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Vancouver Island Photo Tours

Features Animals
Port McNeill, Canada
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About Vancouver Island Photo Tours
My individual custom tours are visiting the most beautiful scenic places around Northern Vancouver Island while having a chance to photograph and watch grizzly bears, black bears, killer whales, humpback whales, dolphins, bald eagles and other wildlife. All tours are lead by professional (35+ years) wildlife and nature photographer Rolf Hicker. A maximum of 4 guests per tour makes them ideal for families, photographers of all levels, special needs as well as couples.
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Karen N wrote a review Oct. 2021
Tamworth, United Kingdom20 contributions55 helpful votes
We had an amazing day with Rolf on his Knight Inlet tour! We saw humpbacks orcas sea lions bald eagles and grizzly bears - it exceeded our expectations! If you have the opportunity to take his tour don’t hesitate!!
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Date of experience: September 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
1 Helpful vote
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Response from TheArtistsPoint, Owner at Vancouver Island Photo Tours
Responded Mar. 17, 2022
Just seeing this now. Thanks so much, Karen for taking the time to leave a review and recommending my tours. I really appreciate it! Hope you are well.
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Sahib Aujla wrote a review Sep. 2021
1 contribution
We did a Broughton Archipelago tour with Rolf in August. It was so amazing I don't know where to start from. Rolf is such an amazing down to earth Nature lover person. He's so respectful of animals and nature. He knows what he does and shares the knowledge about animals and nature. We started our day pretty early, around 6 in the morning. It was just the two of us, me and my girlfriend. We met him and he helped us get situated. He had lots of coffee, milk, and sugar for us. What better way to start the day. His boat is custom mode for tours and is awesome. We ventured off into the waters right away and within first couple minutes talking to Rolf, we knew our day was going to be the best one on our trip. One thing that is different about Rolf than other tours is that you don't feel like he's just a tour guide, but rather a friend who is doing everything he can to make your day amazing. We saw a couples whales around our boat, it was my first time seeing whales and it was so cool. Then we went on to find another whales. One very important thing is Rolf is ethical, he's always mindful of the animals' comfort. We came across a whale who swam beside our boat (at a respectable distance for about) half an hour. Then he asked us if we wanted to see some bears, and we agreed, so he took us to Knight inlet and we saw one bear looking for food at a low tide. Then we saw another one. Rolf brought lunch for us. And I can't explain how tasty the lunch was. Everything was home grown. We ate our lunch at a very peaceful and secluded place. He had cuscus, tortilla wraps, eggs, bacon, condiments and whatnot. After lunch, we went off to look for sea lions, and He found a rock full of sea lions just chilling there. After the sea lions, he spotted an Orca, He cut off the engine and we waited for the Orca to come again, turns out there was a family of Resident Orcas and it was such a delight to watch them. Rolf was quick enough to drop his hydrophone in the water and we were even able to hear them talking. The day was going so good already and watching Orcas was amazing. IMPORTANT : He always asks his guest what they want to do, and plans his tours accordingly so they are very custom and private. There are a lot of other tours where tour guides do what they think is right but Rolf is unlike any other. He will always ask you what you would like to see and do and he will accommodate his best. It was afternoon and Rolf was so polite to ask if we wanted to spend couple hours more or head back. We agreed to look for more whales and we came across dolphins. They were so playful and it was so cool to watch them. It was close to the end of the day, plus high winds were coming so we decided to head back. On the way back to the dock, Rolf passed by his house on the coast and his son was there on the balcony. He made some rounds of the boat while waving at his son and it was soooo cute to see that. Like I said, He's such an awesome person to meet. We met as strangers and left as friend. I can assure you, we WILL BE going back to his tour again for sure. I know Rolf says on his website "I can't promise you any wildlife but I can promise you to do everything to make it the very best day possible" but trust me, You will DEFINITELY see wildlife on his tour, and will come back looking for more. We saw whales, Orcas, dolphins, bears, sea lions, porpoises... Thank you Rolf for making our day the best!
