The Coastal Rain Forest of B.C. is absolutely stunning, but do expect to be wet and in rain gear for your trip. In being there for a week, we saw sunshine only on the morning we departed.
As for the Spirit Bear, when I initially contacted the management about sightings, I was told they had seen Spirit Bear for the past three weeks in September and that October should provide good opportunity to see Spirit Bear because of the Salmon runs. Based on this information, we booked a six night package at a cost of over $10K which we now feel was not a good value for what was provided.
What we did experience was one black bear and one grizzly sow with a cub and that's it. When I inquired of the guide about Spirit Bear sightings, it turns out these 3 weeks of sightings in September was the same bear, in the same spot, gorging on Salmon and that was it - period. NOT multiple sightings as it was made to sound. In fact, this guide told me there had only been four bears sighted for the entire season. This sort of puts things in a clearer perspective.
Overall, staff were nice, food was good, there is no bar, so expect to drink cheap wine with dinner which is included and the insulation between rooms is poor, so it is very noisy since staff and guests are up and about very early, it is not easy to sleep. If one is on the lower floor, the noise of the guests in the room above is incredible when they walk across the floor. Also, there is no fireplace in the great room - a terrible oversight in such a cold and damp environment.
They advise a stay of five or more nights to optimize chances of Spirit Bear sightings, but what you don't find out is that you continually are taken back to the same two or three inlets, not new spots, so while a stay this long is good for the lodge's bottom line, it is not necessarily worth the expense, especially in foul weather and very long boat rides over what can be very rough water, depending on the conditions.
IF you go, DO NOT spend the first night in Shearwater as part of your package - this is a total ripoff! Terrible accommodation and a waste o the entire day for which you are paying a premium cost, as this is considered the first night of your package. Fly instead directly to the lodge - they don't push this option, but it is available.
Another issue I had was the "suggestion" of gratuities being $20 per person per day, but it is put in an envelope and who knows what happens to the money and how it gets distributed. When I said I felt the boat drivers and the guides, who were responsible for our well being and safety should be the recipients of the bulk of the gratuity, the manager specifically discouraged me about this and said it is not their policy to promote individual tipping, and that everyone employed there shares the gratuities equally. HMMMM.....makes me wonder how this gratuity actually gets distributed......
So, fly in if you go and know that three or four days you'll get a chance to see what is on offer in the surroundings. And, if you see a Spirit Bear, you are indeed very very lucky!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Spirit Bear Lodge Wildlife, Bear Watching Tours and Native Culture in BC's Great Bear Rainforest Visit the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. Explore the natural habitat of the Spirit Bear and home of the world’s only Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy. Unique tours in the ancestral lands and traditional territory of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation. ... more less