Kayaking the Great Bear Rainforest
The Great Bear Rainforest, on the central coast of BC, is part of the largest remaining temperate rainforest in the world. On this trip we'll head to the outer coast to explore that wind- and wave-tossed fringe that exemplifies the coastal wilderness of British Columbia. Remote beaches, whales, sea otters, wolf tracks in the sand, undeveloped campsites. A self-supported sea kayaking expedition to the Great Bear Rainforest is perfect for satisfying your need to get away from it all.
Remote Expedition Kayaking with Expert Guides
8 days / 7 nights
Great Bear Rainforest
Expedition travel, some wilderness experience
* Kayaking trips & tours are priced and charged in Canadian dollars; prices in other currencies can be estimated by clicking here. Prices are subject to 5% GST and optional $20 sustainability fee. Please see our terms and conditions for full payment and fees information.
ENTER THE WILD CENTRAL COAST WITH US
This tour offers you a chance to paddle one of the most unspoilt and unique kayak routes in North America. It combines travel through an area teeming with wildlife along with excellent paddling amongst the beautiful outer islands of the Great Bear Rainforest. This trip takes place in the traditional territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation.
We start and end this tour in the Heiltsuk community of Bella Bella, located on the Central Coast of BC (a 2.5 hour flight from Vancouver). The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world which means camping amongst giant sitka spruce trees, ancient red cedars and western hemlocks that are nothing short of awe inspiring. The area’s cold water and great tidal exchanges – not to mention healthy kelp forests – provide for ample oxygen in the water, supporting an incredible diversity of sea life from tiny shore creatures to majestic whales, dolphins and porpoises.
This tour aims to help you experience the best and most beautiful parts of this area by kayak. Bella Bella is a great location for starting our journey and from here we explore the intricate shoreline, beautiful long beaches, and windswept islands making our way towards Calvert Island. The water taxi transport back to Bella Bella on our last tour day means we see somewhere new and different every day of our journey, making the most of your time in the Great Bear Rainforest.
WHAT MAKES THIS TOUR SO UNIQUE? NO BACKTRACKING & SCENIC WATER TAXI RIDE
Explore somewhere new each day! The Great Bear Rainforest area includes too many amazing places to explore in one trip – but in order to make the most of your time here we make use of a water taxi shuttle as part of our tour so we don’t need to spend time backtracking. This also allows us to get off the beaten track exploring some of the more remote areas and islands (weather and group permitting of course).
CAMPING AMONG STUNNING ISLANDS
There are so many beautiful places to stay you will be hard pressed to choose a favourite campsite. Each site has unique attributes either tucked in amongst towering forests, atop ancient village sites or overlooking wildlife rich waters. This is a true expedition style trip, which means we will move from camp to camp each day.
Spirit of the West Adventures considers food to be a very important part of your tour. From our wild sockeye salmon dinner to our chocolate fondue and home baking for desserts there are few camp menus that compare to the one you will experience on this tour. We have a wonderful kitchen crew who ensure all dietary needs and restrictions are met, providing creative culinary alternatives that will please vegetarians, vegans, gluten and wheat-free diets, and those with various allergies and food sensitivities. Of course the food is hearty, healthy, full of flavour and fun.
We will traverse both the relatively open waters of Hakai Passage, Kildidt Sound as well as the more protected islands of the and islets in one of the most stunning seascapes around. This area has been featured in many documentaries and publications and is part of one of the largest protected areas on the coast because of it’s stunning beauty.
- Professional guiding service
- All kayaking equipment
(including kayaks, PFDs, paddles, pumps, ropes and sponges)
- Meals (lunch day 1 to lunch day 8)
- Cooking equipment and group shelter (tarps)
- Camping equipment including tents and Therma-rest sleeping pads
- Park and land use permits
- Water taxi drop off and pick up
If you are planning on bringing any of your own equipment please double-check the packing list to ensure you have the appropriate gear and please let our office know in advance of the tour to avoid us bringing duplicates.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?
