Cruise British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, guided by the expert crew and naturalist of the 92-foot schooner Maple Leaf
Wildlife and Nature, One of Earth's Great Wild Places
This is the way to experience the BC coast's powerful natural world. Also called the Inside Passage, the Great Bear Rainforest is a land of fjords
and great river estuaries. Here, you can view grizzly bears
, the mysterious white Spirit Bear
and, if you're lucky, wolves
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., calls it “the last stand of the great North American rainforest.”
Explore with a Comfortable Ship, Expert Guides
Get ready for days of adventure and wildlife, supported by a very comfortable expedition ship, a gourmet chef and welcoming guides. Maple Leaf Adventures is a pioneer of tourism in the Great Bear Rainforest, having designed tours here starting in 1991 and advocated for its protection.
Maple Leaf’s trips in 3 seasons (spring, summer, fall) are timed for peak experiences of natural events and wildlife.
View Spring Itinerary | View Summer Itinerary | View Fall Itinerary
Great Bear Rainforest - Fjords That Harbour Wildlife
At the Pacific ocean's eastern edge, the sea breaks against BC's western islands and sandy beaches. Then it snakes down glacier-hewn valleys at the foot of the mountains: these are the Great Bear Rainforest's fjords. Some call it "Yosemite by the sea".
On Maple Leaf you'll travel close to the fjords' granite walls, where waterfalls drop hundreds of feet to the ocean. Whales and dolphins may surface and feed beside us as we travel.
Walk in the Great Bear's Ancient Rainforest
The ancient rainforest of spruce and cedar trees clings to some mountainsides and pushes out of the fertile river valleys.
You'll walk here with the naturalist and see why people have described these forests of
ethereal green light as "living cathedrals".
In the eighteenth century the European explorers had another word: sublime.
Where the rivers and forests meet the sea, the Great Bear's fecund estuaries form. These meadows and brackish waters are of prime importance to the area's wildlife, from bears and wolves to eagles, ravens and ducks, providing food in spring and fall and transitioning fish and nutrients between forest and sea.
Spirit Bears, Grizzly Bears, and Other Wildlife Viewing
The rich river estuaries in the spring and the prolific salmon runs in the autumn support B.C.'s largest remaining populations of the mighty grizzly bear.
The area is home to an equally large population of black bears and is the habitat of the rare, white Spirit bear (or kermode bear).
With Maple Leaf, you'll float in a shore boat or sit in a safe place on land to watch these great mammals fish, rear cubs, munch on sedge or turn over rocks for crabs and other marine snacks.
You'll also learn the "behind the scenes" information about how the estuaries work and support the life of the Great Bear Rainforest.
In the springtime, the meadows burst with new plant life, and newly-awakened grizzly bears graze on tender new shoots.
In the Autumn, spawning channels of the rivers are covered with salmon. This spectacle creates a feeding frenzy as bears and other mammals feast on the bounty. We may hear, and, if we're lucky, see the elusive coastal wolf, which researchers recently confirmed catches salmon, too.
Eagles by the hundreds, ravens, harlequin ducks and a host of other birds join the fray. To witness these phenomena are two of the greatest experiences in nature.
People of the Great Bear Rainforest
Explore the worlds of several northwest First Nations: the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo Xai'xais, Haisla, Gitga'at and Henaaksiala. Everywhere is evidence of their civilization.
Fish traps, bark-stripped trees and longhouse remains give testimony to a way of life tuned to the rhythm of nature.
You'll visit modern villages, talk with local residents, and see the ancient art traditions still in place today.
Remote Pleasures - Hot Springs, Wild Food
The Great Bear Rainforest's ocean frequently provides succulent Dungeness crab and prawns for our table.
We often visit one of the natural, out-of-the-way hot springs that bubble up here. Anchoring in a cove or bay, you'll go ashore by zodiac or kayak and sink into the rejuvenating warm water. A far cry from commercial hot springs, these pools are usually empty but for ourselves.
A Wilderness with a Complex Future - The Great Bear Rainforest
A ten-year land use plan recently announced by the B.C. government, with stakeholders from conservation groups, First Nations, tourism, local communities, resource extraction industries, scientists and others, protects 2 million hectares of this wilderness.
Sadly, much of the rest of the area is immediately threatened by massive clear-cut logging. We feel it is critical that as many people as possible see this place and become aware of the magnitude of the potential loss of so much critical habitat and immeasurable beauty.
Three Seasons in the Great Bear Rainforest
Our experienced crew and naturalist will take you to areas where you’ll be able to witness peak wildlife events:
Spring highlights bird migrations, newly awakened grizzly and black bears grazing on sedges, pink salmonberry blossoms, spectacular snowcapped mountains and deep fjords where mountain goats come down almost to sea level in spring, hot springs.
Summer highlights bears on estuaries, mountain goats, porpoises, dense intertidal life. Humpback whales arrive in spring to feast until fall. West coast, sandy beaches beckon.
Autumn, witness the return of the salmon to spawn, which draws grizzly, spirit and black bears to the estuaries again, along with whales, sea lions, seals, eagles and elusive wolves.
See Sample Itineraries in Three Seasons:
- Great Bear Rainforest & Kiltope in Spring - spectacular mountain and fjord vistas, spring wildlife (mountain goats, birds, bears, marine mammals), hot springs; also visiting the largest intact temperate rainforest on the planet.
- Great Bear Rainforest in Summer - long days of light, summer grizzly bears, whales, beaches
- North Coast Whales & Wild Side (Summer) - the wild west coast, whales and dolphins, beaches and cruisng the entire Great Bear Rainforest's length (does not focus on bears).
- Great Bear Rainforest in September - the spectacle of the fall salmon run brings grizzly, spirit and black bears back to the coast, as well as sea lions, killer whales and wolves.
The Kitlope Valley - A Special Visit on Our Spring Trips Only
In the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest lies one of earth's great intact natural wonders: the Kitlope valley. The largest intact temperate rainforest on the planet, it was protected forever in 1993 after the threat of logging was resisted by local Henaaksiala residents and a large network of other concerned citizens, steelhead fishers, and conservation organizations.
To get here, we cruise down the grandest fjord on the coast, the Gardner Canal. It winds 70 nautical miles into the coast mountains. Travelling here aboard the Maple Leaf has been described as "sailing in Yosemite".
Even the mountain goats come almost to the sea here in spring, as the lower flanks of the mountains by the sea are green.
At the end of the fjord is the Kitlope river valley. Here, the waters from lakes and rivers along the protected watershed drain into the large Kitlope estuary and into the sea. We anchor at the confluence of river and sea, and explore up the valley by boat.
The Haisla name for Kitlope, Husduwachsdu, means "source of milky blue waters." One of the two main rivers here creates the milky-blue waters as it is glacier fed.
The rich valley contains ancient rainforest and sedge meadows. Wildlife includes grizzly and black bears, bald eagles, hummingbirds, ravens, small mammals such as martens, songbirds and even on occasion a moose.
Each year we have been fortunate to travel here with the guidance and blessing of elder Cecil Paul, who was born and raised here with the old stories. He has shared those stories with us and our guests, enlivening the landscape with meaning and a sense of familiar history. Cecil is a leader in his community. His life has given him a perspective and a wisdom not commonly found anywhere.
At the estuary is the site of a old village and a memorial pole with an epic tale stands here, featured in the National Film Board of Canada's movie, Totem.
Visiting here has been described as a peak life experience by many of our guests - many of whom had never heard of it before the trip.
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