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Enjoy spotting orcas and watching grizzly bears on this breathtaking trip to British Columbia, in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

This trip visits a beautiful archipelago that is quite possibly the best place in the world to watch orcas when, members of the resident 200-strong population congregate to forage for salmon and socialise. You’ll also have a chance to watch grizzly bears at Knight Inlet, who converge on the river lowlands to feed and explore beautiful beaches and virgin forests on foot as well as understand the heritage of the First Nations peoples, and their extraordinary carved totem poles.

Read Amanda Madro's fascinating blog on her studies of orca pods on Vancouver Island.

Typical itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to Vancouver, 1-night

    Fly from the UK to Vancouver and overnight at a hotel near the airport. Depending on your arrival time you may have an opportunity head into the centre to explore one of North America’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities. NB: you’ll be unaccompanied until you reach Port McNeill tomorrow. None of your meals are included today, so you will need to make your own arrangements for dinner.

  2. Day 2: Fly to Port Hardy, Vancouver Island; transfer to Port McNeill and board boat, 5-nights

    Morning domestic flight to Port Hardy (around one hour), Vancouver Island’s most northerly community at the start of the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert, then transfer by taxi at your own expense to Port McNeill (around one hour) to join your vessel, Island Odyssey. Once aboard you’ll meet the crew, be allocated a cabin and have a safety briefing before you sail.

    The itinerary is left deliberately flexible to be able to take account of the interests of the group and the weather conditions, as well as to take full advantage of wildlife sightings.

  3. Days 3-4 : Explore Johnstone Strait and surrounding inlets; day excursion to watch grizzly bear at Knight Inlet

    The main focus is on the waters of Johnstone Strait, and part of each day will be spent exploring for marine mammals. Not only is this rugged, remote area of outstanding natural beauty famous for its orcas, but it’s also home to other marine wildlife: humpback and minke whales are common, Dall’s porpoise often come to play in the boat’s bow wave, and Pacific white-sided dolphins, Steller sealions and river otters are frequently sighted. The range of the resident population of Orcinus orca (killer whales) includes the waters of the Johnstone and nearby Queen Charlotte Straits. Each year for a few summer months these awesome marine mammals (there are well over 200 individuals) spend time here hunting salmon, resting and socialising.

  4. Days 5-6 : Sail along Knight Inlet deep into the Coast Mountains

    You will sail along beautiful Knight Inlet deep into the Coast Mountains. Extending for nearly 60 miles, the fjord is surrounded by snow-capped peaks and some of the most remote wilderness on the coast – a perfect habitat for grizzly bears. Starting in August, when salmon return to spawn in the rivers and creeks, bears are attracted to the shore, where they concentrate in the best spots to fish. Expect to see bears at the river mouths and walking the shoreline – which provides spectacular opportunities for photography. Cubs are born early in the year and kept hidden by their mothers until mid-June. All viewing is from the boat, keeping you safe and the bears undisturbed.

  5. Day 7: Explore the abandoned Kwakwaka’wakw village of Mimquimlees

    At the entrance to Knight Inlet, close to Robson Bight, is the abandoned Kwakwaka’wakw village of Mimquimlees. With permission from the local Native Band, you can explore the old village to discover its past and rich cultural heritage. The Johnstone Strait once supported many thousands of Kwakwaka'wakw (a.k.a. Kwakiutl) people, whose villages were everywhere. Nowadays few remain inhabited, but native culture and traditions are intact and in old communities you can still find totem poles standing proudly erect. In Mimquimlees, you can see elaborately carved totem poles and the remains of native great-houses. Returning to the Johnstone Strait you’ll have further encounters with whales, or may explore the shore or hike into the coastal forest.

  6. Day 8: Disembark at Port McNeill, transfer to Port Hardy and fly to Vancouver, 1-night

    The cruise ends with your arrival back at Port McNeill late this morning, when you’ll bid farewell to the crew, disembark and transfer to Port Hardy airport by taxi (at your expense once again) for a domestic flight back to Vancouver. Here you’ll make your way unaccompanied (as before) to a hotel near the airport to stay overnight. Your breakfast is included today, but you will need to make your own arrangements for lunch and dinner.

  7. Day 9: Depart Vancouver

    Depending on the time of your flight, you may have some time to explore Vancouver before making your way to the airport to check in for your overnight international flight to the UK.

  8. Day 10: Arrive UK

Key info

  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 10 days from £4,745 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 9 days from £3,295 pp
  • Single supplement: From £110: Hotels only
  • Group size: 16
  • Departures: View all departure dates
  • Included in the price/package:
    • Two nights hotel
    • Six nights shared cabin on Island Odyssey
    • All meals on board boat (room only in Vancouver)
    • Trip to Knight Inlet to see grizzly bears
    • Return flights between Vancouver and Port Hardy
Featured locations:

Vancouver Island

The healthy black bear population and whale-watching opportunities make this a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Separated from the mainland by a long strait, the island’s west coast overlooks the Pacific Ocean, while the mountainous interior is heavily forested with big conifers.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: American black bear, puma, grey whale, orca, sea otter
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Self-drive, Whale watching, Bear watching, Dolphin watching

Vancouver

British Columbia’s largest city stands in a fine coastal setting, against a backdrop of lofty tree-covered peaks - a great starting point to any wildlife holiday in the province. There is plenty to see in this lively, multi-cultural city, such as exploring Stanley Park on foot or by bike.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Excellent for: Activity & adventure, City stopover, History & culture

Glendale Cove, Knight Inlet

This untouched wilderness offers unrivalled opportunities to watch and photograph some of North America's most notable wildlife, including massive brown bears, soaring bald eagles and large pods of orcas. Situated 70 kilometres north of Campbell River, Glendale Cove is accessible by floatplane.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: American black bear, brown bear, humpback whale, orca, pine marten
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Wildlife festivals, Mark Carwardine wildlife holidays, Whale watching, Bear watching

Queen Charlotte Strait & Johnstone Waters

Situated between Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s mainland, this area is considered the best place in the world to observe orca who, during the summer months, are present on a daily basis. They can often be viewed close up from the boat, offering some wonderful sightings and photo opportunities.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: orca, brown bear, Steller’s sealion, tufted puffin, humpback whale
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Dolphin watching
This itinerary is available on the following cruise vessel:

Island Odyssey

Island Odyssey is a 21-metre ketch-rigged yacht, designed for cruising the coastlines of British Columbia and Alaska. Originally built as a luxurious private yacht, she has been renovated to update the cabins and all safety systems. Accommodation consists of eight double cabins, showers and a lounge/library.