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Date of experience: August 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
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Response from TheArtistsPoint, Owner at Vancouver Island Photo Tours
Responded Oct. 6, 2021
Hello Sahib, thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience and for this wonderful review. As you know, for me it is most important that you had an amazing and I'm so happy to hear that you had exactly that. I also enjoyed you guys as my guests very much and I really hope that we get a chance again to spend another day together. Take care, stay safe and a HUGE thank you again! Rolf
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AC wrote a review Aug. 2021
4 contributions
Recently my wife and I had the privilege of joining Rolf for a full day tour of Knight Inlet. Having done our research and having been on some pre-packaged, impersonal tours in the past, it was far and away a fantastic choice to make the investment to go with Rolf. From the first contact over email, we were treated as guests and not customers, and you got the feeling that while Rolf was very honest about the realities and unpredictability of both the nature and the weather, he would do his utmost to provide a fantastic experience whatever the day might bring. And deliver he did! This is very much an example of under-promise and overdeliver. What each person who books these trips wants to get out of them is different, and that is where I believe Rolf’s approach has it right. We started the night before actually talking through options and what our priorities for the trip were. This is not a token effort on his behalf - he actually listens and actively looks for opportunities to give his guests the experience they seek. Throughout the trip, he explained various options based on the wildlife around, the weather situation and was very realistic about the pros and cons of each option. Add to this world-class scenery, a fantastic lunch, excellent conversation, and all aboard a perfectly suited vessel, the “Ambient Light”, and you already have had a memorable trip even before you start talking about the wildlife and photography aspects of the trip. Please believe Rolf when he says bring extra memory cards. What you think is enough, probably isn't, especially if you run into a day like we had. We had hoped to see a bear, and then we saw multiple family groups in different locations - mothers with cubs, and all obviously unaware and unharmed by our presence, something that Rolf takes great care about, and you can feel his utmost respect for these magnificent creatures. Rolf joked that the current recommendation is to let the guests spot the bears on shore, but if it wasn't for his trained eye and local knowledge, we would have sailed right past! As a bonus we thought seeing a whale would be nice - and then we ended up seeing the most amazing display of a Humpback breaching over 20 times in an unbelievable display of acrobatics. Now I have the pictures to prove all of this, thanks in a large part to Rolf always somehow lining the boat up in perfect light, on the perfect angle. This is one huge benefit that having a photographer in charge of the boat brings. Rolf is a fantastic teacher if you are wanting that. Feeling the pressure of such a fantastic one off display by nature, it was nice as a hobby photographer to know I had backup and the advice I needed not to miss “the” shot when it came about. He is not pushy or hovering and critiquing, he offers really helpful advice and you can see from his catalogue of images really knows his stuff. Even above and beyond this epic day, we thoroughly enjoy the peace, view, and comfortable sleep & stay of two nights at the Artist’s Point B&B, and the warm and welcoming hospitality of both Rolf and Sarah, his seasonal help. They gave us recommendations before, during and after our stay, were delightful conversation, and truly made us feel so welcomed. All in all, a fantastic experience that I have seen some people refer to as a bucket list trip - my advice is to take this off your bucket list and add it to your “to do” list!
