The Broken Group is made up of over 100 islands and is home to a wealth of natural and cultural history. It is the traditional territory of the Tseshaht First Nation. More recently - in 1970 - this area became part of Pacific Rim National Park, along with several other coastal sections. It is part of the pacific temperate rainforest and is made up of a mixture of new and old growth forests. Like the majority of land on the west coast, it is lush, green, and an absolutely stunning place to explore. Several kayak tour operators run in this area, with Majestic Ocean Kayaking being the first in Ucluelet to do so. The Broken Group Islands has become an internationally sought-after kayaking destination because of its beauty, it’s almost tropical-looking waters, and its abundant sea life. A tour here is a great place to start for a beginner paddler and will satisfy the desires of a more experienced paddler with its perfect mix of technical and non-technical waters. The price of our 4-day tour is $1399.00 + tax, which is not too steep when you consider kayaks, paddling gear, boat shuttle, great food, and fantastic guides are all included.
Benefits of a Guided Tour
When deciding between a guided tour or simply renting gear to do it all yourself, there are many factors to consider. What you might lose in self-determination and making your own decisions you gain in peace of mind from a leader who knows the area and is highly trained and certified in safety procedures and wilderness first aid. Guests always get a say in daily decisions, as the tour is for them, not the guides. It is the guides’ goal to help guests achieve their goals! As well, guests can take part in watching for hazards, communicating with the group, and maybe even learn more advanced paddling skills, which will allow them to pursue their own solo kayaking endeavours. Going with a guide also means finding hidden gems such as sea caves and the best places to spot wildlife. A guide can also help teach their guests about the unique history of the area, which, as a visitor, would be impossible to know without extensive research.
Guides thoroughly plan daily routes and distances to fit their group’s abilities and goals, as well as the forecasted weather and sea conditions. In the event of an emergency, Majestic Ocean Kayaking has thorough evacuation procedures in place to get those in need to safety. On some occasions when the weather suddenly turns and the swell gets larger, both our expert guides and Captain Gary, who drives our boat shuttle, have rescued solo kayakers and canoeists who have become stranded.
Personal Physical and Mental Benefits
Like any exercise activity or sport, especially one spent in nature, there is a wide variety of mental and physical benefits attributed to participation. Sea kayaking is an accessible sport in terms of mobility and physical fitness levels, though starting costs can be high. The physical benefits are quite obvious, with benefits to core, shoulder, and back strength, alongside improved cardio, and endurance. Jill Suttie’s article in Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine notes that spending your summer days outside in the sun has been proven to positively affect mood, attention, and creativity, as well as to decrease stress levels, all while making you a kinder person with more enthusiasm for life.
As we (hopefully) head towards the post-pandemic era, more and more people are trying to complete the trips they didn’t get to do in 2020 or 2021. It is also clear that the last two years have created a bloom of outdoor enthusiasts: finding gear to purchase - like kayaks, mountain bikes, skis, surfboards - has never been more difficult! With that in mind, it is the perfect time to book a tour so you can try out kayaking without having to purchase all the gear yourself. Using Majestic’s high-quality gear means you can test out gear that you may want to buy in the future. As well, being able to have a well-rounded social life these past two years has been very difficult. Luckily, a multi-day adventure such as this can foster excellent group dynamics, camaraderie, and long-term friendships! It can also be the perfect opportunity to get together with friends and family who you may have drifted away from during these rough times. Being able to get outside, make friends, and be social once again with no barriers is something we are all desperately in need of.
We know a lot of thought goes into planning a vacation, especially if you are planning to travel long distance to get there. We have a few tips to make your planning experience go as smoothly as possible:
What to Communicate with Us
Once you have chosen the dates you wish to come paddle with us, there are several options during the booking process which allow for any accommodations you may need to make your trip as easy and comfortable as possible.
