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Spirit Bears, Humpbacks & Wildlife of B.C. (Terrace to Bella Bella)

9 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices
Day 1: Vancouver, British Columbia / Terrace
Our B.C. adventure begins in Vancouver, where we board our group flight (arranged by NHA) north to Terrace in the lush Skeena River Valley. We’re met on arrival and transferred to Yellow Cedar Lodge, which enjoys a secluded location overlooking the river. This evening, gather with our Expedition Leader for a welcome dinner and spirit bear tour orientation. 
 
Days 2 & 3: Kitimat—Board Island Solitude / Great Bear Rainforest
Drive to the town of Kitimat this morning to board the Island Solitude, an 83-foot sailing ketch that is our home for the next seven nights. Once we meet the crew and settle into our private cabins, lunch is served aboard as we sail out of Kitimat harbor. Signs of civilization are soon left behind as we enter the sheltered inlets and estuaries of the Great Bear Rainforest, stopping each night in a different secluded anchorage. 
 
This ancient ecosystem is one of the largest tracts of temperate rain forest left on Earth, harboring thousand-year-old cedar trees and Sitka spruce that soar 350 feet high. Rich salmon streams weave through valley bottoms, providing food for eagles, orcas, wolves, black bears, grizzlies and the mystical white Kermode bear, also known as the "spirit bear." As we travel south down Douglas Channel, we make our way to a remote valley deep within the Coast Range where we go ashore in hopes of catching our first glimpse of a black bear or grizzly. The scenery is dramatic, with mountains towering overhead and waterfalls cascading from rock walls. If we raise our eyes skyward, we may spot eagles soaring overhead.  
 
Back aboard the Island Solitude, continue cruising down the fjord, keeping an eye out for humpback whales. These charismatic mammals, which can grow to 50 feet and weigh 40 tons, may entertain us with breaching, spy-hopping or slapping their flippers. They congregate to feed in these waters in late summer and fall before their winter migration southward. We may also spot porpoises and Steller sea lions, and possibly orcas.
 
Days 4–6: Princess Royal Island—Spirit Bear Conservancy
Continuing southward, we hug the indented shoreline of Princess Royal Island. This is the best-known area for seeing the rare Kermode or spirit bear, whose name reflects its legendary status among the Tsimshian peoples as a creature to be revered. Spirit bears are actually a unique subspecies of North American black bear in which about one in every 10 bears is white or cream-colored due to a recessive gene. For the next two days we’ll travel with a Gitga’at native guide who takes us to locally known wildlife viewing areas. As we enter the protected area of the Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy, we keep binoculars at the ready, hoping to spy the pale bears against the evergreen backdrop along the creeks and estuaries. 
 
Only 400 or so spirit bears are thought to exist, living exclusively along this portion of the British Columbia coast. The campaign to save the Great Bear Rainforest has heightened efforts to conserve this dwindling habitat from further logging and oil pipeline development that threaten the bears' future. The local Gitga’at people are passionate about protecting the bears and their habitat, and without their stewardship, we would not have access to this special place. Our Gitga’at guide spends hours here every day observing the bears and is intimately familiar with their behavior, sharing his experiences and stories with us. He will lead us to the area where spirit bears have most recently been spotted, and with patience and perseverance we’ll hope to see the elusive white bear, as well as more black bears. We'll also have a chance for a soak at Bishop Bay Hot Springs, accessible only to boaters, for a relaxing indulgence. 
 
Days 7 & 8: Fiordland Conservancy
Heading deep into the coastal mountains, we spend the next two days exploring the Fiordland Conservancy, which offers some of the most dramatic examples of glacially gouged scenery on the BC coast. Sheer granite cliffs rise more than 3,000 feet, and waterfalls plummet from their faces into the sea. As we navigate the fjords, we explore remote estuaries up close, hoping to see grizzly bears attracted by spawning salmon. The combination of lush vegetation and salmon-rich streams in Fiordland makes it ideal grizzly habitat. Black bears are also prolific in these ancient forests, and we keep an eye out for wolves, too, though they are elusive. We will also explore these protected waters via stable sea kayaks carried on board the Island Solitude. On daily shore excursions, our Expedition Leader will help identify various trees and plants, and interested guests can keep a species list for the trip. At low tide, search the shoreline for colorful sea stars, anemones and algae.
 
Day 9: Bella Bella / Vancouver / Depart
Our voyage ends in Bella Bella, an isolated village on the central coast of British Columbia that is the traditional home of the Heiltsuk First Nations people. Here, we disembark and transfer to the small airport for our group flight to Vancouver, to connect with onward departures.
Map
All This Included
In the wild valleys of the Coast Range on Canada’s far western edge, some of the planet’s oldest and tallest trees rise along salmon-studded rivers that rush to the Pacific. Thousand-year-old cedars and Sitka spruce that soar into the clouds provide shelter for the white spirit bear of Native legend. Just a few hundred of these rare bears live in this isolated wilderness, and we go in search of them with local Gitga’at guides. Here, too, are grizzlies and wolves, and eagles nest in ancient branches. At sea, humpback whales ply the jade-green fjords. We join them as we sail a maze of inlets on the central British Columbia coast—a voyage into the wild Great Bear Rainforest, one of Earth’s most magnificent—and most at-risk—natural realms.
  • Accommodations
  • Meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on final day
  • Bottled water
  • Services of NHA Expedition Leader, local guides and boat crew
  • Most gratuities
  • Airport transfers in Bella Bella and final day
  • Permits and entrance fees
  • All taxes
Highlights
  • On our exclusive bear cruise aboard a private sailboat, explore the world’s largest remaining tract of virgin temperate rain forest
  • Search for rare white spirit bears, grizzlies, black bears and wolves with expert guides who know the Great Bear Rainforest intimately
  • Watch humpback whales breach and feed as we weave through the sheltered waters of some of the most remote coastal wilderness on Earth
Accommodations
Cruising: Cabin onboard the Island Solitude
Terrace: Yellow Cedar Lodge
Bella Bella: Shearwater Lodge
 
Notes
  • Group Size Limit: Approximately 12 Travelers.
  • Not Included: Travel to and from start and end point of trip (Bella Bella and Terrace), alcoholic beverages (except for wine with dinner), some gratuities, passport and visa fees, optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, souvenirs, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes, required medical evacuation insurance and optional travel insurance.
  • Physical Requirements: Moderate. This adventure does not require a high degree of physical fitness. However, in order to reach the bear-viewing stand where we have the best chance of seeing spirit bears, you should be able to hike at least two miles over potentially muddy, slippery, uneven terrain with some inclines and obstacles such as rocks and tree roots. To reach the bear-viewing stand and to participate in the other scheduled shore excursions and activities, you must be able to climb up and down a small three-rung boat ladder in order to board motorized Zodiac rafts or kayaks. Please be prepared for water landings, in which you will climb out of the Zodiac or kayak and step into shallow water while wearing waterproof boots, before stepping ashore. You should also be able to undertake several short walks over potentially wet, muddy, rocky, uneven and sometimes trailless terrain. Kayaking is an option available to guests. It is easy to learn, though it does require an adventuresome spirit. Since we expect that most of our guests will have little or no experience, instruction and guidance are provided. Please note that waterproof rubber boots are required for this adventure and they will not be available on site, so every traveler must bring their own pair.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.