Dare to BEAR
Rachelle Mackintosh heads to British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest for a wild adventure
Flying into the tiny town of Bella Bella, the view out the window is Instaworthy, thanks to the forested peaks and epic fjords of the Great Bear Rainforest. This sprawling wilderness is a two-hour flight from Vancouver on Canada’s west coast, and it’s home to grizzly bears, killer whales, bald eagles, humpbacks, otters, cougars and wolves. Bonus: it’s the only place in the world where you have a (very tiny) chance of seeing Kermode bears – black bears that are actually white, thanks to a recessive gene. Although you’ve got to be super-lucky to see a Kermode bear, this unique area has plenty to discover, as I find out on my four-night stay at the Spirit Bear Lodge.
CULTURAL KLEMTU At Bella Bella, I meet the Spirit Bear team for the 90-minute cruise to Klemtu, where the lodge sits on the waterfront. With just 460 residents, Klemtu may be tiny, but it’s big on cultural attractions – being the home of the KitasooXai’xais First Nations community. Here you can learn all about their ancient culture and visit their sacred big-house for spectacular performances that reveal the local history and legends. Plus, there are more than 100 significant sites to discover in the area, including historic pictographs displaying traditional tribal life.
DAILY ADVENTURES Each morning, our activities kick off at 7am with a tasty buffet breakfast, then we pack our lunch and set off on one of the lodge’s boats for a day of adventuring. With 8.5 million hectares of pristine forest and the Inside Passage to explore, there’s plenty of hotspots to enjoy all around the lodge. Highlights include Mussel River with its alpine scenery, lush forest at Princess Royal Island, and even some atmospheric old cannery ruins at Butedale. During each excursion our expert naturalist, Jack Plant, points out the prolific wildlife, which includes everything from juvenile grizzly bears feasting on sedge grass to lightning-quick Dall’s porpoises leaping in the boat’s wake.
At the end of each day, we head back to the Spirit Bear Lodge for a dinner of locally sourced produce such as fresh salmon, crab, forest berries and even sea asparagus – a suitably wild feast in epic wilderness.
Rachelle hits a forest trail. Scouting for rainforest wildlife. Exploring the vast Inside Passage. Killer whales are a highlight. The lodge is right on the waterfront. Alpine scenery surrounds the lodge.