The Great Bear Rainforest. 9 days and 8 nights. There is really a lot to talk about this cruise. It's not that easy to be reasonably short. And one thing right at the beginning: We promise not to reveal in which bays and inlets we were exactly, in order to protect the plant and especially the wildlife there a little from the crud of mass tourism initiatives. So we do not use names. With the request for understanding. After leaving the 18-passenger aircraft of Pacific Coastal Airlines from Vancouver via Port Hardy (Vancouver Island) to Bella Bella on Campbell Island, we arrive in a rickety white van 10 min. later and for $ 20 the local pier to get a (free) water taxi to Shearwater - a small bay with a few buildings, shops, a factory and an elderly "hotel" on one of the 1,000 mega-islets somewhere on the Pacific coast of northwestern Canada.
Our tour will start at the dock in Shearwater`s harbor. For the first time we see the glossy "Great Bear II" lying at the wharf. Much bigger than ever thought. A 17 m long "Hatteras Long Range Cruiser", a world-famous "trawler-style" motor yacht, designed to cross any ocean. Our crew is already there: Eric (the captain), Cindy (the chef) and Marjan (the good third aid). The mouth stays open a little when we learn that we will do the tour alone only with these three persons. Unfortunately a couple had to cancel the tour in a very short term. On board there is even an organic herb garden and edible flowers. A private bathroom with shower, two inflatable boats, a seawater treatment plant. So: What a luxury for us !!
Before we get started we meet Harry and Sally, a true-to-the-ground and relaxed bald eagle pair at the harbor, which Andrea, of course, immediately photographs in a professional manner. Fresh calamari and Caesar salad with salmon and red wine round off the evening. The next slightly rainy day, we head north through Queen Charlotte Sound to find out why this region is known as "The Great Bear Rainforest": To the most remote and spectacular areas of BC, to breathtaking scenery, stunning wildlife, to on the heads of fjords and tidal channels with bright green, tall grass and wildflowers overgrown river estuaries, filled with new life. The mountain peaks of the Coastal Range are still covered with snow at this time and form a nice contrast to the azure blue sky. Polished granite walls tower thousands of feet out of the sea and are littered with rushing waterfalls at this time of year, seemingly falling from the sky.
We want to experience big grizzlies coming straight from hibernation to these inlets to enjoy protein-rich sedge grass and salmon berries. And we will hopefully see humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, sea otters and other marine mammals. And always check the coastlines for black or brown bears, deer and wolves.
Our crew tells us that as the trophy hunt for these sentient bear creatures in those bays is finally over, their sight will touch our hearts. We'd soon see why stories we've heard about the cruelty of Grizzlies are just stories that are far from reality. Although these bears are clearly wild animals and need to be treated with respect, they are far different from the monsters hunters wanted us to believe.
Eric is a bear finder, a certified bear leader and a great conservationist with a huge heart for the animals and nature here. His careful handling of this ship enables us to enjoy the natural behaviors of wildlife without permanently disrupting or affecting the land and animals we see. While some cruise liners have a very defined itinerary, he prefers to be more adaptable. When nature crosses the best path, Eric tells us, we want to be able to stop for as long as we want and enjoy those life-changing moments. And that's exactly how it happens the next days.
The first sea otter is sighted. It looks funny because you only see a small silver head with two big eyes. We photograph colorful starfish on the shore and sea anemones. A chic octopus is unfortunately too fast for Andrea's camera. Despite the bad rainy weather we visit Klemtu and the Big House of the First Nations on an island. Vern, the Chief of the Village, tells us a long, thrilling story from this big wooden house, four men in canoes and Equinox, an underwater chief and superhero. Also on the third day it rains "from buckets", but the weather report praised improvement from tomorrow noon. We are waiting for the sun. Fresh strawberries, pancakes and whipped cream for breakfast help us beyond the bare necessities .....
The weather is actually better now, we see some sun. We anchor at the end of an inlet and observe on the "green beach" the first three grizzlys who eat there in peace and quiet huge amounts of shells. Later, a bear mother with her three "cubs" take off in front of a big male grizzly. Everywhere there are incredibly beautiful, rushing waterfalls and dreamlike water reflections of the landscapes and the sky in all colors.
