We have been anticipating this trip for over a year; excited at the prospect of seeing a Spirit Bear and also excited to experience one of the most amazing wild places on earth. A 21-million acre wilderness teaming with salmon, humpback whales, black bears, grizzly bears, coastal wolves and the elusive Spirit Bear. There are about 200 Spirit Bears in this vast wilderness. Spirit Bears are Black Bears with a recessive gene that makes them white. According to the legend of the Kitasoo Native Peoples, "there was a time when the glaciers finally receded, and it was Raven who made everything green. Raven also decided to make one in ten black bears white, to remind them of the time when the world was white with snow and ice. Raven decided to set aside a special area of the world for these bears – now known as the Great Bear Rainforest. It was a remote paradise where the bears were to live in peace forever."
GBR is surreal and awe inspiring; one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It stretches along 250 miles of coastal waters in British Columbia and is cut through with fjords and estuaries with waterfalls tumbling down the sides of mist-shrouded mountains.
We stayed at The Spirit Bear Lodge https://www.spiritbear.com/ in Klemtu. It is small, inviting and a perfect place to experience the area. The local Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation's people own and operate the lodge and everyone was warm and welcoming. Every day, we set out in boats and then depending on where were were we would take zodiacs to shore for a bit of a hike or would stay on the zodiacs while working our way up a quiet estuary.
We were incredibly lucky; our first day we had dry skies, black bears and a Spirit Bear. And, living up to it's name; our spirit bear seemed to appear from a solid granite wall. It materialized from thin air; an apparition, a phantom, a little white bear with a presence that commanded our attention and admiration. He went on about his business; wandering around a bit, checking out the area and then set to fishing. The area has been in a drought this summer and the salmon run had just started. The Spirit Bear and black bears were taking advantage of the abundance of fish trying to make their way up the creek. We spent an enjoyable day watching bears and marveling at our luck to see a Spirit Bear right out of the gate.
Our luck of a dry day gave way to scattered rain the next day and then a deluge that lasted another three days straight. Mother nature making sure we remembered that we were in a Rainforest after all. And because of this, the lodge provides rain gear that you will definitely want to take advantage of if you don't have your own waterproof gear. Also, your camera equipment will take a beating (imaging sitting in your shower for several hours with your camera, you get the idea). The lodge is prepared and used to this, which was evident by the bag of rice we were given labeled "Electronic Rice. Not for cooking".
After spending our days in search of wildlife we came home to the lodge where we enjoyed appetizers, dinner, native songs sung by Kathleen, our front of house host and educational programs about the area. We were also treated to a trip to the Big House; based on traditional big houses for ceremonial and social gatherings.
We met wonderful people, had fantastic sightings and were not quite ready to leave when it was time to go home.