Ferry to Horseshoe Bay

If you’re going to catch a BC ferry, you can book in advance online. Often advisable as it can get busy. Our early morning trip from Nanaimo to Vancouver was just lovely.

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Port Hardy to Nanaimo

After our fantastic Great Bear Lodge adventure we had another night in Port Hardy before driving to Nanaimo so we could catch the ferry from Vancouver Island back to the BC mainland. Nanaimo is famous for a rich creamy chocolaty slice with a sugar kick to boot you into next week. I recommend you try one. Fortuitously, the town also had a good local brewery, White Sails. We tried a couple of brews before eating and then heading home to get a good night’s sleep so we didn’t miss our early ferry departure. IMG_6499

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We did see an elk but I wasn’t quick enough to snap it. Also a bear running across the road. O adventure.
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Miracle Beach – somewhat different to your usual Aussie seaside view
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Nanaimo at dusk
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Understated food advertising at The White Spot restaurant – it was pretty good though…

 

Off pontoon

Our first mystery outing (*spoiler alert – look away now if you’re planning to go yourself) was a walk on the mainland. When you first arrive, rule number one is that you don’t go off the floating lodge unless you have a guide. On our walk we had Marlo and Sabine guiding us, with frequent calls of ‘Hey bear!’ to make sure there were no surprises. They also had bear spray on the hip. Both were really knowledgeable about bear behaviour and we were shown some cool places where bears hang out.

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Don’t leave the pontoon without a guide, ok?
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If you go down to the woods today…
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Summer scat – yes, they have been eating berries. Waiting for the salmon to arrive. 
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Stylish transport home

Bear spotting day 2 – morning

Every day at Great Bear Lodge you get plenty of opportunities to see bears. While we were there, our itinerary was breakfast, gear up, then bear spotting outing in the tinnies,  lunch, post lunch mystery outing, early dinner, gear up, then back in the boats . We were really lucky that there was only one session where we didn’t see any bears. Though of course the first session, on the day that we arrived, was the only time we saw cubs – and it was also the only time we didn’t take a camera. The landscape is so beautiful, and I loved the inquisitive seals popping up their heads to see what was going on.

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Bear spotting day 1

We arrived at Great Bear Lodge and after getting an initial briefing from owner Marg we checked out our rooms and the lodge interior. And in no time at all we were getting ready for our first outing. Pre-outing we had a bear safety briefing. No venturing off alone, stay on the floating lodge unless accompanied by a guide. No sudden moves, no loud noises.  We were in not-quite-salmon-feeding season, so trips involve getting into tinnies and cruising the estuaries of Smith Inlet. This was both terrifying and exciting if you are an adventure wimp like me. There were only 10 guests during our stay, so it was two little boats heading out.

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Bear spotting trips happen rain or shine, so it’s good to to have the right outfit. GBL has some serious gear for visitors – warm, camouflage onesie, oilskin pants and jacket, sou’wester (hat). Wear it all, if it’s raining you won’t feel a thing. So for the first trip out, after an early dinner, it was raining. We layered up, but decided not to take camera gear, not knowing what it might be like. Predictably, this was the only outing that we saw bear cubs. A magical experience and a great start to our bear lodge experience.

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Great Great Bear Lodge

Staying at a bear lodge was a particular dream of M’s, so after some serious forward planning (14 months in advance), finally the day arrived! Part of the excitement was our first trip in a seaplane – what a wonderful way to travel. Best way to fly. We were in the smaller plane of two going to the lodge, 5 passengers plus the pilot. We had a beautiful clear flight, landing at the front door of our floating accommodation at Great Bear Lodge.

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Due to various constraints (time and money – the usual), our visit was on the shoulder of the approaching salmon season (August). Bear spotting was likely, but viewing bears catching fish was entirely up to nature. M was just keen to see bears, and I was keen not to get eaten, so we didn’t really care if no salmon were involved in our experience.

When we arrived, there was a lot of hugging and farewelling going on – the seaplane that brings the new guests takes the leaving guests back to port. It all seemed very friendly, if a little excessive, but it was a magical place to land, and thrilling to know we would be staying here for a couple of days.  What a location.

Port Alice drive

Sorry for the blogging break! While it’s back to reality for me (and that has taken a few weeks to organise), here on the interweb I can pretend it’s still all happening…

As you might have read earlier, we were in Port Hardy to prepare for our flight to Great Bear Lodge. The flight was in the afternoon, so we took a drive to Port Alice to check out the surroundings before leaving on our seaplane flight. Beautiful scenery, and it was a pity we didn’t have time for a proper hike. I can recommend it for a picnic location. Sadly we couldn’t stay for the submarine races.

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