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The Great Bear Rainforest Explorer

The Great Bear Rainforest is a largely untouched and still wild section of the northern BC coast with an unmatched diversity of wildlife and a stunning variety of ever-changing landscapes. In the fall the coast comes alive as the salmon return to their natal streams and the elusive Spirit Bear, black bear, grizzly and wolf join in the harvest. Humpback whales and other marine mammals and birds are plentiful as the sea shares its bounty. Touring through this spectacular wilderness in a spacious and beautiful sailboat provides visitors with an intimate and uniquely personal look into the world’s largest tract of intact coastal rainforest. We will walk trails, explore creeks and estuaries, see cascading waterfalls and towering mountain peaks and observe and photograph the animals that call this wonderful place home.

2020 Schedule: Great Bear Rainforest Explorer

September 2 - 9 September 23 - 30
September 9 - 16 September 30 - October 7
September 16 - 23 October 7 - 14

• 2020 Price $5050 + GST
• 2020 Brochure available: Download here

2021 Schedule: Great Bear Rainforest Explorer

September 1 - 8 September 22 - 29
September 8 - 15 September 29 - October 6
September 15 - 22 October 6 - 13

• 2021 Price TBD
• 2021 Brochure available: Autumn 2020

View full 2020 Schedule for all trips

Background Information: The Great Bear Rainforest Explorer

The Great Bear Rainforest is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range on the west coast of British Columbia. Its southern boundary is just north of Vancouver Island and its northern boundary is at the point where BC and Southeast Alaska adjoin. The Great Bear Rainforest is home to thousands of species of plants, birds and animals. In this lush rainforest stand 1000 year old cedar trees and 90 meter tall Sitka spruce trees. Rich salmon streams weave through valley bottoms that provide food for magnificent creatures such as humpbacks, orcas, eagles, wolves, black bears, grizzlies and the rare white Spirit Bear.

Coastal temperate rainforests constitute one of the most endangered forest types on the planet. They have three distinguishing features: proximity to oceans, presence of mountains, and high rainfall. Their ecology is marked by complex interactions between terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine systems. Close to 60% of the world’s original coastal temperate rainforests have been destroyed by logging and development. The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest contiguous tracts of temperate rainforest in the world. And, it is the ONLY temperate rainforest left on earth which is fully intact, i.e., with all members of its complex ecosystem still present!

Terrestrial and marine systems in BC’s coastal rainforest zone are inextricably linked. The forest reaches out to the sea, which in turn furnishes the wind and rain necessary for maintenance of the forest. This exchange of nutrients and energy between ocean and forest creates the base for an extremely complex food chain, and one that is rich enough to support a huge number of migratory and resident species.

Wild salmon are the most important keystone species for coastal rainforest ecosystems and grizzly bears depend on healthy salmon runs for their survival. Wild salmon are an important food source for a wide array of other wildlife and organisms as well. Even the trees of ancient temperate rainforests on the coast utilize salmon - bears and other wildlife drag carcasses of spawned out salmon into the forest, which facilitates a nitrogen transfer into the forest soil and ultimately into the towering trees.

The fight to save the Great Bear Rainforest continues to this day. In 2006 the government of BC made a promise to protect one third of BC’s globally unique Great Bear Rainforest and to develop the foundation for a local conservation-based economy. In 2009 this promise was fulfilled, but still it left a full 70% of the region totally unprotected from industrial logging, mining, and other resource extraction proposals and projects. Unfortunately the trophy hunting of large carnivores, including grizzly bears and wolves, is still sanctioned by the BC Government and currently no marine protected areas have been established. Tanker traffic in our waterways transporting both liquified natural gas and diluted bitmen, open net cage salmon farms, seismic testing for oil and gas reserves and unsustainable fishing practices remain some of the immediate threats to the marine environment.

Scientists and conservationists on the regional, national, and international level continue to promote the value of saving the last intact and fully functioning coastal temperate rainforest. Saving the Great Bear Rainforest not only safeguards the stunning biological diversity of the region but also helps (through the absorption of huge quantities of carbon for photosynthesis) offset the effects of the carbon-releasing activities of mankind, thus slowing the process of global warming.

