Canada’s west coast is undeniably bear country. White bears, black bears, grizzly bears – they’re all here in the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest coastal temperate rainforests in the world.
As its name suggests, the Great Bear Rainforest is big, wild and wet. There are no roads through it. You need a guide with a boat. And you need food and shelter.
That’s where the Spirit Bear Lodge comes in. It overlooks the ocean in the First Nation community of Klemtu. The Kitasoo and Xai’xais people have lived on this coast for thousands of years. They’re particularly fond and protective of the rare white Spirit bears.
When you stay at their Spirit Bear Lodge, you’ll go out in a small boat each day to explore different river estuaries, looking for the distinctive white bears that look like polar bears, even though they’re really a genetic variation of black bears. (Spirit bears, also known as Kermode bears, are born white if both parents share a recessive mutation of a certain gene. The parents themselves can be black.)
Autumn is the best time of the year to view all the bear species. That’s when they appear along the banks of rivers to feast on salmon. In September and October thousands of salmon are fighting their way up-river, back to where they were born, before laying their eggs and dying.
That’s if the many bears don’t catch them first. Guests of the Lodge are positioned at natural vantage points on the shorelines, ideal for intimate eye-level encounters with both Black Bears and Grizzlies. The Spirit Bears are rare and elusive and encounters with these extraordinary bears are just as special.
You don’t need to be afraid of the bears either. They’re intent on catching salmon and fattening up before winter, so they don’t pay any attention to people. You can sit safely a short distance away and watch them fish.
And because this place is so remote – Klemtu is about 600 km northwest of Vancouver – there probably won’t be anyone else around.
After a day of watching bears, you’ll go back to Spirit Bear Lodge for a hot dinner served on two enormous dining tables made from solid cedar. Gaze out the expansive windows in ‘The Great Room’ and watch for passing whales, white-sided dolphins and sea lions.