Dare to BEAR

Rachelle Mack­in­tosh heads to Bri­tish Columbia’s Great Bear Rain­for­est for a wild ad­ven­ture

New Idea - - New Travel -

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.

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