British Columbia wildlife holiday, whales and bears

“An 11 day leisurely small group holiday mainly on Vancouver Island, with some of the most beautiful and dramatic wildlife watching, from bears to whales, you could hope for.”

Highlights

Vancouver | Nanaimo | Vancouver National Park | Pacific Rim National Park | Tofino Botanical Gardens | Campbell River 'Salmon Capital of the World' | Elk Falls Provincial Park | Orford River | Grizzly bears | Quadra island hiking or sea kayaking | Victoria, capital of British Colombia

Description of British Columbia wildlife holiday, whales and bears

An insular idyll if ever there was one, this British Columbia wildlife holiday takes you on a journey around this wonderfully wild Vancouver Island for a full week, with some time on the mainland in Vancouver city and also on the Orford River. It is hard for people to get their head around that Vancouver Island can be so remote and natural, given that it is close to the magnificent metropolis of Vancouver City. Or indeed that the province’s capital, Victoria is on it. But although only 1.5 hours from the mainland, visitors are transported into another world that includes the Pacific Rim National Park, mountain ranges, giant fir forests and empty coastlines.

We start this trip in Vancouver City with half a day’s guided tour before taking the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. No better way to start our exploration of the Island than by hiking and wildlife watching in Pacific Rim National Park, where gorgeous beaches and temperate forests make for perfect hiking. Followed by a Zodiac trip out into the Pacific waters to go in search of humpback, grey and even orca whales, depending on the season. Staying on the west coast, we also visit the pretty coastal town of Tofino, where the Tofino Botanical Gardens is a bevy of birdlife from woodpeckers and hummingbirds, right up to the great bald eagle. More wildlife watching happens from here, as we take another Zodiac boat trip but this time to see black bears feeding along the shores of Clayoquot Sound, when they come down to feed on crabs and clams.

More bear watching awaits on the north of the island along the Campbell River, which is also known as the salmon capital of the world. And where there are salmon, there are bears waiting to pounce, as well as seals, kingfishers and more eagles. A bit of island and mainland hopping is next on the wildlife itinerary, first over to Orford River on the mainland of British Columbia, to go in search of the tens of thousands of grizzly bears that frequent its shores during salmon spawning season and which you can witness safely from viewing platforms. You won’t be short of marine wildlife on the boat journey there, however, with prolific whales, dolphins and sea lions in this area. A great way to finish this wildlife trip before heading back to Vancouver City.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

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31 Aug 2017
£ 3199
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07 Sep 2017
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10 Sep 2017
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30 Aug 2018
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06 Sep 2018
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09 Sep 2018
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Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: British Columbia wildlife holiday, whales and bears

Environment

Accommodation and Meals:
We use a mixture of standard and comfortable hotels on this trip. All accommodations used on tour recycle and apply very strict waste management programs that are often derived from provincial and federal regulations. They all encourage the reusing of towels for multiple day stays and offer the option of having your sheets changed or not in an effort to preserve water. Reminders are also left to dissuade people from leaving lights running and wasting water during showers. Where meals are not provided, we either arrange a kitty to cover picnics and source these ingredients at local shops or markets, or we visit restaurants in the area.

Activity:
As the majority of our activity is wildlife watching, taking photographs, walking through the forests and sea-kayaking, we leave a considerably smaller carbon footprint than some other holidays. Wildlife sightings are a highlight of this trip and we are careful to respect the species that we encounter. A specialist guide will accompany our whale observation excursion to educate us on their behaviour and we travel in small zodiacs which is a non-intrusive way to approach wildlife. When visiting National Parks we stick to marked trails to reduce our impact on the local environment and we pay entrance fees which go towards supporting conservation efforts in the area. Throughout the trip we employ a ‘leave no trace’ policy in regard to litter - everything taken into the parks is taken out to preserve the local environment. We recycle wherever possible and all leaders are trained in responsible tourism to enable them to follow best practice.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Community

Charity:
Our local tour operators contribute to the organisation ‘Sur la Pointe des Pieds’, whose goal is to help young people living with cancer regain confidence and well-being by going on a therapeutic adventure expedition. Extra supplies are never wasted by throwing items away. If there is uneaten food purchased by a group, this is donated to a local food bank at the end of the tour. Similarly, if there are unwanted sleeping bags left behind our operators donate them to homeless shelters or to the Salvation Army.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

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