When timing is in your favor, magical moments take place. The docile tone from Expedition Leader John Mitchell greeted us with the morning announcement as we found ourselves sitting off Hartley Bay, British Columbia. A logistical fuel stop that was needed this morning for our fleet of Zodiacs set the pace for what turned out to be a perfectly timed wildlife extravaganza on both water and land. You see, the fuel dock station normally opens at 8:00 a.m. Today, they started their morning a little late and didn’t open until 8:30 a.m. Our ship’s boatswain returned to the ship from the fuel stop around 9:30 a.m., and the deck team immediately raised the Zodiac so we could make our way towards Prince Royal Island in search of wildlife. National Geographic representative Lauren Eckert was in the lounge giving her presentation, “Welcome to the Great Bear Rainforest: The Land of the Spirit Bear & So Much More.” Almost immediately, our team of naturalists on the bow spotted a group of killer whales! The bridge team positioned the ship for a closer look, and it was then that we noticed a lot of splashing and surface activity taking place. A Dall’s porpoise in the mix with killer whales! Were we witnessing an active hunt? As time progressed, there was no sign of the Dall’s porpoise anymore, and the activity of the killer whales quieted. We made our turn towards Prince Royal Channel only to be stopped by humpback whales! We stopped for a bit to curiously watch these beautiful animals as they displayed their flukes just off the bow. The winds started to increase, and the rain became steady as we continued making our way towards Prince Royal Channel. The fuel stop and observations of killer and humpback whales delayed our arrival towards Prince Royal Island and our search for the Kermode “Spirit” Bear. It was as if these “delays” placed before us were to slow us down for what happened next. We continued cruising south along Prince Royal Island. We scanned the shoreline when suddenly an announcement came over the ship’s internal public address speaker: “Good afternoon to those aboard National Geographic Venture. We have spotted a Spirit Bear along the shore.” The persistent rain and winds did not stop the bow from filling up with excited guests, crew, and staff. The bear acknowledged us and went back to eating barnacles, bivalves, and berries along the shoreline and the forest edge. At one point, the bear meandered up a rock face and into the tree line before peeking its head out for a look at us below. We quietly floated for almost an hour as we witnessed this beautiful animal in its environment. What a magical moment for all!
National Geographic Venture
On this, the final day of our expedition, we awoke to the sound of rain in Lowe Inlet Marine Provincial Park. After several days of attempting to make our way to Lowe, only to get thwarted by whales, killer whales, bears, and other wildlife, we finally arrived today. The rainforest greeted us with the full rain shower service we have come to love and expect, and we greeted the rainforest first thing in the morning with the option to either hike or cruise through this lovely place. Intrepid hikers made their way from the inside of the back bay of Lowe through the home of the Great Bear and into the muskeg typical of this landscape, which used to be covered in glaciers. Those of us who explored by water were treated to a close-up view of Vierney Falls. We also explored the back bay where salmon swam, herons hunted, eagles perched above us, and kingfishers dipped about. Early on, our Zodiacs spotted yet another black bear, who greeted us before wandering back into its forested home. This trip has been so full of bears that we are struggling to keep count. After our cruises, we loaded back onto the vessel and turned due north to our final destination of Prince Rupert, our first stop where we began so many days ago. Our journey here was unexpected in every way. It was so full of life and memories that we will carry with us as long as we tell the story of where, how, and who. Where these animals live, how they need this forest to survive, who the people that live here are, and how they continue to fight for this land after calling it their home for thousands of years.