The Great Bear Rainforest is a large area of pristine wilderness. It is as large as the country of Ireland and covers about 6.4 million hectares of British Columbia’s north and central coast.
The place is perfect for immersing yourself in silence and enjoying the lush greenery all around. It is a land surrounded by mist-shrouded valleys and glacier-cut fjords.
Moreover, the Great Bear Rainforest encompasses a quarter of the coastal temperate rainforest of the world. It is also the only place on the planet to spot the rare White Kermode Bear or the “Spirit Bear.”
If you are someone who loves the outdoors, especially hiking in the wild jungles, this rainforest will be a fantastic getaway. Let’s consider this, will it not be great to spend a wonderful day viewing the eagles and grizzly bears or sea otters, dolphins, and whales?
There are many activities too in Great Bear like kayaking, fishing along the coast, and hiking along the old-growth forests.
The Great Bear Rainforest is a large expanse of the coastal temperate rainforest that stretches for nearly 250 miles on the British Columbia coast. Also known as the Amazon of the North, the land has 1000-year-old cedars, waterfalls along the sides of the moss-covered mountains, and crystal-clear waters.
The Great Bear can be found on the central and northern coast of British Columbia all the way from Knight Inlet to the Alaska Panhandle. The vast land covers nearly 6.4 million hectares.
2. Travelling And Reaching The Great Bear Rainforest
There are hardly any roads that travel to the Great Bear Rainforest. It is therefore mainly accessed by boat or floatplane. The location as such is quite unique and visitors tend to get different experiences each time they visit it.
Some can see the entirety of the wonderful place from a plane and some simply love to sail along the coast by the sea to view this marvellous location. Visitors will realize that the Rainforest moves at a slow pace so will need time to adjust to its rhythms and seasonal changes.
There are different ways to get to the Great Bear. Some hike, sail, or fly in and out of the place at any given time. Some tourists drive too but only up to a certain point.
Whatever way you choose to get there, do remember to prepare well before embarking on your journey to the Great Bear Rainforest as getting to this remarkable place is nothing short of an adventure.
The Different Ways To Travel To The Great Bear Rainforest
Now that you are aware that travelling to the Great Bear Rainforest is an adventure by itself, you can then imagine what exploring this protected forest would be like. The Great Bear is one of few regions in the world that is mostly a roadless wilderness. So, transportation by land is vastly limited.
How then can one travel to this remote area? You can access the location in the following ways:
i) Road –
Travel to the Great Bear Rainforest would be through Bella Coola. As the Gateway to the Great Bear, it is accessible by car. The road built by local residents features a 15 km ascent all the way from the valley floor to the Chilcotin Plateau.
ii) Rail –
The best way to see the spectacular BC would be by rail. There are train services available almost three times a week from Prince George to Terrace and also from Prince George and Prince Rupert.
iii) Sea –
There are two operators undertaking travel by sea to the Great Bear, BC Ferries and the Discovery Coast Passage. BC Ferries operates a vehicle and passenger service from mid-June to mid-September and Discovery Coast Passage mostly operates in summer only.
iv) Air –
You can travel by air vide any of the airports that have access to the Rainforest. They are Bella Bella, Bello Coola, Harley Bay, Kitimat, Ocean Falls, Prince Rupert, Port Hardy, and Vancouver.
3. How to Experience the Great Bear Rainforest?
While the great remote expanse is a beloved home to many First Nations communities, it is also richly abundant in wildlife. One can find coastal gray wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, Sitka deer, cougars, and mountain goats running wild within the Great Bear.
Apart from these land animals, visitors would love to view the wonderful creatures of the sea as well. The giant orca for one is a mammal to watch out for or you can fish for salmon too. Others include sea lions, sea otters, humpback whales, and the rare Kermode bear which is also known as the spirit bear. The Spirit bears are considered sacred by the Tsimshian people.
3.1. Having an Experience With The Indigenous Cultures and History of the First Nation Communities
The local First Nations Communities are people who have lived in this land for many generations. Great Bear will help you understand their history in a more in-depth manner in the following ways:
- Klemtu – There is a cultural tour of the significant sites that many would love. You can visit the Big House here. The Big House is a traditional community gathering place that has been built by the west coast First nations.
- You can take guided forest hikes to see the ancient petroglyphs from Bella Coola.
- Tour the Museum of Northern BC in Prince Rupert.
3.2. Watch The Wildlife Up Close
At Khemtu, you have got a greater chance of spotting the ever-elusive Spirit Bear. A local guide can take you to the remotest part of the Great Bear to have a single sighting of this magnificent creature.
At Bella Coola Valley, you can view the prime wildlife. Grizzly Bear sightings are quite common here with many of them wandering throughout the town.
At Prince Rupert, you can take a plane ride or boat ride to the Khutzemateen Grizzly Sanctuary. Nearly 50 grizzlies have 450 sq km live in a protected wilderness here.
The migration of the world’s wild salmon begins around late August and continues till September or October. Many are able to view the bears and cubs when they feed on Salmon.
Marine life is found in abundance in the coastal waters of the Great Bear. You can view them during the bear-viewing trips that have dedicated whale-watching tours from Alert Bay Bella Coola or Campbell River.
