The Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia is the largest piece of intact temperate rainforest left on the planet. It is here in the Great Bear Rainforest that the Kitasoo/Xai'xais First Nation has lived since time immemorial. They have shared the forest and the salmon with a very special creature they call moskgm'ol (white bear).
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range on the west coast of British Columbia, the ancient Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world. At a massive 21 million acres, it stretches over 250 miles up the mainland coast of B.C. and fjords stretch all the way into the ice-capped Coastal Range. A remote land of archipelagos and 1000 year old cedars, its unique position has allowed it to stay relatively isolated from the rest of North America.
Here the possibilities of adventure are limitless, with mist-shrouded valleys and tall waterfalls pouring down the granite walls of deep glacier-cut fjords and fertile river valleys mixed with old growth forests. The powerful, overwhelmingly green landscape sets the tone, with forests of spruce and cedar trees and the brackish waters and meadows, where land meets ocean, form fecund estuaries of prime importance to the wildlife of the area.
The Great Bear Rainforest still has healthy populations of the wildlife species present when George Vancouver first sailed up the coast in 1793. It is famed for the wonderful spirit bears who, despite their white colour, are of no relation to polar bears. They are more of a living contradiction: a white black bear, living exclusively in the rainforest and surrounding islands, especially Victoria Island. Their colour is thought to be due to a recessive gene which needs to be carried by both parents; however neither parent needs to actually be white to pass it on. You will sometimes see black-furred parents cowering over pasty and dirty vanilla-coloured cubs. They stand out on land against the dense emerald vegetation, yet are thought to be more successful at fishing, perhaps as their colour is less noticeable to the fish from under the surface. Spirit bears are also known as Kermode bears, named after Francis Kermode who was the first to research them. Some of the Canadian First Nations and American Indians share the belief that the bears’ white coat are a reminder of the hardship of the ice age. Their very survival could be due to this myth, as it has led to them rarely being spoken of, even to this day, so few poachers know of their existence.
There are also grizzly bears living here, the growls of whom can be heard through the calls of plentiful birds. Due to the remote territories, bears and other wildlife have no need to be fearful of humans. There are also porpoises, orcas and Stellar sea lions.
The Island Roamer is a great way to explore the Great Bear Rainforest and you can navigate fjords and remote estuaries that are brimming with fish. Visit a First Nations village, sharing histories and cultural traditions, and stop at the Kitadoo Spirit Bear Conservancy in the hope of spotting a spirit bear and make the most of your chances to spot the marine life. The Great Bear Lodge sits self-contained, floating in picturesque, natural surroundings with a huge focus on bear tours.