Great Bear Rainforest

 

Why the Great Bear Rainforest?

4 - 13 October 2023

The stretch of rugged and largely inaccessible coastal lands between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the southern tip of Alaska is where you'll find the Great Bear Rainforest.  Grizzly bears, black bears and the more elusive "spirit" bears call this remote land home. 

Here, the mountainous coastline is penetrated by long, winding, deep fjords, carved out by glaciers during the last ice age.  The region's temperate climate and abundant rain have prompted the development of one of the largest extents of temperate rainforest on Earth.  Nutrient rich coastal waters and migratory salmon attracted the first humans that had crossed into North American many millennia ago.  Today, these coastal First Nations, enjoying nature's generous bounty, are among the most culturally rich in Canada, having developed unique relationships with the land and sea, and having integrated practices and belief systems, where wildlife icons such as ravens, wolves, beavers, bears, eagles and orcas command deep respect. 

CNH Tours co-founder, Heather Blenkiron, was born here - in the small town of Kitimat, the embarkation point for your 8 day journey aboard the very comfortable 24 passenger "Cascadia" catamaran.  Heather is positively thrilled to help you get to understand, appreciate and enjoy this beautiful part of the world and invites you to join a like-minded group of people (many of whom may be CNH Tours Galapagos alumni) on this trip into the far corners of the Great Bear Rainforest.

 

 

   Are you ready to book?  Click HERE to go to our booking page.

 

Dates & Prices

 (A CAD$1,500/person deposit is required to secure your berth.  See terms and conditions below for full details) 

We are running one departure in 2023 

4 - 13 October 2023

 

PRICE:  (Canadian dollars, includes 5% federal tax)

  • 2 upper deck EAGLE cabins (235 sq ft):  $14,160
  • 4 main deck BEAR cabins (195 sq ft):    $12,395
  • 5 lower and 1 main deck ORCA cabins (160 sq ft): $10,695

Prices are per person, double occupancy.  Contact us for solo prices.   The trip starts and ends at Kitimat, British Columbia.

COVID: The Cascadia's crew is vaccinated against COVID-19 and current requirements call for all guests to show proof of vaccination and to take a rapid COVID antigen test immediately prior to embarkation (administered by the ship's crew).

 

Are you ready to book?  Click HERE to go to our booking page.   

 

What's Included? Not Included?

YOUR TRIP INCLUDES

1. IN KITIMAT:

  • Two nights' accommodation at a the MStar hotel (rated 4.6/5 on TripAdvisor)
  • Excursions and activities while in Kitimat, including transport
  • Breakfast and lunch
  • Transfer to ship for embarkation

 2. ON BOARD THE CASCADIA:

  • Shipboard accommodations
  • All gourmet meals on board
  • All happy hour / dinner alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (wine / beer and a daily mixed drink special)
  • Coffee / espresso / tea / hot chocolate
  • All landings and excursions
  • A pair of loaner rubber boots for use during the voyage
  • CARBON OFFSETS:  Your trip will be carbon neutral
  • Emergency medical evacuation insurance (US$200,000 limit)

NOT INCLUDED:

  • Meals not indicated above
  • Any visa fees or other fees for travel related purposes, including any health testing fees
  • Emergency medical insurance, other travel insurance (we include emergency evacuation only)
  • Staff gratuities (we recommend from 3%-5% of the cost of your trip / guest in proportion to your degree of satisfaction with the service - tips will be shared with all on-board crew)

 

Booking

  Are you ready to book?  Click HERE to go to our booking page.  

You will be invoiced for a deposit (CAD$1,500/person, payable by cheque, direct deposit or wire transfer).  Your space will only be confirmed upon reception of the deposit.  The balance will be due 90 days prior to the trip start date.  

 

Itinerary overview

Our trip has two components:  

1) Pre-cruise:  Two nights in the town of Kitimat, located at the very end of the Douglas channel, a full 125km / 85 miles from the open ocean.  Here, we'll take a bit of time to learn about the larger socio-economic context in which the Great Bear Rainforest exists.  We'll mix some fascinating site visits (by small bus) with a few insightful presentations from quality first nation / industry representatives.  

