Spirit Bears, Humpbacks & Wildlife of B.C. (Bella Bella to Terrace)
9 days with Natural Habitat Adventures Rating:
Day 1: Vancouver / Bella Bella, British Columbia
Our spirit bear tour begins with a group flight from Vancouver to Bella Bella (booked by NHA). This isolated village on the central coast of British Columbia is the traditional home of the Heiltsuk Nation people. Enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel this evening.
Days 2 & 3: 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, though they are elusive. We will also explore these protected waters via the stable sea kayaks carried on board the Island Roamer. 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 we search the shoreline for colorful sea stars, anemones and algae.
Days 4-6: Princess Royal Island – Spirit Bear Conservancy
Continuing northward, we hug the indented shoreline of Princess Royal Island. This is the best-known area for seeing the rare 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, the greatest threat to the future of the bears. The local Gitga’at people are passionate about the protection of these bears and their habitat, and without their stewardship, we would not have access to this special place. Our Gitga’at native 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: Great Bear Rainforest
This morning we board a private water taxi to the small Gitga’at community of Hartley Bay. As we cruise down Grenville Channel, keep an eye out for whales, enjoying the dramatic mountain scenery en route. We’ll enjoy lunch aboard as we sail out of Hartley Bay and into 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 (killer whales), wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and the mystical white Kermode bear, or spirit bear. Our first destination is Wright Sound, an excellent place to spot 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’ll also have opportunities to spot porpoises and Steller sea lions, and possibly orcas.
Day 9: Terrace / Vancouver / Home
Our spirit bear tour comes to an end in Terrace. Before departing by floatplane to Terrace, in the lush Skeena River Valley. On arrival in Terrace we transfer to the airport for our group flight to Vancouver to connect with onward departures.
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.
Bella Bella: Shearwater Lodge
Cruising: Cabin onboard the Island Solitude
Terrace: Yellow Cedar Lodge
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.