3.3. Go Fishing On the Most Productive Sport Fishing On The Coast
The Great Bear Rainforest offers many full-service fishing lodges for anglers. Most fly-in fishing lodges are found on the doorstep of prime fishing grounds.
The Hakai Pass, Rivers Inlet, and the Millbank Sound are some of the places for excellent fishing. Bella Coola and Prince Rupert have many bountiful locations for fishing.
Fun fact – Nearly 80% of the nitrogen in the ancient trees growing along the salmon rivers has been derived from salmon nutrients.
3.4. Enjoy A Boat Cruise
Many companies organize specialized small-boat cruises and guided sailboat outings between May and October. The cruise will be a week-long voyage and include the following
- Touring First Nations Village
- Soaking in a Natural Hot Spring on the Glacier Cut Fjords
- Cruising among the mist-shrouded inlets
- Visiting the pure river estuaries to glimpse the grizzly bears.
All cruises are arranged for a few passengers creating a more personal and intimate setting. This also enables a wonderful adventure with ecological integrity.
3.5. Go On A Kayaking Adventure
Kayaking in Klemtu, Bella Bella, and Shearwater located on the central and north coast of the Rainforest can be great experience providers. Guided tours would be ideal as the waters are challenging for those who are unfamiliar with the surroundings.
3.6. Go On a Hike or Skiing
There are plenty of hiking trails ranging from easy to moderate in the Bella Coola Valley. Bear viewing tours usually have guided rainforest hikes as part of their tour. Many lodges have hiking options available.
Adventurous hikers go heli-hiking above the tree line and fearless skiers would want to explore the peaks of the Coast Mountains.
4. Which Is the Right Place to See the Spirit Bears?
The Spirit Bear or the Kermode Bear lives on the Central Coast and the North Coast regions of British Columbia, Canada. It is the subspecies of the American Black Bear.
Most Kermode bears are black but between 100 and 500, you will find fully white bears do exist. You may mistake white Kermode bears to be albinos and you are entirely wrong as they still have pigmented eyes and skin.
White Kermode Bears or Spirit Bears are more successful than black bears in catching salmon. The white fur is more difficult to spot underwater by the fish than black fur enabling the white ones to capture salmon faster.
You need to begin from the coastal village of Klemtu to get a chance to see the spirit bears on Princess Royal Island which is also their home turf. Another way to view them would be to go on a tour conducted by local cultural guides to areas where they have been commonly sighted.
Klemtu has a water-front accommodation known as the Spirit Bear Lodge. You can reserve a room at this community-based eco-tourism venture owned and operated by Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation.
There are special tours offered by the Spirit Bear Lodge to view the rare creature. Although the sighting of the Spirit Bear is not guaranteed, the tour operators make every effort towards it.
5. Right Time To Visit
The Great Bear Rainforest is a jungle and the best time to visit it would be during the warmest months. June to August is the best time to visit as the bear viewing season usually is from June to October.
The best chance of seeing a bear would be the time these marvellous creatures hunt for fish. The annual salmon run is from late August to September or sometimes October is the ideal bear-viewing period.
6. The Connection Between the British Royal Highnesses and The Great Bear Rainforest
The BC government, First Nations, environmental groups, and forest industry representatives announced in February 2016 the final agreement on the management of the Great Bear Rainforest.
The following are the highlights of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements:
- It will conserve 85 percent of forest management.
- It will provide conservation financing for the management of 70 percent of old-growth forests over time.
6.1. The Great Bear Rainforest Education
In the same year of the signing of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, the office of the Premier of British Columbia announced the Great Bear Rainforest Legacy.
- A $ 1 million education and awareness trust was established to remember the visit of the Royal Highnesses, the Duke, and Duchess of Cambridge.
- Under the Queen’s commonwealth canopy initiative, The Great Bear Rainforest has the official support of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
6.2. The Goal of the Great Bear Rainforest Education and Awareness Trust
The Great Bear Rainforest Education and Awareness Trust were registered as a charitable organization on January 1, 2018. The following are its goals:
- Foster deeper public recognition and appreciation of the Great Bear.
- The different ways the government of BC, the first nations, the industries, and the environmental groups can develop a world-class and innovative approach to managing the natural environment and human activities.
- The Great Bear is a critical natural corridor wherein the ocean and land are irretrievably connected.
- It is the home of the First Nations people who have been an inseparable link to the Great Bear.
- The nature conservancy or the TNC requested support and protection of the Great Bear Rainforest in 2006.
- In 2016, the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement was signed between the First Nations and the British Columbia Government.
- The Great Bear is also known as the carbon storehouse and biodiversity hotspot.
The Great Bear Rainforest is a global treasure that needs to be explored by anyone who wishes to enjoy scenic natural surroundings. The protected, coastal temperate rainforest is the official residence of the mysterious Spirit Bear.
As the largest temperate rainforest to remain in the world, it is a sublime and protected ecological wonder. So, do take time to visit the archipelago of Haida Gwaii which has a vast network of high and low valleys, crystal clear lakes, streams, and diverse arrays of plant and animal life on Earth.
The beauty of the Great Bear will inspire you, thrill you, and transform you as you witness the dazzling abundance of the delicate ecosystem.
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