Natural Habitat Adventures

Spirit Bears, Humpbacks & Wildlife of BC

Itinerary

Itinerary Map
An Important Note About Spirit Bear Sightings:
Please be aware that while the rare white spirit bear is a prize sighting, these are elusive creatures and very few exist. Sightings can vary markedly from season to season (they were minimal in 2021), and we cannot guarantee you will see a spirit bear. We enhance your chances with three days in their habitat, including two separate opportunities to search for them with local Gitga'at guides who live in and know their terrain. Other wildlife in this pristine region is prolific, however, and whether or not the mystical spirit bear makes an appearance, you'll surely go home with a rich experience of some of the wildest nature on Earth.


Day 1: Vancouver, BC / Terrace / Kitimat

Our British Columbia wilderness adventure begins in Vancouver, where we board our group flight north to Terrace in the lush Skeena River Valley. On arrival, transfer to Kitimat on Minnette Bay where our hotel awaits in the heart of town. This evening, gather with our Expedition Leader for a welcome dinner and orientation.

Days 2 & 3: Kitimat—Board Sailboat / Great Bear Rainforest
This morning, board the sailing ketch that will be our home for the next seven nights. Once we meet the crew and settle into our private cabins, lunch is served aboard as we depart Kitimat harbor. Signs of civilization are soon behind us 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 into the clouds. Rich salmon streams weave through valley bottoms, providing food for eagles, orcas, wolves, black bears, grizzlies and the mystical creamy-white Kermode bear, also known as the "spirit bear." Cruising south down Douglas Channel, we reach a remote valley deep within the Coast Range where we go ashore in hopes of catching our first look at a black bear or grizzly. Amid the towering mountains and waterfalls cascading from sheer rock walls, look for bald eagles gliding overhead. Continuing down the fjord, keep an eye out from the deck 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 to the warm Pacific waters of Hawaii. We may also spot porpoises and Steller sea lions, and possibly orcas.

Days 4–6: Princess Royal Island—Spirit Bear Conservancy
Continuing southward, our boat follows the indented shoreline of Princess Royal Island. This is the best-known area for catching a glimpse of 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 cream-colored due to a recessive gene. Over the next two days we're joined by a local Gitga’at Indigenous guide within the protected bounds of the Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy. Our guide knows this terrain intimately and will help us search for the pale bears along the creeks and estuaries, against the evergreen backdrop.

Though research remains inconclusive, perhaps only a few hundred spirit bears are thought to exist, living exclusively along this wild portion of the British Columbia coast. The campaign to save the Great Bear Rainforest has heightened efforts to conserve this habitat from further logging and oil pipeline development that threaten the bears' future. The 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 in this forest looking for the bears every day and is 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 these secretive creatures, as well as conventional black bears, which we see frequently.

Days 7 & 8: Fiordland Conservancy
Spend two full days exploring the Fiordland Conservancy, deep within the Coast Range, which offers some of the most dramatic examples of glacially forged landscapes on the BC coast. Sheer granite cliffs rise more than 3,000 feet, and waterfalls plummet from their faces into the sea. Navigating the jade-green 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 makes Fiordland 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. Gain another vantage point on these protected waters as we explore via stable sea kayaks carried on board. On daily shore excursions, our Expedition Leader helps 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.

Please Note: Trips operating in the reverse direction, from Bella Bella to Terrace, will include the same destinations in reverse order and will conclude in Terrace. However, this itinerary is meant as a guideline. The exact nature, duration and order of activities will be determined by weather, tides, permits, the location of wildlife and our guides' discretion. The itinerary above details the typical route between Terrace and Bella Bella. 

Physical Rating: Moderate / Flexible


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