2) The expedition cruise:   Seven nights / eight days.  The captain of the ship, in consultation with your guide, will take you on a serendipitous course down inlets, coves and fjords.  Since some stretches of water are more exposed than others to winds, the itinerary is not fixed, but rather planned on a daily basis according to existing and forecasted conditions.  The objective is to put you in touch with the land and seascapes, with several opportunities for off-ship explorations on foot and kayak.  The salmon is running this time of year and bears should be congregating by the salmon rivers.   If conditions allow, we will also pay visits to a local indigenous community who will host us for an exploratory walk and/or will invite us to learn about their way of life.  

PLEASE NOTE: The likelihood of encountering grizzly bears, black bears, spirit bears, orcas, humpback whales, fin whales, coastal wolves and other iconic Great Bear Rainforest inhabitants varies according to the species. 

In all cases, there are no guarantees.  Every trip encounters a different subset of these species and in differing abundances.  Some fortunate travellers encounter all of them.  The captain and your guide will do their best to maximize your chances of such encounters. 

 

 

Detailed Itinerary

Note:   The finer details of what you see below for days 2 and 3 remain tentative and will be finalized shortly. Either way, these days will be dedicated to learning and becoming more sensitized to the overall context of your 8 days aboard the ship. 

DAY 1 (4 October):  Arrival in Kitimat

The easiest way to Kitimat is by air from Vancouver.  Fly into the Kitimat/Terrace airport and take a taxi to your hotel (not included).  Distance is about 34 miles (56km).  Check into hotel. The MStar hotel is quite new, with spacious rooms.  Hotel options in the small town of Kitimat are limited, and for our trip, we decided on this business type hotel as it was i) new with spacious rooms and an overall smart, crisp design and ii) walking distance to a selection of restaurants.  

Kitimat / Terrace Regional Airport - not too busy

 

DAY 2:  HISTORY AND INDUSTRY - UNDERSTANDING THE BROADER CONTEXT (lunch)

Prior to embarking, you'll have the chance to learn about the local, regional and global contexts in which the Great Bear Rainforest exists.  While very isolated, the GBR is witness and subjected to global economic forces.   You will learn about the pre-European history, the massive industrial revolution at Kitimat, and the forces that were engaged in the effort to protect this wilderness.  Speakers and site visits will sensitize you to the complex context in which you are about to set sail.  

While your hotel will offer hot drinks and very light snacks for breakfast, you may decide that the Tim Horton's coffee shop (a Canadian icon - where you'll be guaranteed to rub shoulders with the locals) for something more substantial, located just next door.  

Dinner will be at a local restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.     

Kitimat industrial zone:  The Great Bear Rainforest contends with global pressures

 

DAY 3:  UNDERSTANDING THE LAND DYNAMIC / EMBARKATION (lunch)

Breakfast will be as per Day 2.  

Land and sea are an integral part of the First Nation communities.  After many years of losing ground, the community at Haisla has entered into a new relationship with the federal, provincial governments, and with the logging, aluminum and natural gas interests in the region.  It's thanks to this new dynamic that the Great Bear Rainforest came into being.  Before embarking, we'll get a good 360 degree grasp of what it's all about. 

Lunch is tentatively scheduled at the fabulous "Minette Bay Lodge" - a very comfortable English style country manor located in an isolated stretch of coastline.  

Embarkation later in the afternoon, drinks and dinner on-board.  We raise the anchor and set off down the Douglas Channel. 

Minette Bay Lodge - tentative hosts for our lunch 

 

All aboard the Cascadia!

DAYS 4 - 10:  EXPLORING THE GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST (all meals)

There is no set / pre-determined itinerary for our explorations.  Weather, tides, wildlife sightings reports  and other factors will feed into our trip leader's planning, in consultation with the captain.  Together, they will chart a daily course in an effort to expose you to the greatest diversity of land and seascapes, and to chance upon the greatest diversity of wildlife. 