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Date of experience: July 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
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Response from TheArtistsPoint, Owner at Vancouver Island Photo Tours
Responded Sep. 10, 2021
Thank you so much for taking the time and for this amazing review. Not sure what to say but that I'm happy that I'm over-delivered. In your case, it was easy as the wildlife was just spectacular. As you know I take every review very personally and it makes me really happy to read yours. What you describe is exactly what I want to do and the confirmation just totally makes my day! Thank you, and I hope we will meet again Rolf
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Mike F wrote a review Aug. 2021
Parksville, Canada77 contributions68 helpful votes
+1
Having for many years wanted to go on a BC whale and bear watching tour I began doing some research about a year ago. In the process I became aware of Rolf Hicker/Vancouver Island Photo Tours on Instagram. On surface, both he and the services he provided seemed ideal – not only is he an experienced guide in Knight Inlet/Johnstone Strait, he is also a professional photographer. The latter was key for me as I wanted to catch some images during the trip. During the day my initial positive impression was confirmed. The two of us met Rolf at his boat early in the AM and headed off for Knight Inlet, leaving from Telegraph Cove. The coffee was both hot and delicious and, from the beginning, the conversation was wide ranging and light. We quickly became ‘shipmates’. When it came to talking about the day ahead, the wildlife and the sea & wind conditions, it very quickly became apparent that Rolf knew his stuff. The early part of the day was a bit of a slog. Knight Inlet is very long, and Rolf wanted us to be in place at low tide when the brown bears/grizzlies come down to the shore to feed. We were not disappointed. Over the next several hours we saw several sows with cubs. While enjoying the sightings Rolf positioned the boat to best advantage while at the same time respecting the bears. Some of the natural light was both breath-taking and photographically challenging. I appreciated Rolf offering photography tips to insure my best result. Lunch was a wonderful mix of salads and sandwiches tied up to a government dock that gave us an opportunity to stretch our legs and recount the amazing morning/early afternoon. We wrapped up the day in Johnstone Strait watching humpback whale ‘Argonaut’ (BCY0Z29) put on a tail slapping performance we will remember for a lifetime. Having sailed for many years I give Rolf highest marks for seamanship and boat handling. As a ‘still learning’ photographer I thank him to his advice. For those seeking a small group tour (we were the only two on board as passengers on this trip) I can’t imagine making a better choice. I hope that we can be Rolf’s guests again during another trip.
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Date of experience: July 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
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Response from TheArtistsPoint, Owner at Vancouver Island Photo Tours
Responded Aug. 8, 2021
Hello Mike, thank you so much for taking the time to write this wonderful review. I'm so happy that we were able to share this adventurous day together and that you have the "pics to prove it". And a special thank you for your seamanship remarks, that means a lot to me coming from you. Hope to see you soon again Rolf
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Graham Winslet wrote a review Jul. 2021
Whistler, Canada29 contributions1 helpful vote
Summary - Amazing tour start to finish. Rolf is funny, charming, extremely knowledgeable and has eagle eyes for spotting wildlife. His assistant Sarah is delightful, easy going and constantly on top of food, drink and taking care of us. I got some of my best wildlife photos ever, some that I will print for my home. My partner (also named Sarah) and I had countless once in a lifetime experiences with wildlife and nature. This tour went far beyond our expectations and we left with smiles on our faces, banging photos on my camera, stories to tell, memories of a lifetime and friends for life. This is a trip we will never forget and we will be back one day for more. Background, reasoning, decision This was a once in a lifetime trip for me, which my girlfriend accompanied me on. When I was doing my initial research I was unsure about the cost of all the trips out of Telegraph Cove, but I had a really good feeling about this one, so just went for it. In hindsight, I honestly can’t believe the experience we both had for what we paid, it was excellent value. If you are interested in nature, wildlife, stunning scenery, photography, learning about the history of Vancouver Island, logging, fish farming, the culture and history of the indigenous people, or just enjoy being out on the water… Book this trip with Rolf, you will not regret it!!! I have been wanting to go on a tour for years in the Knight Inlet area and for my 40th birthday I decided to make it happen. I know there are many companies that run tours out of Telegraph cove because I have looked into it before. Randomly, six months ago