Not included in the tour cost are accommodation before or after the kayaking portion of your trip;
- Flights, airport transfers, ferries, taxis
- Travel/medical insurance
- Alcoholic or carbonated beverages
- Rain gear
- Sleeping bags
- Personal items (toiletries, clothing, etc.)
Sleeping bags and rain gear may be rented if you prefer not to travel with them (please reserve in advance; may be booked online with your trip reservation).
The Great Bear Rainforest Outer Islands Expedition starts and ends in Bella Bella on the Central Coast of British Columbia. The details below should help give you a fuller picture of the day-to-day trip experience.
Traveling to Bella Bella on the central coast
Some folks may wish to start their travel towards Bella Bella the day before the trip, however we have also scheduled the start and end dates so it is possible to arrive in Bella Bella on the day the tour starts, either via ferry from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island or plane from Vancouver or Port Hardy. Please note: If you are traveling by ferry you will likely need to spend the night before in Port Hardy as the ferry leaves Port Hardy at 7:30am, arriving in Bella Bella at 12:50pm on the first day of your trip, just in time to meet your guides. On the last day the return ferry to Port Hardy departs Bella Bella at 6:10pm and arrives in Port Hardy at 11:30pm. Ferry reservations highly recommended. (Times accurate at time of publication – please double check before planning your travel).
WHEN: DAY 1, WHERE: Top of the government dock in downtown Bella Bella
From here you and your guides will shuttle gear to your waiting water taxi in order to pack and set off on your trip. This is the proposed itinerary for our trip, but it is flexible and may be adapted to suit the interests of those who join the trip as well as weather conditions. On this tour we can expect a combination of exposed open coastline and more protected inner passageways. As this is a expedition style tour, we usually move campsites each night. We may have an opportunity to stay in the same place for two nights, if conditions allow.
Meet your guides in Bella Bella in the heart of BC’s Central Coast. We will meet in central Bella Bella at the government dock. Here we will load kayaks and gear onto our water taxi for the shuttle out to our first campsite. Once there, we will sort out gear and prepare for our adventure, beginning with an orientation to the kayaks and gear, learning efficient paddling techniques and safety procedures. Once everyone is comfortable with their boats we’ll launch for our first strokes in the Great Bear Sea.
DAYS 2 to 7
This is a beautiful area to paddle and we work with the conditions and remain open to adventure. Each day, your guides will assess the weather, tides, and sea state to determine the destination for the day. Flexibility is key. Depending on the weather and exact drop-off location, we may plan to paddle the remote Goose Group Islands (weather depending), McMullins and Tribal Group. Moving southeast we’ll enter the spectacular islands and beaches of the Hakai Conservancy, continuing in the direction of Calvert Island.
We will meet a water taxi this morning for transport back to Bella Bella. We expect to arrive in Bella Bella by midday, allowing us time for a quick visit to the village before either heading to the airport to catch an afternoon flight back to Vancouver or departing by BC Ferries. If flying you can expect to be back in Vancouver between 3 and 5pm, or if travelling with BC Ferries you’ll arrive in Port Hardy at 11:30pm. (Please note these times were correct at time of publication – please double check before planning your travel).
Below is a list of commonly asked questions. If you have any further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to call us.
WHAT IS INCLUDED? WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?
There are no additional costs once on our tour. On our guided tours we supply everything that you will need for kayaking and camping except for a few personal items such as a sleeping bag and rain gear (these can be rented if needed- please reserve in advance) and your clothes and toiletries. Water taxi transportation, food, gear, etc, while on trip is included in the cost of the tour. Once the tour begins we provide all meals and non-alcoholic beverages (wide selection of teas, coffee, juices, hot chocolate) from dinner on day one to lunch on the last day. You are welcome to bring your favourite wine, beer or soft drinks. We recommend purchasing these items before arriving in Bella Bella as selection is limited here.
DO I NEED TO BE IN GREAT SHAPE FOR THIS TRIP?
This tour is considered moderate in nature and requires a moderate level of fitness. If you are capable of a few hours of moderate exercise each day with possible short periods of increased exertion you should have no problems. Keep in mind that good general health will go a long way if we happen to encounter some strong winds or time restrictions. Most important is an adventurous spirit. Please check with your doctor if you have any particular concerns.