Bubble net feeding humpback whales - a possible encounter 

We will embark on at least one hiking expedition in search of the elusive "spirit bear", accompanied by a member of the Gitga'at nation.   We will seek out the grizzly bears frequently seen in the rich river estuaries, such as those of Kitlope and Chief Matthews Bay.  We hope to chance upon humpback whales - cruising along, or if we're lucky, engaged in bubble net feeding, and even breaching. 

Returning to the custom-built tender after a hike in the woods

Weather and seas permitting, we will look for traces of the sea wolf on Campania island beaches. Elusive - but if we're lucky, we may spot one or two.   On the way, we would check out the large Stellar's sea lion colony.  Bald eagles, ravens and other birds will accompany us every day. 

The unique coastal wolves have learned to incorporate shell-fish into their diet

 

Beyond the land and seascapes, and the wildlife, we'll see signs of ancient human habitation.  A totem pole with a fascinating recent history; old fishing camps; the overgrown sites of abandoned First Nations settlements.  Unless outstanding circumstances prevent us, we'll visit the Tsimshian First Nation community at Hartley Bay, and also drop in at the Cetecea Lab field station, where whale researchers have had their "base camp" for many years.  

Throughout our journey, our naturalist guides will make presentations on a variety of topics pertinent to your daily observations, or to the region in general.   

DAY 11 (13 October):  DISEMBARKATION (breakfast)

We will be cruising back to MK Marina on the last morning, where our ship docks.  You'll have plenty of time to pack and have a leisurely last breakfast. The trip ends upon disembarkation. For those returning to the airport, we can arrange a transfer (extra charge). 

 

 

 

 

Working with First Nations

Above all, you will be entering lands occupied by Canada's First Nation's people since before the last ice age came to an end. 

You'll be navigating the remote waterways they have navigated for thousands of years.  For this reason, your trip will take place with the full consent and cooperation of the various peoples who continue to call the Great Bear Rainforest and surrounding seas home, specifically the Gitga'at and the Haisla nations.  The owners of the ship were pioneers in this regards - having established protocol agreements with the First Nations here since they first started operating in 2001.   The agreements address a combination of economic and stewardship issues.  They recognize the nations’ traditional territory, along with the ship owner's ecotourism values (which align with the nations’ stewardship values).  They further set out revenue for the communities from the trips (fees that go towards a coastal management and conservation program). 

Hartley Bay - main settlement of the Gitga'at First Nation in the Great Bear Rainforest

On your Great Bear Rainforest trip, you may have the chance to visit the First Nations community at Hartley Bay (in Gitga’at territory). The community is walkable, with boardwalks throughout - located in a beautiful setting. This is also the Nation with whom the ship owners work in most of the spirit bear viewing areas, and with whom the whale researchers the ship often works as well.   When visiting communities, our guides will be member of the Gitga'at nation.  They will take is on local tours and share local folklore. Most likely, we'll have a community member accompanying us when we set out to search for the elusive spirit bear. 

Gitga'at First Nation logo

 

From the Gitga'at nation website 

"The Gitk’a’ata are a part of the Tsimshian peoples, and have occupied the lands and waters around Txalgiuw (Hartley Bay), for millennia. Today, about 130 Gitk’a’ata live in Hartley Bay, with another 500 in Prince Rupert. Others in Terrace, Vancouver Island, and Vancouver, BC.

Look at the images on this site. Gitk’a’ata people regard these places as spiritually enriched by the traces of their ancestors: petroglyphs, burial sites, shell middens, culturally modified trees and other important historical and/or archaeological sites. The Territory is the ceremonial and political base of the Gitga’at Nation. Today, as in the past, Gitk’a’ata maintain an active relationship with this territory. Community-members residing in Prince Rupert return to the territory regularly to join their families at harvest sites for seasonal food production. Along with the main village of Txalgiuw (Hartley Bay), the territory is where children learn about harvesting, cutting and drying fish, seaweed and other resources; through watching, listening, and participating with elders."

 

 

 

Your Ship: Cascadia

Where comfort intersects with nature and culture.