I started following Rolf Hicker on Instagram and the photos of the area he was posting looked amazing. I decided to visit his website and knew straight away this was the tour for me. I was looking for a private/ intimate tour with a top professional with years of experience. His photos speak for themselves and his about page is so genuine I could tell that Rolf was the kind of guy I wanted to spend 10-12hrs on a boat with. To top it all off I discovered he provides accommodation in the form of a B&B at his home, which was just perfect for us. It is a beautiful home on a lovely quiet plot of land, a stone's throw from the beach, where my girlfriend and I watched the sunset both nights we stayed. When I booked the tour I also had to consider Sarah, who is not a photographer, but loves nature and wildlife. I knew that Rolf, with over 35 years of experience and knowledge of the area would keep her entertained while I took photographs, and I wasn’t wrong. Rolf is a charming man with a great sense of humour and endless knowledge of the area. His relationship with his assistant Sarah is great as they bounce off each other in a kind of father daughter way. They both endeavoured to keep us fed, watered and entertained throughout the whole trip and we never wanted for anything. Sarah loved the tour maybe even more than me as she picked Rolf’s brain about the fish farms, logging and the history of the area. When enquiring and booking the tour Rolf was swift and personal with his responses. He understood and dealt with any concerns in an honest and genuine manner. He runs a one man show and asked me to be patient when waiting for a reply because he is out on tour most days, but I never waited long. Rolf really wants to provide the best tour for all of his guests and I could tell that he feels the stress of expectation. Obviously I wanted to see bears and get some nice photos, but I told him its wildlife, I fully understand if we don’t see anything. I love nature, wildlife and landscapes and I am happy just having a camera in my hand and being on a boat in a beautiful area. He explained that every tour is different, unique and special in its own way. Because it was a private tour we could make the decisions on how long we stayed in a certain area or what we wanted to do next. I generally trusted Rolf, but it was nice he gave Sarah and I suggestions and recommendations, but also let us decide for ourselves. Arrival and tour From the moment we arrived Rolf and Sarah made us both feel very relaxed and welcome. We chatted over a cup of tea and went over the plan for the trip the next day. Then we settled into our lovely big room with a stunning view out over the Johnstone Strait. Before bed we went for a short walk to the beach and watched the sunset. We all left the house together around 4:30am and made our way to Telegraph Cove, about 25 minutes away. The boat was set and ready to go and we were on the water within 10 minutes. Leaving the cove there was a low dense fog that had settled on the calm glassy water. The visibility was minimal, but we saw a blue heron take off from some rocks and glide inches from the glassy water and out into the mist. I knew then as I sipped on my tea and started to wake up properly we were in for a great day. The cruise across the Staight was very calm and a little eerie, in a cool way, as Rolf Navigated the tight route to the Knight Inlet with islands appearing out of the mist quite close to the boat. We spotted a number of bald eagles in the trees, silhouetted against the fog, which was incredibly cool, and lots of Rhinoceros Auklet taking off and cruising low across the water (a new bird for me). After about an hour the sun started to burn away little pockets in the fog, revealing some of the stunning landscape surrounding us as we entered the Knight Inlet. I was taking photos of the snowy peaks of the mainland when dolphins were spotted. I was out at the back of the boat and within minutes the dolphins appeared surfing and playing in our wake so close I could reach over and touch them. Did I mention the water was like glass, well it was like this the whole day. Apparently it is quite normal in the morning and Rolf warned us it can get a little breezy in the afternoon, but we got lucky I guess. Throughout the day we saw Kingfishers, Loons, other water birds and bird life, loads of Seals either in the water, out on the rocks or relaxing on logs, Porpoise (very hard to photograph) Eagles, Dolphins, Sea Lions. You name it, we saw it, but I will try to stick to the pure magic of this trip as this is already becoming a novel. After playing with the dolphins for about 30 minutes and 1000 photos later we decided to continue on. The fog was gone, the sky was blue and the day was warming up nicely. Rolf knew I was out for Grizzlies, but continually gave Sarah and I choices, options and recommendations. Because of the weather and the tide he recommended we travel further up the Inlet to his favourite area, which isn’t always possible to get to, before coming back to look for bears. We trusted his advice, which I highly recommend you do if you go on his tour, because this was definitely one the highlights. The scenery is stunning with snowy mountain peaks soaring straight up out of the water with large waterfalls