We always keep extra gear on hand in case you either do not own or cannot bring items such as sleeping bags, sleeping pads, or tents. These can all be selected for rent during the booking process or added afterwards. As some supplies are limited, please try to contact us in advance if you need a change or addition to your gear! Gear we provide for no extra fee includes: a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), which is specifically designed for paddling; paddling jackets to protect and keep you dry from splashes, drips of water, or a light rain; neoprene spray skirts to ensure you stay dry inside the cockpit; and neoprene wetsuits to keep you warm in inclement weather or an unplanned swim. We have no issue if you have your own gear and wish to bring it, in fact we encourage it so you can get as much experience paddling and practicing with your own equipment as possible! 2-person tents are also provided for guests.
Another step during the booking process is deciding what kind of kayak you would like to paddle. We offer top-of-the-line fiberglass single boats from Nimbus, and doubles from Seaward Kayaks (both local B.C. brands!). If you are a beginner, and/or you wish to paddle with a friend, partner, or child, we typically suggest a double kayak. For those with intermediate to advanced skill levels who want to paddle solo, a single kayak is usually preferred. Our kayaks also come in a range of cockpit sizes to fit all body frames and heights, and as such, we ask that you input your height and weight during booking so that we can prepare the appropriate boat for you.
Food Preferences, Sensitivities, and Allergies
We are able to fully accommodate for any food preferences, sensitivities, or allergies in order to keep you comfortable, happy, and mitigate any serious incidents. During booking you can select either standard food sensitivities or extreme sensitivities (anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions). Food preferences or dietary requirements such as gluten-free, celiac, vegan, vegetarian, diabetic, or otherwise, can also be selected along with specific preferences or requirements.
In order to ensure all our guests have a memorable and enjoyable trip, we ask for information around any health concerns which might affect your trip. This could include recent or recurring injuries to ankles, knees, hips, wrists, or shoulders, as well as diseases, illnesses, or chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, arthritis, etc. As well, we will need to know about any medications you take for any of these or similar conditions. Knowing all this information is a key safety precaution we take, in case of a rare incident so our staff and guides can provide the best care possible.
We know this is very personal information, and we at Majestic Ocean Kayaking take this seriously, exercising the utmost care in keeping guest information professional and confidential at all times.
Any Other Questions or Concerns
Questions and concerns can pop up at any time. We are happy to assist you with them to the best of our abilities at any point: prior, during, or after your tours. Please do not hesitate to reach out via phone or email.
What to Pack
The climate of the west coast of Vancouver Island can be unpredictable, though we can always predict it will be wet in one way or another! It is not uncommon for a short rainstorm to pop up randomly. Even on bright and sunny days, there is a layer of dew to be found on anything not tightly sealed in a kayak hatch or a dry bag. For these reasons we are sharing the information below.
As per most backcountry or outdoor endeavours, cotton is a big no-no. This is because cotton does not dry quickly or keep the wearer warm when it is wet. We have an abundance of clean, spare clothing made of mostly synthetic materials for guests to borrow, if need be, but for a trip of this length it is best for you to pack your own. We suggest materials such as merino wool, standard wool, fleece, silk, or any other fast-drying and breathable synthetic material. The majority of sport and exercise clothing will come in these materials. In the event of a serious downpour, it is difficult to fully dry clothing once it is soaking wet, so take this into consideration when packing.
Much like the above discussion on cotton, we recommend bringing synthetically insulated products over those insulated with down for jackets or sleeping bags. Synthetic insulation will keep you warm when wet and does a much better job of retaining its loft than down. When down gets soaking wet, it stops retaining warmth and can be difficult to bring back to its prior state. If you are able to properly care for your down and are willing to take the risk, we will not stop you, however. Some brands (such as Ortovox) are beginning to use wool that is too coarse and itchy to be used for next-to-skin clothing as their insulation, making it perform similarly to synthetics while providing a more natural, warmer option.
Other than clothing material, consider the level of sun protection (example: short sleeve versus long sleeve), as well as how warm the item is (example: tank top versus thick sweater). For additional sun protection, many outdoor-specific clothing brands make their products with a UPF rating; meaning they help protect you from harmful UV rays. Polarized sunglasses and a hat are also highly recommended. Much like spending a day on the ski hill, the water does an excellent job of reflecting the sun back upwards even on cloudy days, so maximizing your sun protection is always a good idea!