The Cascadia is custom-designed 42m/138ft expedition catamaran.  It was built in New Zealand, and after serving in that part of the world for 10 years, was brought over to Canada where it underwent extensive re-fitting and safety upgrades. 

The ship accommodates 24 passengers in 12 comfortable cabins located on three decks.  The ship enjoys the services of 10 crew. The cabins are complemented by plenty of public indoor and outdoor areas, allowing its guests a range of opportunities to mix and mingle, to enjoy the scenery or to appreciate some quiet down time.  Easy access to the bow gives guests a perfect vantage point for watching bow-riding dolphins or simply to take in the magnificent land and seascapes. 

The Cascadia is ideally suited for exploring the secluded inlets, remote coves and deep fjords of the region.  It carries six double and two single kayaks, along with two custom-built shore boats for easy disembarkation.  With all these amenities, you'll have access to the wildest and most biodiversity rich shores and hinterlands along the Great Bear Rainforest coastline.  

CASCADIA PHOTO GALLERY: Click here

 

CABINS

The ship offers three cabin styles (EAGLE: Very spacious / BEAR: Spacious / ORCA: comfortable):

2 EAGLE CABINS

Very spacious BRIDGE DECK 2 cabins

Prince of Wales, Princess Royal
235 sq. ft., king bed, 3 piece en-suite bathroom
Door access to deck and door access to corridor
Large windows

4 BEAR CABINS

Spacious MAIN DECK cabins

Admiralty, Calvert, Moresby, Vancouver
195 sq. ft., queen or two twins, 3 piece en-suite bathroom
Door access to deck and door access to corridor
Windows

6 ORCA CABINS

1 comfortable MAIN DECK Cabin 

Campania 
160 sq. ft., queen or two twins, 3 piece en-suite bathroom
Door access to corridor
Large porthole windows

        5 comfortable LOWER DECK cabins

Kunghit, Salt Spring, Cortes, Hanson, Penelakut.  
160 sq. ft., queen or two twins, 3 piece en-suite bathroom
Door access to corridor
Large porthole windows

 

Deck Plan:

 

 

Specifications:

  • Private cabins: 12
  • Private ensuites: All cabins
  • Max guests: 24 
  • Salon and lounge areas: Salon/lounge, terrace, upper deck, bridge
  • Shore boats: 2 aluminum, landing-craft style tenders
  • Kayaks: 6 doubles, 2 singles
  • Length over all: 42m / 138 ft
  • Beam: 13m / 42 feet
  • Propulsion: 2 diesel engines
  • Cruising speed: 7 to 10 knots
  • Registration: Canada
  • Year built: 2007
  • Where built: New Zealand; refit in Canada 2018-19
  • Registration: Canada
  • Style of ship: Steel-hulled Catamaran

 

 

Biodiversity / Species Checklist

Besides the iconic orcas, grizzly bears, bald eagles, salmon and ravens, British Columbia's wild west coast hosts hundreds of other vertebrate species.   Over 200 birds species have been recorded alone.  If we are to look at invertebrates on land and in the sea, from Douglas firs to sea stars, the number would surely surpass 1,000.   Needless to say, we have not tried to reproduce such an exhaustive list here.   Rather, we direct you to the excellent work carried out by students and their professors as the University of Victoria. 

UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA'S SCHOOL OF ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES / HAIKA INSTITUTE FIELD STATION

Over several years, the University of Victoria's School of Environmental Studies has run a field program at Calvert Island Haika Institute's field station, in the vicinity of where our trip takes place.  During those years, students gathered and organized a very comprehensive list of species encountered in the region.  For each species, pictures and detailed descriptions are provided.   The list is organized according to  

  • Marine animals
  • Land Animals
  • Birds
  • Seaweeds (algae) and sea grasses
  • Fungi and Slime Molds
  • Plants

We invite you to explore the website and discover the species diversity in the region by clicking on the image below.

