks. Pacific Coastal fly into Port Hardy airport, which is another option to reach this beautiful and relatively remote area of the island that is a 45-minute drive away, but beware that flights can be impacted by weather. We recommend taking a day to drive up from Nanaimo and stopping along the beautiful 19A coastal highway along the way. 

7. Where will we depart from?

We usually depart from Alder Bay Resortsometimes from Telegraph Cove  or Port McNeill. If you have a special pick-up request, please talk to us to see if we can facilitate it. 

8. What time will we depart, and how long do the tours last?

Each tour is bespoke, and departure time depends on tide, weather and the tour you are taking. Generally, it will be an early start, usually before sunrise to maximize wildlife viewing opportunities. Equally, return time greatly depends on the tour you have booked, the weather and the wildlife. You can expect to be back on land in the late afternoon.

9. Will I have the boat to myself?

At the time of the inquiry, prices are quoted on a per-person or boat charter basis, so you decide whether you have the boat to yourself or are possibly sharing it with other guests based on the price you pay. There will only ever be a maximum of 4 guests on board (with the special exceptions of family groups of 5 people sometimes being accommodated).

10. What camera to bring?

All cameras are fine, from a phone camera to Bridge Camera, bring what you want. For lenses, I recommend in the range of 100-400mm or better 100-600mm range. Tripods are not needed. I don't even recommend monopods.

11. What will be seeing and photographing?

I don't know, I can't guarantee anything as every day is different, and it is up to the wildlife, ocean and weather how the day will turn out. I always try my very best to show you as much as I can within the tour, we often see a lot of wildlife, but it can't be guaranteed, never.

12. What wildlife can we see?

Depending on the tour, we watch Grizzly Bears (Knight Inlet Tour, regularly), Black Bears (often), Killer Whales (in mid-July-October, normally), Humpback Whales (May-October, (regularly)), Minke Whales (sometimes), Dolphins (sometimes), Porpoises (regularly), Seals (regularly), Sea Lions (regularly), Sea Otters (regularly), Bald Eagles (regularly), Sea Birds (regularly), Wolves (once in 8 Years), Cougars (twice in 8 years)

13. Cancelations?

- If I have to cancel for some unforeseen personal or mechanical reason, and we cannot find an alternative solution, you will receive a full refund. Note: If I get sick, I am part of an excellent network of experienced skippers who could possibly replace me for the day (this has never happened before, but I am prepared for it just in case!)

- If we have to cancel because of weather (nobody’s fault) we can change the day of your tour (depending on availability) or do an alternative land-based tour. In case we can’t find a short-term solution you will receive either a voucher for a tour in the future (valid for 2 years, non-transferable) or you will receive a partial refund (excluding your non-refundable deposit)

- Unfortunately, if you have to cancel within 30 days of the tour, your payment is non-refundable as the majority of my guests are international, and I cannot fill seats at short notice.

We are not a big business, it is Sarah & myself, we only have 2 or 4 seats available and a short season, so every cancelation is a lost day we can not recover from.
We can not take the risk that you may have to cancel. We ALWAYS recommend travel insurance in order to protect yourself in case something unforeseeable happens.