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Spirit Bears, Humpbacks & Wildlife of BC

An Intimate Discovery of Canada's Inside Passage & Great Bear Rainforest Aboard Our Private Sailboat
Day 1: Vancouver / Prince Rupert, BC
Our spirit bear tour begins in Vancouver, where we board our group flight (arranged by NHA) to Prince Rupert. We’re met on arrival and transferred to our hotel, situated on a high promontory overlooking the inner harbor. Prince Rupert, an important port city protected by a rim of islands along the famous Inside Passage, is the transportation hub of British Columbia's north coast. This evening, we’ll gather with our Expedition Leader for a welcome dinner and orientation.

Days 2 & 3: Board Island Roamer / 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. On arrival, we meet the crew of the Island Roamer, our home for the next seven nights, and settle into our private cabins aboard this 68-foot sailing ketch. 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. 

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 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: 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.

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'll disembark the Island Roamer and catch our group flight to Vancouver, to connect with onward departures.

Please Note: This itinerary is meant as a guideline. The exact itinerary and the duration and order of the activities will be determined by weather, tides, permits, the location of wildlife and our guide's discretion. The itinerary above details the Prince Rupert to Bella Bella route. Every other departure travels in the opposite direction, from Bella Bella to Prince Rupert, begins with an overnight in Bella Bella, and visiting the same destinations in reverse order.

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