 

 

For those of you who seek further information on the work of the Haika Institute, whose mission is to conduct long-term scientific research at remote locations at the coastal margin of British Columbia, we invite you to explore their website here:   

  

 

 

 

 

Terms & Conditions & Insurance

RATES

Published voyage rates are quoted in Canadian dollars and are based on passengers sharing a cabin. Once a deposit is received, your rate is locked in.  The published rate may increase due to increased costs passed on by suppliers (i.e. fuel, taxes, fees).  

RESERVATIONS

To confirm a booking a non-refundable deposit of CAD$1500 per person is required. Final payment is due in full 90 days prior to departure. Within 90 days of departure, full payment is required to confirm a booking.

CANCELLATIONS / PAYMENTS

All cancellations must be received in writing / email. Reservations cancelled 90 days or more prior to departure are subject to a CAD$1500 per person cancellation fee. Cancellations made after the 90 day deadline are subject to full fare forfeiture. In cases where payment is late, we reserve the right to treat the booking as canceled by you.  All payments may be made via cheque, direct deposit or wire transfer.

ELIGIBILITY

Our trip will require you to partake in a few moderate hikes, sometimes scrambling over roots, rocks and uneven terrain - if you feel that a walking stick would be useful, do not hesitate to bring one.  The captain and your tour leader reserve the right to deny a guest participation in an activity if he/she feels that the guest would be at undue risk to him/herself or to others.   In such cases, the guest will be asked to stay on board.   Please note that we are traveling to a remote region - good medical attention at Kitimat hospital may be several hours away.  

CHILDREN

In general, our policy is that children must be at least 12 years old to join a voyage. However, we may on a case-by-case basis accept children between the ages of 7-11 with additional screening and prior approval before booking, and the completion of our Child waiver by the parents/guardians.

PASSENGER MEDICAL INFORMATION

We require all passengers to submit basic medical information prior to departure. Upon receipt of that basic medical information, significant disabilities or unstable medical conditions may necessitate additional documentation from a passenger’s physician certifying fitness to travel on a voyage to Antarctica. 

CNH Tours places the highest value on the safety of our guests.  As such we maintain strict health and safety protocols prior to boarding and throughout our operation. All passengers will be required to comply with all of our safety protocols as well as with all local, national, international and industry laws, rules, regulations and protocols, and to provide proof of same prior to embarkation.  Additionally, we may require passengers to undergo health screenings or other precautions prior to embarkation, and/or enhanced safety protocols onboard. Should a passenger fail, refuse, be unwilling or unable to comply, we must deny boarding, or if a passenger has already boarded, we must insist the passenger disembark, and as circumstances dictate, we may invoke standard cancellation terms.

CNH Tours has a pregnancy policy that women who will be in the 13th through 22nd weeks of pregnancy during the entire voyage are welcome with explicit doctor’s permission and having signed a specific waiver. Pregnancy policies of carriers (airlines, bus companies, hotels, etc.) may also apply. Please note that medical information will, of necessity, be available to designated ship staff.

Please note that regardless of general eligibility there may be instances where environmental conditions require a level of fitness/mobility. In these cases, individual participation in the landing(s) in question may be restricted by the captain or the tour leader.

COVID

The Cascadia's crew is vaccinated against COVID-19 and current requirements call for all guests to show proof of vaccination and to take a rapid COVID antigen test immediately prior to embarkation (administered by the ship's crew).

INSURANCE

All CNH Tours guests benefit from a US$200,000 emergency medical evacuation coverage.  Any additional insurance, such as emergency medical to cover medical costs related to accidents or sudden illness while on the trip is recommended.  You may also want to consider acquiring trip cancellation / interruption insurance, which would reimburse all or part of your trip costs under certain circumstances.  There are other insurance products sold by travel insurance providers that you may want to consider.  

ITINERARIES

The ship’s captain and expedition team will do everything possible to complete the voyage as outlined in the voyage itinerary. However, itineraries in this rugged and exposed coastal area are heavily dependent on weather and ice conditions. Occasionally conditions and or safety concerns require itinerary changes. The captain and tour leader will accordingly make every effort to find the best alternative to the original itinerary while keeping passengers informed and updated. Itinerary changes are not subject to passenger approval/consent, and in the event of such a change no refunds or price adjustments are possible. Placement of a booking with CNH Tours amounts to an acknowledgement that itinerary changes are possible.

