British Columbia: Whales, Wildlife & First Nations of the Pacific NorthWest
Travel to the remote Pacific Coastal Rainforest of northern Vancouver Island
and experience the First Nations culture of the Kwakwaka'wakw in Alert Bay. Get up close with the whales and unique marine environment onboard an expedition boat. Cruise the island-studded waters watching for whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and a great variety of birds in their natural habitat and learn about tidal ecology.
2017 Departure Dates & Costs
Special Small Group Departures: July 14 to 17; August 25 to 28, 2017
Cost: $ 830 CAD / $680 USD per person plus 5% gst (4 days/3 nights from Nanaimo BC)
A Grizzly Viewing day can be added
Includes return transfers from Nanaimo, whale watching cruise, special cultural performance; museum entrance, 3 nights hotel, 3 breakfast, 1 lunch, 2 dinner
DAY 1: ARRIVE PORT MCNEILL (D)
Vancouver Island is a unique and beautiful jewel decorating the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. This small group trip will meet up in Nanaimo (a major ferry port on central Vancouver Island – easy to access from Vancouver). Transfer to the remote northern community of Port McNeill (5-6 hour drive). Enroute discover diverse island communities nestled between the mountains and the ocean shore and scenic vistas. On arrival, settle in to the Haida-Way Inn for the next 3 nights. Dinner.
DAY 2: WHALES, SEALS & BIRDS (B,L)
Breakfast at the hotel. A full day of wildlife activities aboard an expedition boat. Johnstone Strait is a narrow passage that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland. The Strait is set amongst steep fjords, small islands and lush rainforest with old growth red cedar and Sitka spruce up to 1000 years old. Subsurface upwellings and penetrating ocean currents result in a rich marine environment that is home to five species of salmon, numerous sea birds, Orca, minke and humpback whales, several species of dolphin, black bear, harbour seals and stellar's sea lions.
This area is best known as the world’s prime Orca viewing region. We will search for resident and transient pods of Orcas as well as resident pods of killer whales (These whales usually come to feed in July to early October). Other wildlife in the area at that time of year includes humpback whales, Steller sea lions, harbour seals, huge numbers of sea birds and bald eagles, and perhaps some Pacific white-sided dolphins. This time of the year is also great for birds. Binoculars are a must! We will include natural history interpretation and you will be able to identify general marine mammal species. Lunch onboard.
DAY 3: FIRST NATIONS CULTURE (B,L,D)
Breakfast at the hotel. Prepare for a very active day with plenty of walking and discovery. This is a full day on Cormorant Island. We walk a short distance to the ferry dock for an 8:45am departure onboard the 45-minute ferry crossing to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. This crescent shaped island is located in the region known as the beautiful Inside Passage, and is set amidst splendid scenery and abundant wildlife.
Alert Bay is historically significant as the oldest First Nations community on North Vancouver Island, and is well known as a centre for the powerful resurgence of Native culture. We will visit the U'mista Cultural Centre, an internationally known facility that houses a fine collection of historical artifacts depicting the Potlatch Ceremony of the Kwakwaka'wakw. Walk amongst the totems and cultural centres of Alert Bay. Lunch is included in the community.
In the afternoon stroll along the boardwalk at Ecological Park. The park is an ecological treasure trove of sights and sounds and a paradise for bird-watchers and botanists. A series of trails wind around the forest area and the boardwalk crosses the marsh, allowing visitors a close view of the swamp's ecosystem. Cedar snags, hemlocks and pine trees draped with moss provide an eerie charm and beauty.
The Kwakwaka'wakw have been instrumental in spearheading a movement to reclaim their birthright to traditional art, dances, songs, legends, ceremonies, and language. With some visits, you will have the opportunity to hear the origin story of the people, legends from the past, and finally shown a selected number of traditional dances (Big House ceremonies may not coincide with all visits). Depart at approximately 5:00pm for a walk to the ferry terminal and journey back to Port McNeill.
DAY 4: PORT MCNEILL DEPARTURE (B)
After breakfast, check out of lodgings at Port McNeil and return to Nanaimo.