For footwear, we suggest a closed-toe pair of shoes for paddling and at shore, as beaches can be rocky and uneven. This will limit the chance of cutting and/or squishing any toes! Having a dry and comfortable pair of shoes for camp is a great idea as well - these can be running shoes, slipper-style shoes like Crocs, rain boots, or something of your choice (closed-toe still recommended).
Here is a list of suggested clothing items and numbers to bring as per recommendations above:
- 2 – 3 shirts for paddling
- 2 – 3 pairs of shorts and/or capri-style pants for paddling
- 4 – 5 pairs of underwear (chance of getting wet when sitting down in your boat)
- 2 – 3 sports bras
- 3 – 4 pairs of socks (more if paddling in them)
- 1 set of dry clothing designated for sleeping (shirt, bottoms, and socks or whatever you prefer)
- 1 bathing suit (if you’re bold enough to get in the cold ocean!)
- 1 warm fleece sweater
- 1 insulated jacket
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 pair of rain pants
- 1 pair of paddling shoes
- 1 pair of camp shoes
- 1 hat (ball cap, sunhat, visor, etcetera)
- 1 pair of sunglasses
- 1 toque or beanie for cool evenings
- 1 set of gloves for cool evenings
Gear, Personal Items, and Miscellaneous
While we have some gear for rent, it can often be more comfortable to use your own if you are ablet to bring it with you on your trip. Bear in mind that this section is not meant to imply you should spend hundreds of dollars on your own gear, it is simply to give examples.
As mentioned above, if you are bringing your own sleeping bag, synthetic insulation is the best option out here on the coast. It is typical to wake up to the outside of your bag being slightly damp because of dew, so it is best to pack accordingly. For temperature ratings, bags designed for 3-season or summer camping are recommended (-9°c/15.8°f to 0°c/32°f), along with sleeping pads of a similar rating (R-Value of 1 – 2 minimum, to get technical). You can also bring your own tent, if you like, and a summer or 3-season model will once again fit the bill. Remember, it is best if the tent is in good condition and that the fly of the tent fully covers the body, in order to keep you dry in the event of a downpour.
In terms of entertainment, our guides do their best to encourage group fun, but everyone needs time to themselves at some point. We encourage you to keep off technology such as cellphones and tablets as much as possible, in order to truly absorb the benefits of time spent in nature. The only time we promote cellphone usage is to take photos of this beautiful area. Items such as books, a deck of cards, or perhaps a sketchbook are excellent ways to keep yourself entertained in the quiet moments at camp.
It is also key for guests to keep themselves clean and happy – no one wants a smelly or grumpy campmate! Each guest will be given a complementary roll of toilet paper for the trip - and we bring extras, so don’t worry about rationing. Guests can also bring any personal item they desire, though space in the kayaks is limited, as each guest gets one hatch to transport their belongings (the others are for food and group equipment). There is no need to go extravagant, however; the basics will do just fine. Please note that all toiletries must be packed out including menstrual products. The only thing we leave behind is toilet paper in composting toilets, and our footprints on the beach. We must keep our natural areas clean and healthy so we can keep coming back to enjoy them for years in the future!
Below is a list of gear, personal items, and other miscellaneous things you may want to bring:
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Pad
- Camp chair or pad for sitting
- > Toothbrush
- > Toothpaste
- > Deodorant
- > Comb/hairbrush
- > Soap and/or hygienic wipes
- > Menstrual products (pads, tampons, cups, etc.)
- > Ziploc baggies and a small stuff sack to pack out used products/toilet paper
- > Small personal first aid kit (for cuts and blisters or personal needs)
- > Any other personal care items
- Quick dry towel
- Entertainment (book, cards, sketchbook, etc.)
- Camera (film, digital, or phone)
- Anything else your heart desires (as long as it fits into the hatch!)
