Those on the group flight will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel in Vancouver. Those on Land Only arrangements should make their own way to the start hotel this evening.
Vancouver is often hailed as Canada's most beautiful city. This cosmopolitan and diverse metropolis is in stark contrast to the rest of British Columbia, but always proves to be a highlight. We have a guided city tour this morning, mostly on foot. In the afternoon we transfer to the port to board a ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, a one and a half hour journey across the Strait of Georgia. We spend some time visiting this gateway city before settling into our hotel for the night.
This morning there is an optional excursion to explore the ancient fossils and crystal formations of Horn Lake Caves Provincial Park. In the afternoon we drive to Ucluelet (near Tofino), stopping on the way at Cathedral Grove Provincial Park to see the last remains of the temperate rainforest that covered the island more than a thousand years ago. This is one of the most accessible areas of giant Douglas-fir trees in the province and there are many trails enabling us to meander through Douglas-fir, Western Hemlock, Grand fir and Western Red Cedar trees. Today's total journey time is around 3.5 hours. Ucluelet is our home for the next 3 nights.
The Pacific Rim National Park is nestled between the mountains of the Vancouver Island Range and the Pacific coastline. We'll take a walk inside the park this morning in order to admire the rich natural heritage of the west coast of Canada. In the afternoon we board zodiacs with a naturalist guide who will lead a 3 hour whale observation excursion. Our goal is to see Humpback and Grey whales, but it is also common to come across seals and sea lions amongst the rocky headlands. Today's driving time should not exceed 2 hours.
We obtain a greater understanding of the rainforest environment this morning at the Tofino Botanical Gardens. There is a lovely birdwatching area where woodpeckers, songbirds and hummingbirds can be found and Bald eagles are sometimes seen circling overhead in search of prey on the neighbouring Tofino Mudflats. Late this afternoon we board zodiacs for a 2.5 hour expedition to observe Black bear and Bald eagle (depending on the low-tide schedule, this activity may take place earlier in the day). In the wilderness of Clayoquot Sound, Black bears can be found searching for crabs and clams on the rocky beaches. We'll travel the fjord inlet by zodiac, looking in sheltered bays and stopping to observe any Black bears that we find from the comfort of our zodiac.
We depart Ucluelet and drive for 4 hours to Campbell River on the North Shore of Vancouver Island. Campbell River is known as the 'Salmon Capital of the World' for its hugely impressive salmon runs where five species of Pacific salmon can be found in the river. It has been designated as a Heritage River for its importance in British Columbia - following the fish are bears, seals, kingfishers and eagles. This afternoon we take a short walk in Elk Falls Provincial Park with its thundering, impressive waterfalls.
Today we board a covered boat for a full day excursion to the Orford River area (on the mainland of British Columbia) to observe Grizzlies in their natural habitat. Conservative estimates suggest there are 10,000 Grizzly bears living in British Columbia, with 92% of the original habitat of Grizzly bears still occupied. The abundance of spawning salmon in the Orford River at this time of year brings Grizzlies down to feast. A two hour journey by boat with a spectacular backdrop of mountainous scenery brings us to the mouth of the Orford River. From here we take a short bus journey inland, where there are five viewing platforms from which to spot the bears. We will visit one (or maybe two) of these, from where we hope to observe the bears catching and feeding on salmon, sometimes with cubs in tow. On the boat journey to and from the Orford River we may also see Black bears, Grey, Orca and Humpback whales, dolphins, porpoise and sea lions.
We board a ferry for a 10 minute journey across the Discovery Passage to Quadra Island where we spend the day exploring the islands trails and beaches by foot. Alternatively, you can join an optional excursion from Quadra Island to try sea kayaking. This 3 hour excursion is accompanied by kayak and marine life observation guides and is suitable for beginners. There is never a dull moment paddlying by kayak around Quadra Island - we could see soaring eagles, oyster catchers, herons, cormorants, gulls and if we are luckly, we may come across seals, sea lions, dolphins and porpoise! In addition there will be lots of inter-tidal life including sea stars, sea urchins, jellyfish and crabs. The mountain views offer a stunning backdrop to this excursion.
We drive for around 4 hours to Victoria, making stops along the way to enjoy the scenery of Vancouver Island for the last time. This afternoon we'll board a ferry across the Strait of Georgia, admiring the small islands and breathtaking panorama of the city of Vancouver as it comes into view. In the late afternoon there will be some free time to explore Vancouver at your own pace, visiting Stanley Park or China Town.
Those on the group flight will be transferred to the airport today. Those on Land Only arrangements are free to leave at any time.