HOW MUCH PADDLING IS GENERALLY DONE IN A DAY?
Paddling time will vary depending on our destination and the group’s abilities and desires. Generally we travel between 4-7 hours a day, which may include shore stops to stretch or have lunch.
HOW STABLE ARE THE KAYAKS? WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF FLIPPING OVER?
The kayaks we use on our tours are stable and designed for comfort. For those a little concerned, the double kayaks are slightly more stable than the singles. The likelihood of a capsize is minimal, and generally only occurs in an uncommon situation.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY KAYAK FLIPS OVER?
If for some reason your kayak flips over, all of our guides have ample practice time on the water with rescue procedures, in order to quickly and efficiently get you back in your boat. At this point we will take you to the nearest shore to change into some warm cozy clothing and carry on with our journey. While we are out on the water, it is of the utmost importance that the group sticks together in the event of capsize or change of route.
WHAT IF THE WEATHER TURNS BAD? WILL I BE COMFORTABLE AND WARM?
Our weather in the Pacific Northwest is generally pleasant from May through until the end of September. The temperatures on the Central Coast will be cooler than the Vancouver area. Fog is very common on summer mornings, however this nearly always clears at midday to make way for clear skies and sun. Although it is uncommon, it can rain in the summer. A good rule of thumb is to be prepared for any type of weather and you will stay comfortable. Layering is the key, and it allows you to put on or take off layers while on the water if you need to.
WHAT SORT OF WILDLIFE MIGHT WE SEE ON THE TOUR?
The diversity and abundance of wildlife in the Pacific Northwest is one of our privileges. With river run-off from the mountains, ocean currents, tiderips, eddies and upwelling these waters are among the most productive on earth. From the rich marine life of colourful plants and invertebrates, seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, mink, otter, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales, to the land animals of deer, raccoons, cougars, wolves and bears, we are bound to see something.
WHAT ARE THE CAMPSITES LIKE?
All of our campsites are in rustic, wilderness settings. We seek out sites with beautiful surroundings and those that offer solitude. There may be times (not likely but possible) when we are camping next to another group of kayakers. Campsite choice will be based on weather conditions, route choice and group size and preference.
WHERE DO WE WASH? ARE THERE TOILETS?
There is very little fresh water to be found on the small islands through which we travel. Therefore, seawater is your best bet for washing up. Please use biodegradable, environmentally friendly soap brands. Toilet facilities are not common in most wilderness settings. We carry a portable toilet system. Your guide will generally designate an area or system that works for ensuring your privacy. We are very accustomed to making sure all of our guests feel as comfortable and informed as possible in this regard – please feel free to ask us any questions you might have, before or during your tour.
WHERE CAN I LEAVE LUGGAGE THAT I WON’T NEED ON TRIP?
If you are staying in the Bella Bella area before and after your tour, please check with your accommodation to see if they can store your bags. We will also have a Spirit of the West Van in Bella Bella in which you can leave luggage, but please note this is at your own risk. Consider bringing small valuables with you on the trip (eg. passports) or leaving large valuable at home (eg. laptops).
IF I WOULD LIKE TO TIP THE GUIDES, WHAT IS THE INDUSTRY STANDARD?
If you would like to express your appreciation to the guides through a gratuity, such recognition would be enthusiastically received. The industry standard for tipping is approx. 10% per person of the trip cost. All tips received will be collected and disbursed amongst your guides & base crew by the trip leader.
We're proud of our great reviews - but don't just take our word for it, see what people are saying over on Trip Advisor. View Reviews
“Great bear expedition is a must for serious kayaker. 8 days in the Great Bear Rainforest (Hakai Conservancy) are about as close to west coast kayaking heaven as one could get. This was an amazing opportunity to kayak in this wild and magical land. As usual, the SOW arrangements for food and equipment were excellent. Wind, rain, ocean swells, beach camping are all part of the challenging fun."