The Spirit Bear

The Great Bear Rainforest is the home of the rare and almost mythical Spirit Bear - a white-phased form of the American Black Bear. The subspecies of Black Bear found within the Great Bear Rainforest is Ursus americana kermodei – the Kermode Bear. All the black bears in the Great Bear Rainforest (of any coat colour) are Kermode Bears. But not all Kermodes are white – only the rare Spirit Bear possesses the white coat.

Spirit Bears are not albinos. The white coat colour is caused by a recessive gene and only those bears with two copies of the gene (one inherited from the mother and one inherited from the father) have white coats. Bears that possess one copy of the recessive white coat gene and one copy of the gene for a “normal” coat have typical black coats and are carriers of the trait. The white coat colour of Spirit Bears can theoretically be found in Black Bears anywhere, but they are exceptionally rare in all parts of the Black Bears’ range. The one exception is on a small portion of the British Columbia coast, where, for reasons that are only poorly understood, between 10 and 20 per cent of the bears are white!

After years of exploring and touring the Great Bear Rainforest, Ocean Light II Adventures has found regions where Spirit Bears can be seen relatively reliably. Seeing, and possibly photographing, these exceptionally rare bears is a joy only very few people on planet earth will ever know. It can truly be listed as a "once in a lifetime" experience!

What Previous Guests Said...

"Sometimes, albeit rarely, time, place and people converge in a way that offers meaning and joy. This is one of those times." Brad G., Sept 2006

“Thank you for the work you bring us to this magnificent Great Bear Rainforest to learn its simple secrets, experience the wildlife, peace and people.” Holly A., Sept 2006

“A very special trip – the remote wilderness, the incredible richness of the forest and my first close encounters with the gentle bears, both black and white...magic!” Judy A., Sept 1994

“I am restored and refreshed by joining you in this wonderland of peace and quiet. The bears were a joy to see, the forest a pleasure to hear and the company inspiring. Thank you.” Roland D., Sept 2002

“Your family, your life, your knowledge all inspire me to act more forcefully on behalf of our planet and all that is wild.” Deborah M., Sept 2002

“I spent only 7 days in the Great Bear Rainforest, but have enough memories to last a lifetime! I had no idea that such a magnificent wilderness still existed anywhere in the world.” Brad G. H., October 2009

“I have had the fortune to return to your home on the water to share stories and laughter. Yet most important to feel my spirit soar with happiness as I breathe the air and soak in the splendour of nature and catch a glimpse of the magnificent Spirit Bear.” Barb M., Sept 1999

“Your love for this place is infectious and I’ve caught it. You’ve treated us like family and made us all feel at home. I won’t forget it.” Ross T., July 1989

“Your lifestyle is one that so many can only dream of...your backyard is nothing short of spectacular!” Gilles M., June 2006

Black Bear Mother Affectionately Protecting her Spirit Bear Cub

Trip Information
• Duration: 7 days; 7 nights

• Accommodation: Ocean Light II

• Seasonality: Fall

• 2020 Price: $5050 CAD
   plus 5% GST

Downloadable Trip Brochure
   (PDF, 0.9 MB)

View Regional Map
   (PDF, 2.2 MB)

View Trip Map
   (JPEG, 450KB)
Our Other Trips...
Gwaii Haanas Aboard the
   Ocean Light II

Marine Mammal Explorer

Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen

Mothership Kayaking

Misty Sunrise in the Great Bear Rainforest

Spirit Bear Fishing in Great Bear Rainforest

Great Bear. Rain. Forest.

Young Humpback Checking Out the Ocean Light II

Spirit Bear Cub High in Crabapple Tree

Orca Surfacing and Blowing in Calm Waters of the Great Bear Rainforest

Bald Eagle Taking Flight - Great Bear Rainforest

Reflections on Life in the Great Bear Rainforest

Grizzly Mom and Cub Frolicking in Shallow Water of Coastal Inlet

The Sentinel - Spirit Bear in Forest

Humpback Whales Bubble-netting in Calm Waters

Shaking in the Stream

Cub of the Year - Wet but Still Curious


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Ocean Light II Adventures, #363-1917 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6J 1M7