Timing for Arrival and Departure
The Broken Group Islands Tour leaves in the morning, so if you are not already in Ucluelet, plan to arrive at your accommodation in Ucluelet the night before your tour to ensure a full night’s rest. Guests should arrive at Majestic Ocean Kayaking Headquarters at 8:00 am, or when your tour itinerary specifies.
At the end of the tour, the group is expected to arrive back at our shop by 5:00 pm. If you plan to head to your next stop on your trip after, expect to be driving into the evening, or plan to stay in Ucluelet for another night.
As timing can be tricky if you are travelling from out of town or long distances, we have several recommendations for where you can stay before and after your time in the Broken Group Islands. We have several businesses we work with to connect guests with accommodations, and there are many more campsites, bed, and breakfasts, AirBnBs, and more in the area for you to call home during your trip.
When booking your trip, it is best to estimate your own abilities based on fitness and experience to best choose a tour. The Broken Group Islands are a perfect location for the beginning paddler and will also be enjoyable for those with years of paddling experience. Our tours do not require you to be in the best shape possible. Sea kayaking is a great sport for any level of fitness and we can accommodate many mobility constraints and experience levels. Our guides will set a pace which fits everyone in the group so no one is ever left behind. With that being said, guests are expected to be fit enough to paddle for at least 4 – 5 hours every day, and to be able to assist in carrying boats above the high tideline at the end of the day and then back the next morning. Of course, you are not expected to lift if you have injuries or conditions which prevent you from heavy lifting! Sea kayaks can be quite heavy when loaded - especially the doubles - and can weigh upwards of 100lbs, so we need all the help we can get! For single kayaks, we require at least 4 people, and for doubles, at least 6 people are needed to help carry. This helps distribute the weight so it's not too heavy for anyone.
Paddling with Children
Anyone aged 12 and up can come paddle with us. These kayak tours can be an amazing experience for kids and can help build a passion for the outdoors! We typically recommend our Family Kayaking Adventure Camp Tour for those with younger children, as paddling days are shorter and conditions are usually calmer, but the Broken Group Islands also works well. Younger and/or smaller children are best suited to paddling in a double kayak, so that they can work together, paddling with a parent or sibling.
Paddling in The Broken Group Islands
The Broken Group Islands has seven designated camping spots: Gilbert Island, Clarke Island, Gibraltar Island, Turret Island, Willis Island, Dodd Island, and Hand Island (from South to North). There are two main sections which we will refer to as the Outer Islands and the Inner Islands. On calmer days, the group may venture to the Outer Islands to experience the swell and magnitude of the open ocean, as well as to see the massive rock faces and structures created by millennia of waves and storms. The Inner Islands are typically calmer as large swells have a tougher time breaking through, but wind can still create chop and whitecaps. This is often where we will spend the most time when the forecast shows larger swells or inclement weather.
Guides are responsible for the trip route as they are trained to keep weather, group dynamics, speed of travel, and other information in mind. Guests can and should voice their goals (enjoying nature, paddling 50 nautical miles, practicing their skills, etc.) at the start and during trips, in order to ensure everyone has the best trip possible. Our guides are always open to feedback about how they can make your trip even better!
Majestic Ocean Kayaking adheres to the Operating Standards of the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of B.C. (SKGABC), the main governing body of sea kayaking in our province. The Broken Group Islands is located in Class 3 waters, meaning parts of it are exposed and open to the swell and weather, long crossings, and it is a distance from civilization. As such, all of our lead guides (Level 3 or higher) are trained and certified to lead in Class 3 or higher waters, and our assistant guides (Assistant Overnight Guide or higher) are certified to assist the leads in Class 3 waters. All guides are fully trained and certified with Wilderness First Aid in the event of injury or illness. We have set procedures in place in the rare event of emergencies so our guides can get those in need to medical attention or a safer area. All of our kayaks and transport vessels are equipped with the proper safety equipment as per Transport Canada’s regulations. For more information, please contact us.
