Self-drive daily departures from July - August, 2024.
Northern Vancouver Island will be your home base, as you thoroughly explore the region's wildlife and First Nations culture along with a small group. Traversing by boat and on foot, you'll get to see grizzlies, black bears, humpback, orcas, myriads of seabirds, and more in four of the island's most wildlife-rich areas. Our 6-day trip allows you to immerse into the world of the Kwakwaka'wakw peoples, allowing us to learn from them, gain respect for the lands and seas we traverse, and develop a thorough understanding of this magical part of the planet. *Prices in your Cart are listed in CAD.
- A marine outing in Johnstone Strait where orcas and humpbacks gather, as well as a myriad of seabirds and other wildlife (ie. Northern sealions!)
- Immersion into the world of the Kwakwaka’wakw culture through the U’mista Cultural Centre, along with interpretive visits to the burial grounds and a walk in the Cormorant Island's Ecological Park
- Adventure into the Great Bear Rainforest to observe grizzly and black bear (and if you're lucky, maybe the elusive Spirit Bear!)
- A one-of-a-kind visit to Scott Island Marine Wildlife Area to see incredible seabird diversity
6 Day Suggested Itinerary (customizable)
Nanaimo to Port McNeill, Vancouver Island
Self-drive to the north end of the large island - approximately a 5 1/2 hour drive from Nanaimo (7 hours from Victoria). Here, we will spend the next 5 nights in Black Bear Resort in Port McNeill. A group dinner is included in town today, as well as a short orientation to our new home for 5 days.
Whale Watching in Telegraph Cove
We will enjoy breakfast at Black Bear Resort. Then, depart for Telegraph Cove, which is about 30 minutes from Port McNeill. Here, you will depart by boat for our afternoon whale trip. Both Humpbacks and Orcas frequent this area at this time of the year, as well as seals, Northern sea lions, 3 species of porpoise, dolphins, and a myriad of birds. The covered boat can accommodate tour small group’s capacity comfortably. The upstairs seating area is open and outdoors, for those who would like some fresh air - while the downstairs area is covered. Perfect for all comfort and energy levels! There is a washroom onboard, and tea or coffee is served partway through the trip. Travelers can feel free to bring snacks of their choosing. Before or after the trip, time will be set aside to explore the historic boardwalk and the town’s Whale Interpretive Centre, as well as local shops and cafes.
Great Bear Rainforest
Steep fjords, small islands and lush rainforest with 1000 year old-growth trees characterize the Great Bear Rainforest. Subsurface upwellings and penetrating ocean currents result in a rich marine environment in the connecting waterways. This otherworldly area is home to five species of salmon, numerous sea birds, orca, minke, and humpback whales, several species of dolphin, black bear, harbour seals, Northern sea lions, and in the remote inlets – Grizzly bears. Bird-watchers, look out for bald eagles, grebes, Marbled Murrelets, loons, herons and many other sea birds while in this area. A select few travelers are afforded the incomparable thrill of close encounters with some of North America's most impressive creatures – massive grizzly bears. Each fall, millions of salmon make their final spawning run, while giant grizzlies gather at the spawning channels to fatten their massive bodies in preparation for the imminent winter freeze. You will be there during prime season. After an early continental breakfast at Black Bear Resort, we will meet at 6:30am on the Municipal dock for check-in. Departing by boat at 7am, our full day program sightseeing the Great Bear Rainforest awaits. A field lunch is included. The covered boat has comfortable seats. The journey can be somewhat rocky, but the boat design and comfortable seating help ease those minor inconveniences. A skipper and one or two crew members act as our knowledgeable guiding team. The 33-foot vessel, MAYUMI, has a unique and highly stable hull which allows for tougher seas to be navigated. A heated cabin and marine head make for a comfortable ride! After our wildlife sightseeing adventure concludes, dinner will be at your own leisure at a restaurant in town. Alternatively, you can purchase groceries across the street to use at the Resort’s BBQ.
Scott Island National Marine Wildlife Area
Travelling through the traditional territories of the Tlatlasikwala and Quatsino First Nations, our 9 to 10 hour birding tour includes a visit to the remote Scott Islands Marine National Wildlife Area off the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island. A field lunch is included with this excursion, as is breakfast back at Black Bear Resort. These islands have the highest concentration of breeding seabirds on Canada’s west coast, with the surrounding waters providing a prime feeding habitat. 90% of Canada’s Tufted Puffins nest on the Scott Islands. The area is recognized as an international Important Bird Area.
Just some of the species we are looking for include Tufted Puffins, Common Murres, Cassin’s Auklets, Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Black Oystercatchers, Sooty Shearwaters, Black-footed Albatross, Leach’s Storm Petrels, and Fork-tailed Storm Petrels.
In addition to a wide diversity of birdlife, we may also see humpback whales, sea otters, and sea lions during our time on the water. This excursion is by open zodiac boat. Dinner will be at your own leisure at a restaurant in town, or you can alternatively purchase groceries across the street to use the BBQ.
Cormorant Island | Alert Bay
Breakfast is included at Black Bay Resort. We then drive or walk to the nearby BC Ferries terminal for a trip to historic Alert Bay.
We depart to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island at 8:40 am for a 45-minute ferry sailing. The town is known as the oldest First Nations community on northern Vancouver Island, and a centre for the resurgence of Indigenous culture. Here, the Kwakwaka’wakw have been instrumental in spearheading a movement to reclaim their traditional art, dances, songs, legends, ceremonies, and language. The U’mista Cultural Centre showcases an incredible collection of historical and repatriated artifacts depicting the Potlatch Ceremony of the Kwakwaka’wakw. There is a pleasant 1.3-km boardwalk stroll as part of the Centre that can be explored. The boardwalk passes natural habitats and items of cultural significance. At 10:30 am, we will have a private guided cultural tour of the museum with a local guide.
Next, we visit the Namgis Burial Grounds, which feature an impressive collection of memorial totem poles. While somber, the Namgis Burial grounds commemorate the deceased members of the Kwakwaka’wakw - a moving and impactful visit. It is important to respect the protocols that may be in place in the village of Alert Bay.
A field lunch is included after our guided tour. We will then visit Alert Bay’s Ecological Park, with a treasure trove of botanical delights accessed by boardwalk and trails through marsh and moss-draped forests. We will be lead through this area by a local forest guide.
We will have some time to walk along the waterfront to see gift galleries and shops, such as Culture Shock Gallery. We will return to the ferry terminal for the 3:15 pm sailing back to Port McNeill.
Self-drive departure from Port McNeill for a return to the BC Ferry terminal in Nanaimo (approximately 5 ½ hours). Cross to Vancouver via Horseshoe Bay, or continue driving to Victora.
Pricing: $3,770 CAD / $2,900 USD per person
Single supplement $525 CAD / $400 USD
- Accommodation: 5 hotel nights
- Meals: Breakfast is included by Black Bear Resort throughout the tour. Three field lunches and three dinners are included on the days mentioned in the itinerary.
- Activities: as described in the detailed itinerary
- Guiding fees
- Any meals that are not explicitly mentioned in the detailed itinerary
- Self-drive transportation (route directions provided)
- Alcoholic Drinks
- International flights or other transportation to/from the start/end point of the tour (Duke Point, Nanaimo)
- Personal purchases, such as (but not limited to) phone calls, laundry, souvenirs, additional snacks
- Any gratuities that you would like to offer tour leaders, guides, drivers, porters, wait staff, or housekeeping for outstanding service