cascading down the rock walls. Epic and relaxing. Then it was Grizzly bear time. I could tell Rolf had some spots he was confident of finding bears and with his game face on and binoculars in hand it didn’t take long. He spotted three bears on a beach and we made our way over. There ended up being five, one mum with two cubs and two other larger solo bears. The bears came very close to each other and it was interesting to see them interacting and one of the males came right down to the water looking for food under rocks and using the larger rocks to have a good old butt scratch. After relaxing with, watching and photographing these bears Rolf suggested we look for some different bears. He said it was risky but if we did find some bears in the spots he wanted to look at, the photos might be epic. I already had some amazing photos I was happy with, so it was worth the risk. We did see a couple more bears, but unfortunately not in the spots he hoped, but it was well worth the risk because I could tell if we did get lucky in those spots the photos would have been amazing. It is hard to describe the intense colours you see where the water meets the rocks of the shoreline. The light catches and warms the green moss and the orange seaweed, which contrasts against the dark mussels and wet rock that gradually fades up into dryer lighter rock away from the water. The mere chance of seeing a bear feeding in these areas was well worth the risk and all of us searching as a team was awesome. I did one of my best ever eagle photos with this colourful terrain and again… Loons, Porpoise, Seals etc around us all the time. We then stopped for fuel at a floating dock where we could stretch our legs, chat to some locals and get ice cream. There were hundreds of Swallows zipping around catching flies and just chilling. I got some banging photos. Then it was time for a well earned lunch (which was delicious, salad wraps with optional; meat and eggs and other bits and plenty of it) good conversation and quick chat about the plan. We could continue to look for bears or head out into the Johnstone Strait in hope of Whales. Again Rolf left it to us to decide. He recommended the Strait, but also warned we may not see anything. I mean we had already seen so much we were up for moving out of the Inlet and experiencing the open water of the Strait, which was in fog earlier that morning. On our way Rolf wanted to show us a native settlers oyster shell beach and some old native rock paintings. He has a great respect and good relationship with the local natives and explained some history of the tribes in the area. We headed out into the Strait where we were surrounded by the snow capped mountains of Vancouver Island and the mainland and the water was still nice and calm. It wasn't long before we had more action, Dolphins again. We cruised as they chased our boat and played in our wake. Then a larger fishing boat was coming by and Rolf knew the Dolphins would play with that boat too. So we raced alongside as the Dolphins jumped out of the water in front of this larger boat, which was very cool to see and photograph. We realised that there were Dolphins everywhere, in all directions, so we turned off the engine and sat still and just enjoyed the calm peaceful expanse of our surroundings and watched the dolphins jump and play. We were all feeling chuffed with ourselves and ready to head back when right on queue, Humpback Whale blow hole. Rolf jumps back into the captain's seat and says “looks like we are staying another couple of hours” with a big smile on his face. He obviously asked multiple times if we were ready to leave or wanted to stay, again it was our trip to decide. But if he was okay staying out, which he was, we were too. I won't say too much here, but we saw two Humpback Whales that late afternoon and the experience we all had with one in particular will never be forgotten. Pretty much my very last photo taken was a dream photo and will be printed on aluminum and hung very proudly as the main piece in my home. We cruised back into Telegraph Cove, drove back to the artists point together and relaxed with a nice cup of tea. Rolf and Sarah had to get ready for a tour in the morning so Sarah and I again went to the beach to watch the sunset before going to bed. I wanted to describe our tour and our experience with Rolf, but remember every tour is different and unique and you will have your own stories to tell, which might be very different to mine, but I bet, just as amazing. We can’t thank Rolf and Sarah enough for this experience and we can’t recommend this amazing, personal tour enough to anyone considering this type of adventure. We will be back for more. Graham and Sarah - Whistler
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Date of experience: June 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
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Response from TheArtistsPoint, Owner at Vancouver Island Photo Tours
Responded Aug. 8, 2021
Hello Graham and Sarah, I'm speechless, not really sure what to say but a big THANK YOU for this wonderful review. You know how much this means to me. You came as strangers and left as friends. I hope to see you soon again for our next adventures. Rolf
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