Our kayak rises and dips in the swells of the open Pacific. Waves break over the bow. Ahead of us, I watch other paddlers in our group disappear and reappear in the swells. We’re paddling the outside of Wower Island, at the outer edge of the Broken Group in Barkley Sound. We’re heading for two small islands where the stellar sea lions congregate. Ahead of us, out of the mist, the islands appear, and as we paddle closer we see the sea lions. They’re enormous, and loud, roaring at one another or perhaps at this motley group of kayakers paddling towards their rocks. And they smell. Words can’t describe how bad they smell. But the sight of these creatures, as they leap into the waves, or somehow pull their enormous girth back onto the rocks, is breathtaking.
Kayaking the Broken Islands is Bucket List material for me. But crashing through the waves of the open Pacific isn’t quite what I’d been expecting. My vision of the Broken Islands is of paddling through the sheltered waters of the inner islands, of exploring deep, calm inlets and intertidal regions, of navigating through narrow channels between the hundred-odd islands in the Broken Group. And we’ve done that. For two days, we’ve enjoyed long paddles through calm waters in brilliant sunshine. We’ve camped on secluded beaches and watched magnificent sunsets. We’ve seen humpback whales, dolphins, seals, and river otters. We’ve been swimming in water warmer than I’ve encountered in this part of the world. And we’ve seen more beautiful vistas than we can count.
But Matt and Travis of Majestic Ocean Kayaking are giving us the deluxe experience. They’ve given us the peace and solitude and calm of the inner islands. They’ve found secluded beaches, and quiet campsites on a busy long weekend. They’ve taken us each day into a different part of the Broken Group, giving us a real flavour of the area. It’s already been a great experience. But taking us out into the open Pacific, in the fog and wind and swells, taking us out of our comfort zone, taking us out around the sea lion rocks, they’ve given us an experience that is truly exhilarating. It’s an adventure that none of us will forget any time soon.
On our last day, as we paddle leisurely back towards Torquat Bay, where our kayaking adventure will end, we see across the channel a humpback whale and her baby. We stop to watch them as the surface and dive in unison, moving slowly closer to our little pod of kayaks. As we float together in the middle of the channel, the whales surface together not fifty meters from our boat. We watch in awe as their slick bodies roll slowly out of the water and back into the depths. It is a magical way to end our paddling adventure through the Broken Group.