In September of 2020 I will again be leading a small group of participants to photograph and experience a remote ecosystem comprised of rivers, ocean, old growth forest, and mountains. It's inhabitants, as if the landscape were not enough to excite a nature photographer, combine a rich diversity of land and ocean wildlife, including wolves, salmon, Orcas, Humpback whales and perhaps most prominent of all, bears. The salmon run feeds a prolific population of both grizzlies and black bears, along with the famed “Kermode” or “Spirit” bear, a rare sub-species of black bear that is completely white due to a recessive gene. Until the mid-90's this section of temperate rainforest, which spans the coast of Canada from Vancouver Island all the way to Southeast AK remained nameless. As people began to explore and learn more about this magical region, giving it an identity was first in order. The title, The Great Bear Rainforest was aptly assigned.
Length & Dates: September 14-21, 2020
Arrival in Vancouver:
Please plan on flying into Canada's Vancouver International Airport (YVR) one day prior to "Day 1" of our trip. This will allow more flexibility for travel delays, baggage, etc.
We depart from Vancouver’s South Terminal in the early afternoon for the two hour flight to Bella Bella. After collecting our luggage, we will take a short 10 minute ground transfer to the dock where our water taxi awaits to bring us to the Spirit Bear Lodge in the small First Nations community of Klemtu. As we travel deep into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, the scenic 90 minute journey through the maze of coastal islands provides photography opportunities right away, such us Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises or Orcas.
We will arrive in time for a fresh dinner, and afterwards we will have a debriefing regarding details of the following morning’s adventure and a discussion about photography techniques, settings, etc that will prepare us for the situations we will encounter in the field the following day.
Each morning, we will arise early for a hearty breakfast and head out for a full day of unforgettable photography. Our journeys will take us to different pristine river valleys and estuaries located in the First Nations traditional territory which, in good weather, are typically about 90 minutes from the lodge. On arrival at our destination we will disembark the water taxi to explore the lush river valleys and broad, braided estuaries on foot. The experienced and local guides I have arranged all possess an intimate knowledge of the wildlife behavior and movement patterns of the bears and will be able to situate us in ideal settings, such as under the forest canopy or on a rocky outcropping to get intimate and special eye-level viewing and photographic opportunities as the bears forage for roots, berries or feast on salmon. Depending on the day and our location, we may also board small zodiacs and propel silently under oar or by small outboard motor deeper up a river or into the braided channels of an estuary to view bears. Since each day involves some transportation via boats, the ability to return to solid ground for a good nights rest and home-cooked meal is essential.
While bears are the primary pursuit of each day, they are only one of the many subjects we will photograph. During the journey to and from various locations on boat we will focus on capturing marine life, such as Orcas and Humpbacks, and the dramatic landscape, featuring colossal granite walls and waterfalls towering above us. Our time spent along the rivers with spawning salmon and bears provides opportunity for many other species who rely on the salmon, such as coastal wolves, eagles, mink, and maybe even a wolverine!
Before we depart on our last day we will fit in one last photography session, either by sea kayak, or by foot in the rainforest. At 11am we board our water taxi for 90-minute trip to Bella Bella arriving in time to catch afternoon flight back to Vancouver.
* Due to the unpredictable nature of the weather, coastal flight delays are always possible, so it is strongly recommended that you DO NOT attempt to schedule your flight out of Vancouver on the same day (9/11) we leave the rainforest.
Our lodge is situated in the small, remote Kitasoo/Xai’xais fishing village of Klemtu. Located 280 nautical miles north of Vancouver, Klemtu is truly in the heart of the rainforest. Nestled in a remote archipelago of small islands and thus protected from the wild Pacific, Klemtu is centrally positioned to offer us unparalleled access to some of the best grizzly and Spirit Bear viewing in the region.
Architecturally, the exterior of the Spirit Bear Lodge pays homage to the traditional long houses built for thousands of years by West Coast First Nations. Inside, the atmosphere is modern and relaxing. The lodge features a great room with comfy couches, 20-foot high, ocean view windows, local Tsimshian Art and two 12-foot, solid cedar dining tables. Here, we can gather to review our images from each day and delve into post-process techniques, or simply relax and gaze out towards the grey blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and watch for passing Orcas, White-Sided Dolphins and Sea Lions. Each room in the Spirit Bear Lodge is afforded with a private bathroom and all rooms take full advantage of the ocean and rainforest scenery.
Besides the ideal location and comfortable accommodations, a key advantage of staying here is that it is owned and operated by First Nations people. The staff, many of whom were born and raised in Klemtu, provide us with exclusive access to some of the special Spirit Bear viewing areas in the recently created Spirit Bear Conservancy.
Dates: September 14-21
Participants: Maximum of 6-7 photographers
Roundtrip airfare from Vancouver to Bella Bella.
All Boat Transportation (including the water taxi from Bella Bella to the lodge)
All meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) starting with dinner upon arrival at the lodge on day 1.
Airfare to Vancouver
Investment per person based on double occupancy:
Double Occupancy $11,360 CDN + 5% GST (Approx. $8,635 USD based on Current Exchange Rate)
Single Occupancy: Inquire for options.
Deposit of $1500 USD per person required to reserve participation.
Second Installment of $3,500 USD by March 1 of 2020
Balance is due 90 days prior to trip.
The deposit is non-refundable. The services utilized for this expedition are highly competitive, and reserving over a year in advance is the only way to secure desirable dates.
Travel Insurance is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. It is surprisingly affordable, especially considering the peace of mind it brings. There are many options out there, but CSA and Travel Guard are two popular companies.
***The trip is designed to provide the best possible photography experience for participants. In order to achieve this, the participants had to be limited to a small number, and the complicated logistics involve high overhead costs. Therefore, the trip can only proceed with a minimum of 6 photographers.