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By Emily Nixon
For Travel Writers' Tales

Giving up solid ground for rolling waves can be somewhat unnerving, especially when I have major qualms about finding my sea legs. But after listening to the words of encouragement and simple instructions from my kayaking guide, I'm ready to venture out into the icy cobalt waters, just off British Columbia's Sunshine Coast.

West Coast Wilderness Lodge is a perfect spot to dip my novice paddle. It's located in the quaint fishing village of Egmont at the nexus of Hotham Sound, Agamemnon Channel and Sechelt and Jervis Inlets-four tranquil and perfectly protected waterways. The mother lode of outdoor adventure is complemented with fine dining and posh lodging, and whether going a-la-carte or a package deal, it certainly meets the getaway need. Although it's just three hours away from our frenzied city-life, this peaceful place that melds with the wilderness seems to be light-years away. And with thousands of nearby islands, embracing bays and intriguing coves, there is endless exploration for all adventurers-even for newbie kayakers like myself!

After just moments of powering up my paddle I'm greeted by the shiny black head of a harbor seal. With inquisitive eyes and a puppy-like charm, he dips and dives beneath my kayak, enticing me to come and play.

"Consider it a welcome to the waters," Kathryn exclaims, in her strong Kiwi accent. "He's just as curious of you, as you are of him."

Our New Zealand-born guide effortlessly navigates the coastline, sharing her knowledge of the rich marine life that thrives beneath our boats. Joining my playful pup are his porpoise friends, schools of fish, spiny sea urchins and rock-hugging anemones. They chum up with colonies of dazzling starfish, sea-green cucumbers, Lion's Mane and Moon jellyfish. Though I'm just fine checking out these treasures from the comfort of my kayak, others are getting a closer view while dressed in neoprene. These embracing bodies of water offer divers the best of both worlds. As well as being protected and ultra-calm, they're controlled by tidal exchanges, thereby reaping the benefit of abundant marine life. Caverns, caves and waterfalls are a few other alluring features for the adventurers who gravitate below sea level.

Equally entertaining, is the action above the waves. A bald eagle flies from his tree-nest home and floats on the thermals overhead. Just a breast stroke or two away, an osprey does a dive bomb for some fishy prey, and a couple of stoic cormorants sit placidly on the rocky shoreline as we paddle on by. Although we aren't privy to any sightings today, even grey whales and Orcas have known to swim around in these waters.

On this journey, Kathryn guides us through her favorite area, Sechelt Inlet. This narrow fjord offers more than 350 kilometers of mostly uninhabited coastline. Forested slopes cascade into the ocean and mountain peaks reach high into the sky-it's truly a quintessential BC coastal experience.

If kayaking the majestic waterways of the Sunshine Coast doesn't meet your outdoor adventure need, this wilderness retreat offers lots of other ways that might. You'll likely secrete a little more adrenaline when zipping up the world-famous Skookumchuck Rapids in a zodiac. From the front row seat you get one very close encounter with the fastest salt water rapids in North America-quite the contrast to my delightfully calm and sheltered inlet waters.

Or if aquatic adventuring isn't your thing, consider taking to the skies for an aerial view. That'll surely take your breath away. The lodge offers both float plane and heli tours, far into BC's rugged coastal range, where glaciers plunge into majestic mountain lakes.

The salty ocean air kisses my face as we make our way back after a day of exploration. As well as an ear-to-ear grin, exhausted arms and lots of photos, I have memories of this coastal experience that will last a lifetime. And though the thrill of the day is behind me, the illuminated windows of The West Coast Wilderness Lodge glow like a beacon. What an inviting welcome back to solid ground!


West Coast Wilderness Lodge
6649 Maple Road, Egmont, B.C.,
Canada, V0N 1N0

Photos: Images by Jeff Dicken except where otherwise mentioned

1. West Coast Wilderness Lodge combines pleasures with adventures - Photo: courtesy West Coast Wilderness Lodge
2. Author setting off on her kayak
3. We receive simple instructions from Kathryn, our kayaking guide
4. We paddle the tranquil waterway of Sechelt Inlet
5. Paddling through kelp beds

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