Prior Skills and Kayaking Experience
As mentioned, our tours require little to no experience! All we need is you to be comfortable in a kayak and on the water in both flat and somewhat choppy conditions. Our excellent guiding team is there to watch for hazards, to lead the group into the most appropriate conditions, and to help everyone learn and have fun. For those with an abundance of experience who want to push themselves, definitely check out our Clayoquot Tour to explore more technical waters, or our Ultimate West Coast Tour to get the best of the Broken Group Islands and Clayoquot Sound!
What You Will Learn
Our tours are not technical paddling courses, so if that is your goal, we recommend checking out our neighbouring business SKILS to further develop your paddling technique. We will provide basic introductory paddling skills so that guests can maneuver efficiently through the water, as well as basic chart reading skills. If guests and guides are willing, more technical teachings are possible as long as the guide is a certified skills instructor. Guests will also be taught the essentials of sustainable backcountry practices.
Beginner/Introductory Level Paddling Skills
At the beginning of each tour, a guide will hop in their boat to demonstrate how to get in without toppling over, what to do in the event of a flip, how to put on a spray skirt, and how to operate the rudder to turn the boat. They will also demonstrate basic paddling strokes with proper technique. This technique will show active upper and lower body separation, meaning the paddler moves their whole upper body with each stroke to fully engage their core and back muscles, rather than simply using their shoulders and arms to paddle. This maximizes efficiency so that guides and their guests can paddle further distances for longer while avoiding possibility of overuse injuries.
In the rare event of a capsize, guests are not expected to be able to get back into their boat on their own; guides will quickly come over to assist in stabilizing the boat, so that guests can pull themselves back in. We also have gear such as stirrups to aid in getting back into the boat if mobility is limited. Guides will always carry extra clothing so guests can dry off and warm back up after a chilly swim!
Basics of Chart Reading
Each guest will receive a laminated chart of the Broken Group Islands at the beginning of their tour so they can follow along during the tour and learn a bit about the art of chart reading. The area is relatively simple to navigate with only a few passages being tide dependent to cross, and no serious currents anywhere. The main part of chart reading the guests will learn is to find where they are on the chart by scoping out their surroundings: are they near a bunch of small islands and rock outcroppings, or between two large islands? Utilizing their chart, guests will also be able to tell where the intertidal zone, shallow areas, and deep-water crossings will be. At the end of each trip when tours arrive back at Majestic HQ, guides will lead their guests through tracing their paddling route onto their chart, along with different stops and campsites they visited. They will then add up the total nautical miles traveled per trip! These charts make a wonderful souvenir and a great way to look back and remember where you paddled on the trip of a lifetime.
Backcountry Camping Etiquette
Travelling in less populated natural areas means travelling a bit differently than you may in civilization. In order to preserve these areas for years to come, we must ensure that every protective measure possible is being implemented.
These best practices are referred to as the 7 Leave No Trace Principles:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Others
Follow the above link for more information on Leave No Trace Principles. Closely following these principles guarantees natural areas are clear of trash, human waste, and food waste, ensuring that we protect the land and animals from the impacts of tourism as much as possible. The seven Parks Canada campsites in the Broken Group Islands have well-made composting toilets, as well as clear and nicely packed tent sites, which helps prevent further degradation of these beautiful, forested areas.
Guests who are more experienced or have more ambitious paddling goals may want to ask their guide for more information and possible training. As our tours are not training courses, it is up to the guide’s discretion whether any further training can take place, as it will be dependent on a number of factors, including weather, group management and location. Whether or not training can happen, guides are always happy to answer questions about advanced paddling skills and more in-depth chart reading skills.
For those who are less experienced with camping or tenting, sleeping in the backcountry can certainly be a different experience! Sleeping pads and sleeping bags have become quite advanced and comfortable to ensure the best sleep possible. It can take a sleep or two for guests to get used to a night in the great outdoors, so make sure you go to bed early!
Guides will show guests how to set up their tents properly and offer other important tips for a comfortable sleep and a happy tour. Having a set of clothes specifically designated for sleeping will keep guests warm and dry. Guests should also try to dry off their feet and wipe off extra sand and dirt to keep their tent and gear clean and comfortable. All backcountry campers should ensure ‘smelly things’ (deodorant, toothpaste, food, etc.) that might attract animals are packed away securely in kayak hatches. As mentioned above in the ‘What to Bring’ section, guests should pack all extra items not needed for sleeping into their dry bags, so they do not get damp from the morning dew and condensation from sleeping.