"We really enjoyed the SoW kayak trip in the Hakai area of the Great Bear Rainforest. This region is so remote and unique, it was a real opportunity to visit there. The white sandy beaches, big crossings and canal-like channels were amazing. This is our fifth trip with Spirit of the West and all of them have been great. The routes, the guides and the food are excellent."
“Amazing, wonderful, fabulous ... we can't say enough about our adventure”
"The guides were fantastic, the communication before the trip was great. Everything was well organised. I can't fault anything. A highly recommended trip and company to do it with."
"One of the best experiences of my life , very professional guides , amazing food and a brilliant trip , well done Spirit of the West Adventure."
"Great campsites in very remote places in between a lot of wildlife. We were just spoiled of good kayak equipment and the best guides you could imagine who made the best food after a nice day kayaking. Everything was so very well organised and planed! Thank you..."
On the Great Bear Rainforest Outer Islands Expedition we will be packing everything into our kayaks each day in order to travel to our next campsite. While space is limited, please ensure you bring enough to stay warm and dry. The following is a list of suggested items that should keep you a happy camper.
Sea kayaks are oddly-shaped vessels to pack, so the key is to pack into the small compact bags which we provide. (The video to the right also provides some practical, and humorous, tips and tricks you might appreciate).
Sea kayaks are basically watertight, although small amounts of water may get in through the rudder lines and hatches. In the event of rain or dropping gear in the water we try to keep things as waterproof as possible. We provide you with waterproof storage bags also know as ‘dry bags’ (these will be given to you when we meet in Bella Bella).
If you prefer to bring your own dry bags, please note the largest bag should not be larger than a sleeping bag or 20 litres; several small bags are best. We will provide one 5 litre, two 10 litre and one 20 litre dry bags for you to pack into. Additional bags may be available depending on space in the kayaks. The 5 litre bag is good for storing small items such as cameras, sunscreen, glasses, etc. The larger ones will be used for storing the rest of your clothing. Please see our suggestions for waterproofing your sleeping bag.
Shoes can generally be packed loose in the kayak. All participants will also pack some of the group gear and food in their kayak. Don’t worry, it always looks like an impossible mountain of stuff to fit in the kayaks, but with some perseverance and coaching from your guides we always manage to fit everything.
Please note that our summer temperatures from July until September are generally quite comfortable with temperatures from 18-30 degrees Celsius / 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not uncommon to find mid day summers hot enough to want to cool off in the ocean! June and later September will have cooler temperatures, and at ANY TIME OF YEAR we can have rain & wind, with temperatures occasionally as low as 13 C / 55 F. So, we say it is best to come prepared for any type of weather.
PLEASE NOTE WHAT WE PROVIDE:
– ALL KAYAKS & SAFETY GEAR
– TENT & SLEEPING PADS
– DRY BAGS
– SMALL CAMP PILLOW
If you have your own gear and would prefer to use it on your tour, please bring it to the pre-trip meeting so that we can make sure it is suitable and meets safety requirements. The following is a list of suggested items to bring along. If you have any concerns or questions about the list, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
- Sleeping bag – A 3-season synthetic bag is recommended. Down bags will work but please take extra care to waterproof. If you are uncertain about whether or not you have the appropriate bag just give us a call or check with your local outdoor store. If you do not have a sleeping bag or would prefer not to travel with one, these may be rented for $25 plus tax. Please reserve in advance. To waterproof your sleeping bag line a compression sack with a heavy duty garbage bag. Press the air out of the bag with your knee and then keep it compact with the compression sac (may be purchased at any outdoor shop). This also helps keep your bag small for travel.
- Wetshoes – A pair that can get wet such as sturdy full strapped sandals (such as Keens, Tevas or Chacos), neoprene booties, crocs, or rubber boots. Please avoid flip-flops/thongs. Spirit of the West has a wide range of rubber boot sizes (youth – men’s size 13) available to borrow free of charge if you don’t have your own wet shoes or have limited space in your luggage. Please arrange these in advance as we won’t have a selection with us in Bella Bella.
- Camp footwear – An additional pair of footwear that you plan to keep dry. Runners, trainers or light hikers are great.
- Hat – A sun hat such as a baseball hat or full-brimmed hat as well as a wool or fleece warm hat for evenings or cooler days.