Today we reach the crew favorite inlet. As we round the last corner of this long bay we know immediately that this should be a home dreamed of by grizzly bears. And here we have the most wonderful experience with such creatures. With a grizzly mother and her three cubs. They have already been eating the tall green grass on the shore for three hours, and despite the rising tide, we are sitting in our zodiac motionless and quietly. Obviously they are thirsty now and drink something of the fresh sweet water of the bay. Next to us Mother Bear marches on the meanwhile formed sandbank and behind her in step-by-step her children. Suddenly she stops and the three cubs surround her as if they want to discuss something together. And there it happens: The huge mother falls on her back and begins to suckle the three bear cubs. Lovingly she embraces her with her bear paws. The little bear snouts are quite white from the milk. What a sight! The tears roll down the faces of all five of us. We are totally touched and cannot believe it. Thank heaven, that we can see and experience this once. Andrea takes the pictures of her life!
Another cove with a very large and sprawling estuary, snow-capped mountains and mist-covered rainforest offers one of the best crab species. So an evening crab party on board is fine, right? Half of the caught creepy-crawlies are released because they are too small. The others taste extremely delicious. It's fun to dine in our "Turning Restaurant" because the boat turns in the tide at anchor or during the day in a half or three quarter circle.
During the final part of the cruise we travel through an area known to be an important habitat for humpbacks. At this time of year they feed during her long return hike from Hawaii on herring and krill. And then we finally see the first whales which can swim up to 18 km/h. Andrea catches them in the moment they dives down and shows her wonderful tail fin. A dream that we are allowed to experience this here in the greatest peace and solitude. Later Cindy and Eric actually identify this humpback whale with a help of a thick book with hundreds of tailfin photos of that region. Its name is "Teeth". Look at our two pictures next to each other and compare for yourself! Unfortunately we are not allowed to see the great black and white orcas and their mad jumps out of the water on this trip. They just do not want to appear. Ok, then next time. But as a substitute for them at least small Dall's Porpoises and Pacific White Sided Dolphins, which often play on the bow wave of our ship. Another challenge for the photographer!
The penultimate day breaks in total calm and sun. Everything is quiet outside. The water is mirror-smooth. You can see for miles. Eric discovers three whales in the distance and when we go, they are swallowed up from the ground (better from the water)!. No more whales are spotted. We are a little frustrated. Once again Eric is deceived by the huge marine mammals. 100 meters in front of the ship a big whale appears. Incredibly close! Everyone runs to the deck to take pictures. It disappears in the void. What a pity! The day comes to an end. One last dinner. It's raining.
The issue of animal welfare keeps us busy throughout the total cruise. How reckless people can be we unfortunately experience again here. A very large motor yacht (worth 15 million Euro) with the name "815 - Sherpa" anchored in the same romantic bay as us. Their passengers actually have nothing better to do than rush through the small rivers with their fast zodiacs, to enjoy themselves over the bear mothers, who jump into the water fear, and cubs running away in fear. What are those idiots! Eric is very angry and goes back in our zodiac several times to protect the animals, to put the idiots to speech. Cindy informs the B.C. Park Rangers and the so-called "Watchmen", which unfortunately not come to this inlet at this day. These Watchmen monitor in many places of the Great Bear Rainforest that the visitors, tourists, photographers and fishermen do not violate the protection rules to much. Most of the waters and inlets are First Nations territory. Unfortunately they have no opportunity to impose penalties but only "soft" warnings. So they are toothless tiger! A conversation via radio simply refuses the captain of this boat. In the evening they have a loud "Big Party" on board and disturb the otherwise impenetrable silence of the bay. It is unbelievable! Money seems to allow everything and everyone to do what he wants on this planet! And then we wonder if the next visit here the entrance to the inlet is closed forever ...
The truly unique cruise finally ends in Prince Rupert. We are grateful and very happy. We are still dazed from it and and go with wavering steps aboard.
The next day back to Vancouver by plane and from there to Frankfurt and Friedrichshafen in Germany. Our Western Canada Revival Tour 2019 is finally over.