VOYAGE CANCELLATION

In the unlikely event that a trip is cancelled by the ship operator prior to sailing, passengers will be offered preferential booking on alternative voyages of similar itinerary based on availability. Please note that CNH Tours will not be responsible for travel arrangements or other expenses outside the voyage cost.

ACTIVITIES

All activities, whether on board or ashore, conducted during a voyage are permitted by authorities and must comply with strict guidelines and regulations. As such, no one may conduct unauthorized activities during a voyage. The use of personal recreation equipment or technologies without clear pre-voyage consent is not allowed. 

ON-BOARD LANGUAGE

All voyages are conducted in English as the principal language. Our on-board staff will do their best to make the voyage as enjoyable as possible for our non-English speaking guests. However, if safety is an issue, guests not fully understanding briefings may be excluded from an activity at the discretion of the tour leader or captain.

ON-BOARD AUTHORITY

All passengers are subject to instructions or regulations given by the captain or the tour leader.

PHOTOGRAPHY / VIDEO

The ship operator reserves the right to use photographs and/or videos taken during the operation of the voyage for promotional purposes for the company and/or its sales agents. Passengers who prefer that their images not be used are asked to identify themselves to the ship representative prior to embarkation.

SMOKING

The Cascadia offers a smoke-free environment. Smoking is permitted only in the designated smoking area (outside). Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside the ship (including the balcony areas). The The tour leader will discuss this policy with anyone requiring that information. 

ALCOHOL

Wine, beer and a daily "mixed drink" are included in the price of your trip.  These are generally available only starting at happy hour and with dinner.  The ship's crew reserves the right to refuse alcohol to anyone deemed to be intoxicated.

RESPONSIBILITY

The ship operator is a qualified tour operator that organizes and administers its voyages. It will provide services in conjunction with local communities. The designated operator(s), in turn, acts only as an agent for any transportation carrier, hotel, ground operator, or other suppliers of services connected with these tours (“other providers”), and the other providers are solely responsible and liable for providing their respective services. The passenger tickets in use by the carriers shall constitute the sole contract between the carriers and the passenger; the carriers are not responsible for any act, omission, or event during the time participants are not aboard their conveyances. 

CNH Tours, the ship operator and its designated service providers shall not be held liable for (A) any damage to, or loss of, property or injury to, or death of, persons occasioned directly or indirectly by an act or omission of any other provider, including but not limited to any defect in any aircraft, watercraft, or vehicle operated or provided by such other provider; and (B) any loss or damage due to delay, cancellation, or disruption in any manner caused by the laws, regulations, acts or failures to act, demands, orders, or interpositions of any government or any subdivision or agent thereof, or by acts of God, strikes, fire, flood, war, rebellion, terrorism, insurrection, sickness, quarantine, epidemics, theft, or any other cause(s) beyond their control. The participant waives any claim against CNH Tours or its service providers for any such loss, damage, injury, or death. 

By accepting passage on a CNH Tours voyage, the participant acknowledges these terms and conditions and certifies that he/she does not have any mental, physical, or other condition or disability that would create a hazard for him/herself or other participants. CNH Tours and its designated tour operator reserve the right in their sole discretion to accept, decline to accept, or remove any participant from a voyage.  The ship operator reserves the right, without penalty, to make changes in the published itinerary whenever, in their judgment, conditions warrant, or if they deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of participants. The Captain and Expedition Leader have the right to restrict the activities of any passenger who repeatedly violates onboard or on shore protocols. 

Neither CNH Tours, nor its service providers shall be liable for any air carrier’s cancellation penalty incurred by the purchase of a non – refundable ticket to or from the participant’s departure city. Baggage and personal effects are at all times the sole responsibility of the participant.

 

Updated October, 2021.  Terms and Conditions subject to change.