Great Bear Rainforest

Great Bear Rainforest


A coastal British Columbia nature cruise that will take you to remote areas of Canada’s Inside Passage. Search for grizzly bears, black bears and an excellent chance to see a Kermode/Spirit bear with permission from the local Gitga’at, Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, and Haisla First Nations. These primeval forests are the only habitat of the Kermode or “spirit” bear - an elusive and rarely seen wonder. You will possibly see spectacular humpback behaviour such as breaching, and a cooperative feeding technique called ‘bubble-net feeding’. Credit: Ian McAllister/Pacific Wild, Destination BC/Yuri Choufour/Kari Medig, Eagle Wing Tours/Valerie Shore

Trip Itinerary

Note: The daily plans are flexible to accommodate the surprises that you encounter each trip, the requirements of tide and weather, and the interests of the group. With so many opportunities to be “wowed”, it’s hard to predict what unique moment will be your favourite memory.

Arrival Day into Bella Bella
Your trip starts in the small First Nations coastal town of Bella Bella. Located on remote Campbell Island, Bella Bella – also known as Waglisla – is the home of the Heiltsuk First Nation. Their traditional territory is spread out over an area of 16,658 square kilometres. Bella Bella is located 181km north of Vancouver Island and 144km west of Bella Coola and counts 1450 residents. There are limited accommodation options. Most people will stay at the Shearwater Resort located on Denny Island, a short water taxi ride from Bella Bella. Denny Island offers the most facilities for tourists visiting the area, such as lodging, a restaurant/ pub, and 2 small shops. The other options are to stay at Annette’s Beach House or Bella Guest Cabins, both located in Bella Bella, and experience life in a First Nations coastal town. These two options will require you to do your own provisioning and cooking. Please inquire with Starr Shuttle about transport to the Municipal Dock the following morning. For large travel parties, we suggest the Shearwater Resort for your group. Upon arriving at the Bella Bella Airport, collect your luggage outside and look for Star Shuttle driving a large white passenger van. They will be notified of your arrival and a driver will meet your flight to transport you either to the Municipal Dock for the water taxi to Denny Island or to your accommodation in Bella Bella. Please note that Star Shuttle requires a cash payment of CAD $15 per person at time of travel. Once at the Municipal Dock proceed down the ramp to where you will catch your water taxi for the 10- minute crossing to the Shearwater Marine Resort. The water taxi crossing to Denny Island costs $5.00 per person; unless you are staying at Shearwater Resort, in which case it is included in your hotel fees. Once on Denny Island, it is a short walk up the dock to Shearwater Resort.
Day One – Trip Start
Guests staying in Shearwater: meet the vessel and crew at the Shearwater Marine Resort Dock. Guests staying in Bella Bella: meet the vessel and crew at the top of the Bella Bella Municipal Dock. Upon boarding the vessel, cabins will be assigned and following a brief introduction and safety orientation we will set sail for the Great Bear Rainforest where each night we anchor in a different, secluded anchorage. As we depart Bella Bella and approach the waters of Milbanke Sound keep watch for sea otters. With the nuclear testing at Amchitka between 1968 and 1972, 89 sea otters were transplanted to Vancouver Island. Some found their way to the Central Coast and occasionally we spot them in the kelp beds wrapped in the fronds of kelp to anchor themselves against the currents. We will spend each evening in different and remote anchorages with wonderful views. During our daily shore or small boat excursions, our onboard naturalist will help identify different coastal plants, animals, birds and marine life. Interested participants can help keep a species list for the trip. There will be time to explore the protected waters using our stable sea-kayaks.
Days Two to Four
Heading north, you will explore Mathieson Channel and Finlayson Channel; keep your eyes trained on the shoreline for foraging bears while underway. We see a variety of birdlife throughout the region including bald eagles and the “trickster’ ravens. If weather and tides permit, a wander along remote beaches and wildlife trails will show evidence of bears and possibly wolves in the area. You will voyage deep into the coastal mountains to explore a large marine park called the Fiordland Conservancy. Beneath towering granite cliff faces and impressive waterfalls, you will search remote estuaries with the expectation of seeing grizzly bears attracted by the spawning salmon – hopefully some have cubs of the year. Time permitting, you may visit the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations village of Klemtu to see the ceremonial Big House that was recently built by the local community. You must keep watch for bears and coastal wolves along the shoreline to Khutze Inlet. Its beautiful river valley provides a rich estuary and for some good grizzly viewing at the water’s edge. Spawning salmon also attract a wide variety of sea birds, such as American dippers, Bonaparte gulls, common mergansers, and bald eagles.
Days Five and Six
As you explore the waters of southern Douglas Channel, Squally Channel, and Whale Channel (and at various other places along our journey) you can expect to see humpback whales. Keep an eye out for large spouts and hope to witness very interesting behaviours like breaches, pectoral slaps, spy-hopping and possibly bubble-net feeding. There will be time to observe these amazing, 15-metre-long creatures whenever the opportunity arises. Fin whales have also been spotted more often in recent years and hopefully you will be lucky in spotting these massive and speedy cetaceans. You should also keep watch for other marine mammals like orca, porpoise, and Steller sea lions – an inquisitive species that are expert, deep-water predators who dine a variety of fish, octopus and halibut. If time permits, you will make a stop at Cetacea Lab to learn about their fascinating work in whale research. In open Principe Channel or Campania Sound, we hope for a good wind to set the sails and have one of our best sails of the voyage! There may be an opportunity to visit Hartley Bay, a water access only First Nations community and to visit Bishop Bay hot springs for a soothing soak.
Day Seven
As you travel along Princess Royal Island, keep a close watch on the shoreline, since this is the best known area for seeing the rare Spirit (also known as Kermode) bear. We are fortunate to spend a day with local Gitga’at First Nation guides, who will take us to their favourite bear viewing areas. With a little patience we hope to be lucky enough to see black bears and the elusive, all-white Spirit Bear fishing for salmon at a quiet spawning stream hidden in the forest. These white bears are actually black bears expressing a genetic variation resulting in about ten percent of the area’s population being all white.
Day Eight – Trip Finish
You will arrive in Bella Bella late morning for your onward journey.
Tour Highlights
  • Grizzly and Black Bear Viewing
  • The Elusive Spirit Bear
  • Humpback Whales
  • Hot Springs
  • Visiting Native Villages and Big Houses
Price Includes
  • All meals from lunch on the first day to breakfast on the last day
  • 7 nights accommodation onboard ship
  • Skipper
  • Cook
  • Naturalist
  • Full use of all onboard facilities, including kayaks
Getting to and from Bella Bella from Vancouver

Discover Canada Tours has the ability to book your flights to Bella Bella​. Please let us know if you would like us to plan this part of your trip as well.

Tour Pricing Starting From

All prices are based on double occupancy. Other rooming options are available. Please talk to one of our agents if you would like to enquire about the options available.

8 Days | 7 Nights
Based on Double Occupancy
  • Taxes and booking fees excluded

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