Our guides will handle all the cooking for all the meals on your trip! Each day, there will be 3 healthy meals, two snacks, and a delicious dessert. This ensures food is handled properly within B.C. Food Safety Legislation so everyone can stay healthy for the whole tour. Guests can help with tidying up dishes and picking up any fallen scraps of food. All of our ingredients are sourced locally and are of the highest quality possible, with a focus on freshly caught seafood. Food preferences, sensitivities, and allergies can easily be accommodated for, as mentioned above in the ‘What to Communicate with Us’ section. As we follow the Leave No Trace Principle, ‘Dispose of Waste Properly,’ guides do their best to prepare the right amounts of food so there are no leftovers...so guests are encouraged to take seconds!
It is very important to keep up with hygiene in the backcountry so everyone can be happy, healthy - not smelly! Most people do not brave the chilly ocean waters for a quick rinse or bath, so either bringing sanitary wipes or using a touch of soap and water to wipe off any dirty spots is very helpful. Washing hands regularly paramount for hygiene on our tours, and guides will provide a handwashing station for guests. Hand sanitizer will also always be available. You can and should maintain your usual hygiene routines such as brushing teeth and hair throughout the tour.
Going to the washroom without access to a flushing toilet or a composting toilet can be an awkward experience at first. When toilets are not available - such as on lunch breaks or quick landings - guides will allocate a more private area for guests to do their business. The intertidal zone is the best place to go as tides and small invertebrates like crabs will clean up and carry away any waste. As well, only waste should be left behind; toilet paper and menstrual products must be packed out! This can best be done with extra plastic bags in our identifiable, yellow-coloured dry bag. Menstrual cups are a great way to avoid excess waste in the backcountry, though being comfortable and clean when using one is key. Guides will always advise their groups on proper backcountry hygiene and toilet-going procedures.
It is important to take care of yourself while out on tour. 4 days spent on the water can be quite tiring mentally and physically, especially for beginners. Before a trip of this sort, doing some training such as walking to build endurance, as well as core and shoulder workouts, can massively increase enjoyment and decrease likelihood of injuries and tiredness (even 10 minutes once a week is helpful!). For more serious health concerns, it is not a bad idea to chat with your doctor or physiotherapist to ensure a trip of this sort is advisable for you, and to find out the best ways to prepare physically. Both guests and guides should take time out of their day to ensure all needs are being met. Here are some tips to take care of yourself during tours:
- As we spend most of the day in the sun, drinking lots of water (2 litres at least!) will help keep headaches and tiredness at bay.
- Slapping on a hat and sunscreen to avoid sunburns and excessive exposure will be highly beneficial on hot and sunny days. Sunscreen is also recommended on cloudy days.
- To keep energy up, eating enough during meals and having snacks is key (if any issues or dislikes of food arise, do let the guides know so accommodations can be made). If you are still hungry after snacks or meals, let you guide know.
- As we often wake up wake up around 7:00 am, guests should ensure they get a good long sleep (8 hours at least).
- In the mornings, a quick group stretching circle is common, but if not, guests should take a moment to warm up their shoulders and backs for the day.
- Ensuring clothing is dry and relatively clean will avoid any rashes and keep you warmer and comfortable throughout the trip. Having an extra set of clothing as a backup in case of a capsize or heavy rain is never a bad idea! Guides will have some extra clothing with them at all times.
- If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, or if your social battery is running low, feel free to take a quite solo moment away from the group to recharge and release some stress when you get to camp.
- Any issues that arise with gear and with physical or mental state, tell your guide! They are well-trained to deal with any problem and make your trip as great as possible.
We hope this article contains enough information to prepare you for our 4-day Broken Group Islands tour or to inspire you to join us this summer! For any further questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us.
Thank you for reading!