British Columbia: Great Bear Rainforest Cruise
Islands and intricate waterways beneath towering mountains...lush, coastal temperate forests...wilderness alive with eagles, ravens, salmon, bears and wolves...
...ten thousand year old native cultures...and now the opportunity to adventure along these waterways, inside the forest, seek for wildlife, meet native guides and learn the why the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the last gems on the Pacific Coast. This cruise adventure of central British Columbia is comparable to no other. The description "Great Bear Rainforest" was created because the region holds the largest remaining areas of original coastal rainforest left on the entire Pacific Coast. Ecologically, the name refers to the significant populations of black, grizzly and Kermode bear that are supported by the abundant salmon runs for food, and lack of human development. It is a long, convoluted maze of narrow waterways and fiords. Emerald forests of western hemlock and red cedar clock lush river valleys and broad estuaries. Biologically abundant and diverse, the area is also ecologically fragile.
2017 Departures and Costs
Dates: Sep 28 to Oct 6; Oct 6 to 14
Cost: $ 5,600 CAD / $ 4,400 USD (plus 5% gst)
Approx airfare Vancouver/Bella Bella $650CAD/$520USD per person return
EARLY BOOKING ESSENTIAL
$ 100 Sustainability Fee included
Day 1 Arrive Bella Bella and overnight at the ShearWater Resort.
Day 2 Participants will meet at the top of the Municipal Dock on the Bella Bella waterfront. Upon boarding the ship, cabins will be assigned, an introductory safety briefing completed and then we set sail for the Great Bear Rainforest. Each night we anchor in a different, secluded anchorage.
Day 3-4 We now head deep into the coastal mountains and will focus the next two days on the Fiordland Provincial Protected Area. Kynoch Inlet has some spectacular rock faces and waterfalls. We will explore remote estuaries and hope to see bears attracted by the spawning salmon. We may visit the native village of Klemtu to see the new longhouse, recently built for the local community.
Days 5-8 We now travel along the shores of Princess Royal Island - the best-known area for seeing the rare Spirit or Kermode bears. These bears are actually black bears with a recessive gene that makes about ten percent of the bears in this area all-white. We will visit creeks and river estuaries and keep an eye out along the shore as we travel. Khutze Inlet has a beautiful river valley, an abundance of birdlife and we often see bears along the shore. We will spend a day with local Tshimshian guides taking us to their favourite wildlife viewing areas or showing us their ancient sites and intriguing art. In Whale Channel we expect to see humpback whales and will take the time to observe these amazing 15 metre long creatures. In Principe Channel we hope for a good wind, to set the sails and have one of our best sails of the voyage. There will be time to explore the protected waters using our stable, sea kayaks that we carry onboard. On our daily shore excursions, our onboard naturalist will help identify different coastal plants and interested participants can help keep a species list for the trip. With a good low tide, we may explore the shoreline for different species of colourful sea stars, anemone, and algae.
Day 9 We arrive in Bella Bella late morning. Participants can catch the Pacific Coastal afternoon flight back to Vancouver.
"Great Bear rainforest was awesome. Bears everywhere for our group. Spirit bear walked so close to us u could have touched her. Whales up against our boat, superb food. Lindsey, the naturalist was bubbly, so informative. 11 guests and 4 crew became like family. Amazing experiences, lots laughs. The captains Neil and Mat went out of their way every day to ensure we had the best trip ever. I cried all the way back to Vancouver".
Island Roamer is a custom 68-foot ketch, launched in 1983. The boat's design, safety and comfort make her perfect for these trips. She features 8 private cabins (double occupancy), 3 heads with hot showers, a large comfortable lounge with an extensive library, and a well-equipped galley. On deck, the large covered seating area provides protection in all types of weather. The Island Roamer is large enough for comfort, privacy and safety, and small enough to create a good rapport among passengers and crew.
The central coast region of British Columbia's scenic and intricate shoreline has a long history. Stretching from Vancouver Island north along the mainland coast, it forms a significant section of the famous "Inside Passage" route to Alaska - a term that started with the gold rush of the 1800's. Many of the gold seekers stayed on the coast, attracted to the plentiful resources of fishing and the lush forests. Native peoples have lived along this coast for at least 10,000 years, and built a renowned culture based upon these same fish and trees.
Unfortunately, diseases spread from the first European traders decimated the old villages, and now the native peoples are centered in a few, small coastal villages, with names like Bella Bella, Klemtu and Hartley Bay.
We visit and explore with permission of the local Gitga'at and Kitasoo native groups (both members of the Tshimshian Nation). The concept of eco-tourism demands that visitors respect local cultures and share a portion of our revenues with local communities. We plan to spend a day with local Gitga'at guides sharing their culture and history, and leading us to their favourite bear viewing sites. This small ship cruise in the Great Bear Rainforest will explore the culture, wilderness and wildlife of British Columbia's central coast.
Kermode Bear & Black Bears
These primeval forests are the only habitat of the Kermode or "spirit bear." An elusive and rarely seen wonder, the Kermode is a genetic throwback - a black bear with a recessive gene giving it snow-white fur. Princess Royal Island is one of the few areas on the coast where one can find the Kermode. Only 10% of black bears in the area are Kermode, so though we expect to see black bears, it will require good luck and perseverance to spot a Spirit Bear.
This area is home to the magnificent grizzly bear, a species that requires large areas of habitat undisturbed by human activity. These great bears, once roamed across North America but due to the advance of civilization, diminished food supply and continued hunting; they are now threatened in their remaining range. Weighing in at more than a quarter of a ton, grizzly bears sit at the top of the food chain and are a critical part of the coastal ecosystem.
Wolves & Birds
The Rainforest is home to a significant population of gray wolves. Scientific studies presently underway suggest they may be genetically distinct from their inland cousins. The area has a very rich and varied bird population. Many people will be amazed at the number of bald eagles we see on the trip. Colourful seabirds such as pigeon guillemots, oystercatchers and rhinoceros auklets are common and we will see large numbers of smaller water birds, such as phalaropes
During our voyage there are excellent chances of seeing various species of marine mammals. Fitzhugh Sound and Whale Channel are good areas for viewing humpback whales. The coastline near Cape Caution supports a summer population of gray whales; and this entire coast is famous for its population of orca (killer whales).