Bear Necessities – Great Bear Rainforest – Canada BC

A truly magical and humbling experience

Location: Western Canada, British Columbia

Good for: Astounding scenery, Grizzly Bears, Spirit Bears, Black Bears, Whales,  Orca, Wolves and more.

When to go: Given the location, I would suggest that spring, summer and autumn are the best times to visit as many areas would become impossible in the harsh winter, if you can even arrange it! Spring and summer is good for bear viewing with cubs, whereas Autumn, is a great time to see the Salmon run and watch the bears fishing and eating on the riverbanks.
If its the whales and the scenery you are going for then its more about what temperature is comfortable for you, as the scenery is beautiful in any season and the whales are always here, but there are specific seasons for better whale watching depending on which coast you are traveling on and which species you want to see. Summer and Autumn seem to be best.

Cost: The trip you take will vary in cost and it will depend on whether you are taking a land based trip or a water based (live aboard) trip. Just as a rule of thumb, a shared (up to 16 people) 9 day trip on a boat to explore some areas of the Great Bear Rainforest costs somewhere between £5,000 and £9,000 per person or thereabouts. The cost varies depending on the type of boat the number of guests sharing with you and of course the season you go in. This is not a cheap trip, but it does cover all costs, such as food and drink, flights and transfers. There are also options to arrange your own trip, which may reduce costs and also the numbers of passengers you share with, but beware, as missed flights and connections can end up costing you more than you save…

Flights and travel: London to Vancouver will take under 10 hours and once there, you will then need to take an internal flight to the Great Bear Rainforest region, which will take around 2 hours or less on a much smaller plane. There are numerous start points to explore this area and there are small airports close to start points, such as Bella Bella or Kitimat. Remember to watch the luggage weight allowance on the smaller flights.

Time difference: 7 hours behind the UK.

Great Bear Rainforest: It is a truly unique area of the world, with a changing scenery that will take your breath away at every turn. There are so many areas to explore and discover, that I will try to keep this as a generic overview rather than stick to a specific. The area is truly vast and made up of a collection of estuaries and Fjords that weave their way through a perfect wilderness of islands and mainland cliff faces. Both austere and majestic,  this region allows you to truly wonder at the artistry of nature.

It’s difficult to describe the scale, but just being in this landscape will humble you. The wildlife you will see here does the same, from the huge humpback whale that cruise just metres from the cliff faces to the bears and wolves that walk the land and the eagles that patrol the sky. It should be a haven for the wild but despite its size, it still needs our protection from those who would hunt its inhabitants and cut down the forest that they call home. Most of the trips you will find encourage conservation and environmental awareness – and you will certainly come across a number of first nations guides and rangers who will be keen to show you just why this place is so special.

Great care is taken to ensure that you experience all you can here, without having a negative impact on your surroundings and as such, you should be prepared to compromise things such as Wifi and mobile coverage – something that I for one find liberating and relaxing, enabling me to just enjoy whats going on around me.

*If you are a smoker, it is vital that you take a portable ashtray with you as you are responsible for making sure you leave nothing but footprints behind.

The landscape is lush and green, with a dominance of spruce sporting almost magical mossy ornaments on every limb. The waterways are crisp and clear, sometimes coloured by the glaciers that feed them as an aquamarine and sometime stained red with the tannins of the redwood trees further inland. The air is fresh and almost heady and each turn of the head makes you fall more in love with this wonderful place. At times it can look and feel spectacularly otherworldly, like something out of Lord of the Rings, but without the monsters!

Wildlife: There is so much to see here, it’s difficult to know where to start, so I’ll start with the obvious, bears: White Spirit Bear – found nowhere else on earth, Black bears and Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Otters (both river and sea), Beavers,  Bald Eagles, Gulls too numerous to list as well as many other small forest birds, Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, Orca, Right Whale, porpoise and many, many more.

What to take: This is a rain forest, so above all else, make sure you are well prepared for the rain, even when it’s not raining it can be very misty (which is magical) and this too can penetrate your clothes:

• Waterproof trousers or over-trousers
• Waterproof jacket
• Wellingtons or waterproof tall boots (you may have to do some wading
• Camera and plenty of memory cards!
• Binoculars
• Mossie repellent (Avon Skin So Soft is what I use).
• After bite cream (one with a numbing agent is quite good to stop bites itching).
• Hand sanitising lotion is handy for when you are out and about.
• Waterproof rucksack cover or dry bag are essential to keep your kit dry
• Take a strip of antihistamine tablets, they are good if you get insect bites.
• Sun protection, because when the sun does come out, it is powerful
• Warm clothing, layers are best and are also more versatile to pack as you will need to keep your luggage reasonably lean.
• Hats and gloves if you are going back end of summer or autumn
• Sunglasses, an essential when you are on the water!
• Swimming costume if you are going in the warmer seasons.
• if you are going on a boat (live aboard) some comfy rubber soles shoes for milling around
• Canadian dollars for tipping – whether you are on a boat or on dry land
• As with all wildlife trips, make sure you ave a good dollop of patience packed somewhere in reserve.

What to expect: It’s a rainforest – the clue is in the name, so don’t be surprised to see rain and boy when it rains it really does rain (so make sure your waterproofs are good ones), expect to be awestruck by the scenery and its inhabitants, it will literally blow you away.  Expect peace and tranquility because this really is a wilderness and there is no sound other that the sound of nature, when you are out and about.

If trekking is a part of your plan, then don’t expect nice neat paths – remember this is mother nature we are taking about and although you may follow old logging roads, much used tracks or animal tracks, the terrain is likely to be uneven and muddy so make sure you are prepared for that.

If you are staying on a boat, expect to have to be careful with your water use – after all they can only carry so much and don’t expect to have a spacious cabin, the cabins may be small and cramped, but you are one in them to sleep – the rest of the time you will be out spotting wildlife and having the experience of a lifetime.

Keep your ears open at night as, if you are lucky and you are in the right area, you may hear the wolves howl… above all else expect the sheer scale and majesty of this part of the world to leave you feeling humble and fiercely protective of it.

We traveled by boat and on board there was a communal tipping scheme, which makes it much easier for you – your booking agent may advise you on what to tip, but of course the amount is up to you.

Any costs detailed here are based on information at the time of writing – and are purely for guidance only.