- Sunglasses & sunscreen (stored in a Ziploc bag) – A must for protection from sun and glare off of the water. Safety cords on your glasses are highly recommended.
- Small flashlight or headlamp – With spare batteries. Headlamps are preferable as they allow for hands free operation.
- Camera – In a waterproof bag or case, or you may use our dry bags.
- Bathing suit
- Personal items – Toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap/shampoo, washcloth, feminine hygiene products, hairbrush, etc.
- Medication – If you are bringing medication please ensure that… 1) The name and expiry date of drug is on the container; 2) You have the detailed instructions of your dosage and frequency; 3) It is packed in a water and sunproof container; 4) You bring a full extra dosage of your medication in a separate container to leave with your guide, in case you misplace or lose yours, or are weathered in. If you are flying, please pack all necessary medication in your carry-on luggage. This will help eliminate some stress should your checked bags be misplaced in transit.
- Mosquito repellent – Insects are not a significant concern for us in our coastal ecosystem, however for those unused to insects or with particular sensitivities some repellent may come in handy.
- Ziploc bags & several large garbage bags – We will provide you with dry bags, but these come in handy for transporting laundry and/or wet clothing.
- Water bottle – Bike bottles or Nalgene-style bottles work best.
- Gloves (optional) – Biking gloves work well to protect your hands from blisters. If you are really concerned abut cold hands, and are paddling in the spring or fall seasons, you may want to invest in neoprene gloves or pogies.
- Beverages – We supply a wide range of teas and coffee as well as juices. You are welcome to bring along soda pops or alcoholic beverages if you choose to. Please note however that we do expect our guests to consume alcoholic beverages responsibly and strictly enforce a no alcohol on the water policy.
- Fishing gear (optional) – Make sure you have a valid B.C. fishing license. These can be purchased on-line at http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/licence-permis/index-eng.htm
- Book or journal
- Binoculars (optional)
- Gratuity for your guides – at your own discretion.
Clothing should be suitable for the time of year, bearing in mind that it could become cold and wet at anytime of year. Layering is the best way to regulate body temperature and maintain warmth. We suggest avoiding cotton (except for those hot days). Cotton has no insulation value when wet. An inner material that wicks moisture from the body and gives a comfortable dry feeling even while wet is the best first layer (Polypropylene, Lycra, Nylon, Polyester). A synthetic material such as fleece or pile makes the best second layer to provide warmth. Wool is also suitable.
- Rain jacket & rain pants – For the unexpected nasty weather. To test your waterproofness – jump in the shower and see if you stay dry! (we’re serious!). If you would like to rent/hire rain gear from us, please reserve in advance of the tour. Tops and bottoms can be rented for $25 plus tax for the set.
- Light windproof jacket (optional)
- Long-sleeved non-cotton shirt (synthetic/wool) – 2
- Long pants – 1 pair of fleece or warm comfortable pants. 2 lighter pairs made of a quick drying, synthetic fabric. Athletic style pants (running or yoga) are generally appropriate. Jeans are NOT recommended for paddling.
- Lightweight long underwear – 2 pairs, helps to keep you warm at night or as a base layer during the day. We recommend one set for kayaking and one set which is reserved for sleeping and always stays dry.
- Sweaters – 2 warm wool or fleece sweaters (one may be all you need, but it is nice to have a spare in case one gets wet).
- T-shirts – 2 or 3.
- Shorts – 1-2 quick dry nylon
- Warm socks – 3 to 5 pair (1 warmer pair for around camp)
- An extra set of clothes that you may want to reserve for the end of the trip.
Our online booking system allows you easy access to booking your tour with Spirit of the West Adventures, any time of day. If you think that you would like to book a trip, but need time to look into other travel arrangements, please contact our office and we will place a temporary hold on your spaces.
We also offer real humans to speak with if that’s your preference, so feel free to call our office at 1-800-307-3982 (from within Canada and the U.S) or 1-250-285-2121 (from overseas). We can be reached by email at [email protected] If, for any reason, you are having trouble booking your trip, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are always happy to help!