5 sustainable ideas for nature lovers
Sometimes referred to as the “Amazon of the North”, Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest is a place that many of us only dream of visiting. Probably a good thing too, as it’s one of the few remaining corners of the world that is relatively free of human life, and acts as a protected sanctuary for the forestry and wildlife that call it home.
Known as the earth’s “last expanse of temperate coastal rainforest” (Kennedy Jr), the Great Bear Rainforest is spread along coastal British Columbia and encompasses a 21 million acre wilderness. It’s home to 1000 year old Cedar trees, glacier-cut fjords, the iconic white coloured Kermode or Spirit Bear, and rich First Nations culture.
The Great Bear Rainforest is a treasure, not only of Canada, but of the world. To travel here is a chance to see not only the true wealth of nature, but of indigenous culture, too. Sustainable, low impact travel is truly necessary here to continue the conservation of this most valuable of environments.
+Stay – Great Bear Rainforest Lodging
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is an intimate family owned and operated resort, located in the southern Great Bear Rainforest, in coastal BC. The resort’s location was strategically chosen for being close to a spectacular waterfall: That not only provides clean drinking water, but also generates the resort’s energy through hydro power, accounting for around 85% of the hotel’s energy consumption.
Nimmo Bay has been designed to create no impact on the surrounding forest and wildlife, and sources locally (indigenous where possible), hires locally, and has been designed with an eco-friendly attitude from the beginning. In addition to all the sustainable initiatives onsite, Nimmo Bay has also launched a Climate Fund, designed to support projects that inspire sustainable interdependence between humans and our environment.
Spirit Bear Lodge is located in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, to the north of Bella Coola, and is accessible only by chartered float plane. Constructed in a traditional First Nations Longhouse style and set in the remote community of Klemtu, Spirit Bear Lodge is owned by the Kitasoo Xai’xais people, and has been established with the mission of building capacity and employment opportunities for the people of Klemtu.
The lodge aims to help travellers discover the transformative experience of visiting the Great Bear Rainforest: Through complete immersion in nature, and sharing in appreciation for the interconnected ecosystem of the Great Bear Rainforest.
+See – Visiting the Great Bear Rainforest
Visiting the Great Bear Rainforest is unlike visiting many other places in the world. There are no “attractions” here as such – the reasons to visit are to discover the beautiful forest, indigenous culture – and if you’re lucky, some of the wildlife.
The rainforest is a truly wild environment – there are no facilities apart from the lodges where you’ll stay. There are no wildlife viewing platforms, no public washrooms, and wildlife sightings are entirely on the wildlifes’ terms and are not guaranteed.
If fortune is on your side, you may be lucky enough to spot Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, or if you’re very lucky, a Spirit Bear. The rainforest’s most elusive creature of all is the coastal wolf. The area is also home to a range of coastal mammals during summer, including Humpback Whales, Orcas, Dall’s Porpoise, and Sea Lions. The famous salmon-run can be seen between late July and October.
+Do – Things to do in the Great Bear Rainforest
Activities in the Great Bear Rainforest revolve around wildlife watching and learning about indigenous culture in the region. Activities you can expect to enjoy in the region include boat trips, kayaking, trekking, photography, and learning about conservation.
Most lodges, such as the two recommended above, offer multi-day packages which will include day-time activities, local guides, accommodation and meals.
+Positive – Responsible Travel in the Great Bear Rainforest
As one of the last truly wild places in the world, the Great Bear Rainforest is highly sensitive to the footprint of travellers. The Rainforest is a place to truly appreciate nature through small-scale, bespoke tourism, and is far more than a place to cross off the bucket list.
The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the last true sanctuaries for wildlife, even in expansive Canada, and threats such as construction, mass-tourism and deforestation do exist. In 2006 five million acres of the Great Bear Rainforest were declared off-limits to loggers and the BC Forestry Industry, but it was only in 2016 that the majority of the rest of the forest was protected, also granting First Nations governments shared decision making powers. Today, 85% of the forest is protected, and the protection agreements are heralded as some of the most visionary conservation agreements on earth. The remaining 15% of the forest, however remains somewhat at risk.
Tourism here can only be handled on a small scale – its success hinges on the involvement of and respectful interaction with local First Nations communities, as well as respect for the environment and wildlife.
+Move – How to Get to the Great Bear Rainforest
Part of the adventure of a trip to the Great Bear Rainforest is getting there. There are no roads to the rainforest area, and the main points of access aside from chartered float plane flights organised by lodges and resorts are at Bella Bella and Bella Coola, served by BC Ferries inner passage summer service from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. Flights usually depart from Vancouver.
Aside from fly in or the ferry, another option is Maple Leaf Adventures, who offer live-aboard discovery expeditions to the coastal area in summer, which is the best time to visit the Great Bear Rainforest. In winter, the rainforest all but closes down to visitors.
As a remote environment, there’s very little in the way of services here, and communications are different. Don’t expect to be able to communicate much with the outside world, but that’s all part of the experience.