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Sail the shores of the stunning Great Bear Rainforest aboard an intimate chartered vessel, accompanied by award-winning wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt, to search for the fascinating spirit bear and other wildlife.

Few places in the world are as evocative, ethereal and scenically spectacular as the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, whose intricate mosaic of forests, islands, fjords and mountains has a long history. While renowned for its healthy populations of grizzly, black and locally endemic spirit bears, the area is also home to an impressive diversity of other terrestrial and marine species – five types of salmon, wolves, mountain lions, numerous species of whales, sea lions, seals, mountain goats and various types of deer.

Aboard the ‘Island Roamer’, a 21-metre custom-built ketch, we cruise the sheltered waterways, accompanied by an expert local naturalist guide.  In addition, to maximise the opportunities for bear photography, we spend time at a comfortable floating lodge where a number of close and accessible sites offer excellent grizzly and black bear viewing. Some strategic hides provide excellent photographic opportunities at prime bear locations where a considerable intimacy and variety of shots is achievable. 

Typical itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to Vancouver

    On arrival in Vancouver we transfer to a hotel near the airport. Depending on our arrival time, there may be time to explore this vibrant, cosmopolitan city. 

    Accommodation: Hotel in Vancouver,1-night

  2. Day 2: Fly to Terrace

    In the morning we return to the airport and fly to the coastal community of Terrace and transfer to our overnight lodge, located in a quiet spot overlooking the Skeena River.

    Accommodation: Yellow Cedar Lodge, 1-night

  3. Day 3: Board Island Roamer

    After breakfast we board the Island Roamer and, after being assigned cabins and following a brief orientation, we set sail for the Great Bear Rainforest, where each night we anchor in a different, secluded location.

    Accommodation: Island Roamer, 7-nights

  4. Day 4: Sail into the Great Bear Rainforest

    On our first full day aboard ship we sail deep into the coastal mountains to explore Fiordland Conservancy where, beneath towering rock bluffs and waterfalls, we search remote estuaries for grizzly bears feeding on spawning salmon.

  5. Days 5-9 : The heart of the Great Bear Rainforest

    Over the coming days we sail to various areas around the Central Coast. While cruising the creeks and estuaries around Princess Royal Island, we keep a constant eye on the shore. Khutze Inlet is a beautiful river valley with an abundance of birdlife, where we might well see bears along the shoreline. We spend time ashore with a local First Nations guide who will take us to his favourite area to see wildlife, where we have the best chance of spotting the elusive spirit bear.

    Humpback whales are commonly seen as we sail around these waters - it is easy to spot their tell-tale blows which send a plume of water vapour several metres into the air. During the trip we should see various other species of cetacean and marine mammal. We have a good chance of encountering orcas, arguably one of the most intelligent of cetaceans. Others include Dall’s porpoise and Pacific white-sided dolphins - the latter species sometime aggregated into super- pods, which can contain several hundred individuals.

    In several known locations, there are also large aggregations (rookeries) of impressive Stellar’s sealions (the world’s largest sealion species). Here large groups of individuals haul themselves out onto the racks to bask and rest.

  6. Day 10: Wildlife cruise ends

    Our voyage concludes in Bella Bella today. After disembarking, we transfer back to our lodge. 

    Accommodation: Shearwater Lodge, 1-night

  7. Day 11: Transfer to Great Bear Lodge

    This morning we return to Bella Bella and continue our journey by chartered floatplane to a remote and secluded fjord towards the southern end of the Great Bear Rainforest, where our floating lodge is located. In the late afternoon we go on our first bear viewing session. 

    Accommodation: Great Bear Lodge, 3-nights

  8. Days 12-13 : Great Bear Lodge

    We have two full days at this wonderful location, with morning and afternoon bear-watching and photography sessions at different sites. The situation of this floating lodge is nothing short of stunning and offers a chance to take in some spectacular scenery and other wildlife.

    The salmon run peaks in September and early October, when the largest numbers of bears are seen, often including sows with young cubs, all intent on fattening up prior to the arrival of winter. The salmon also attract large numbers of bald eagles, gulls, ravens, and other fish-eating birds.

    Five carefully placed and spacious viewing / photography hides and platforms have been built at the best fishing spots beside the river.

  9. Day 14: Fly to Port Hardy and Vancouver

    We have a further morning of bear viewing and photography, before flying by flaotplane to Port Hardy at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, then continue by scheduled flight to Vancouver.

    Accommodation: Hotel in Vancovuer, 1-night

  10. Day 15: Depart Vancouver

    We have the morning and early afternoon to explore the exciting city of Vancouver, before transfering back to the airport in time to check in for our international return flight.

  11. Day 16: Arrive UK

Key info

  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 16 days from £8,795 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 15 days from £7,595 pp
  • Single supplement: From £On request
  • Group size: 13
  • Departures:
    1. , Fully booked
    We are currently finalising future dates for this tour. Please contact us for further details.
  • Included in the price/package:
    • Domestic flights Vancouver - Bella Bella & Port Hardy - Vancouver
    • Seaplane Bella Bella - Great Bear Lodge - Port Hardy
    • 1 night hotel in Vancouver
    • 1 night lodge in Terrace
    • 1 night lodge in Shearwater
    • 7 nights aboard Island Roamer
    • 3 nights Great Bear Lodge
    • Transfers
    • Photography tuition from Nick Garbutt
  • Activities available:
    • Boat trip
    • Panga ride
    • Photography

Expert leader

Nick Garbutt

Photo of Nick Garbutt

An award-winning photographer and author, with a background in zoology, Nick has forged a career by combining these skills with leading tours and lecturing.

Nick has written and photographed several critically acclaimed books, including: ‘100 Animals to See Before They Die’, ‘Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide’, ‘Wild Borneo’, and ‘Chameleons’. He is a regular contributor to international magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic and Geographical.

Nick has twice been a winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In 2000, he won the prestigious Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife. His photographs appear widely in books, calendars and other publications worldwide. He is a Special Lecturer on the MSc course in the Wildlife Photography and Imaging at Nottingham University, where he studied.

Featured locations:

The Great Bear Rainforest

The area’s mountains, valleys and forests, extending up much of BC’s coastline, offer sanctuary to large numbers of grizzlies and black bear. No other mainland location offers such intimate wildlife encounters amidst breathtaking natural splendour. You can watch bears on foot or while drifting downriver.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: American black bear, brown bear, humpback whale, spirit bear, grey wolf
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Wildlife festivals, Wildlife photography, Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, Mark Carwardine wildlife holidays, Bear 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

Princess Royal Island

Isolated for thousands of years, this amazing wilderness off the BC coast is one of the most pristine areas left on earth – at the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. In summer its wildlife is prolific, and whale watching excursions provides an ideal opportunity to learn about these marine mammals.

  • Where: British Columbia
  • Ideal for viewing: Dall’s porpoise, humpback whale, orca, Pacific white-sided dolphin, spirit bear
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Bear watching, Dolphin watching
Featured accommodation:

Great Bear Lodge

This bright and airy timber-built floating lodge is located in in the Nekite Valley, part of the Great Bear Rainforest, and is accessed by floatplane from Port Hardy. The lodge operates two fully-guided bear-watching sessions per day; other guided activities include sea-kayaking and interpretive hikes.

This itinerary is available on the following cruise vessel:

Island Roamer

The Island Roamer is a 21-metre ketch-rigged yacht, large enough for comfort, privacy and safety, and small enough to create a good atmosphere on board. She features eight private cabins, showers, a large salon and lounge areas. On deck, a large covered seating area provides protection against the elements.