The adventure begins in Vancouver on Canada's west coast. If you have time, we recommend a stroll around this cosmopolitan city to get a feel for it. Treat yourself to moreish maple cookies in Stanley Park, a 990-acre (400ha) green wonderland where you can see authentic totem poles put up in the 1920s or sit in one of the cafes and enjoy a spot of people watching. There is an opportunity to meet your guide and fellow travellers this evening. Stay: Holiday Inn & Suites Vancouver Downtown (or similar).
In the morning, we head to the port for a ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, a 1hr 30min journey across the Strait of Georgia.
On arrival in Nanaimo, we continue by road, stopping for a walk and picnic lunch at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. Rathtrevor is known for its majestic old-growth woodland, beautiful ocean sunsets and a wide, sandy beach with picnic areas nestled amongst the trees. We then continue our drive to Ucluelet, our base for the next three nights. Today's travel time is approximately six hours. Stay: Canadian Princess Lodge & Marina (or similar) (L).
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is nestled between the mountains of the Vancouver Island range and the Pacific coastline. We walk inside the park this morning to admire the rich natural heritage of the west coast of Canada. The reserve has almost 10mi (16km) of sand and a huge collection of driftwood, while the next stop is Japan! We usually take the Nuu-Chah-Nulth trail to the beach and visit during low tide to explore some of the intertidal pools and rocky islands. You may see lime-green anemones and purple, brown and orange starfish.
In the afternoon, we board Zodiacs with a naturalist guide who leads a 2hr 30min to three hour whale-observation excursion (depending on the low-tide schedule, this activity may take place earlier in the day). Our goal is to see humpback and grey whales, but it is also common to come across orcas, seals and sea lions among the rocky headlands. Today's driving time should not exceed two hours. Stay: Canadian Princess Lodge & Marina (or similar) (L).
Today our leader will take us on an easy hike on the Rainforest Figure Eight trail, an hour-long walk along wooden boardwalks through the majestic forest. This is a peaceful trail and we will be surrounded by a dense foliage of ferns, Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock trees. Keep your eyes peeled for birdlife - our tour leaders have reported sightings of Steller's jays and Rufous hummingbirds!
Late this afternoon, we board Zodiacs for a 2hr 30min expedition to observe black bears and bald eagles (depending on the low-tide schedule, this activity may take place earlier in the day). In the wilderness of Clayoquot Sound, black bears search for crabs and clams on the rocky beaches. We travel the fjord inlet by Zodiac, looking in sheltered bays and stopping to see any black bears we find from the comfort of our vessel. Stay: Canadian Princess Lodge & Marina (or similar).
Depart Ucluelet and drive for four hours to Campbell River on the north shore of Vancouver Island. Campbell River is known as the salmon capital of the world for its hugely impressive salmon runs, where five species of Pacific salmon swim the river. It has been designated a Heritage River for its importance in British Columbia; following the fish are bears, seals, kingfishers and eagles.
This afternoon, we stop at Cathedral Grove Provincial Park to see the last remains of the temperate rainforest that covered the island more than a 1,000 years ago. This is one of the most accessible areas of giant Douglas fir trees in the province and there are many trails enabling us to meander through Douglas fir, western hemlock, grand fir and western red cedar trees. Stay: Painter's Lodge (or similar).
Board a covered boat for a full-day excursion to the Orford River area (on the mainland of British Columbia) to observe grizzly bears in their natural habitat. Conservative estimates suggest there are 10,000 grizzly (brown) bears in British Columbia, with 92 percent of the original habitat of grizzlies still occupied. The abundance of spawning salmon in the Orford River at this time of year brings grizzlies down to feast.
A two-hour journey by boat with a spectacular backdrop of mountainous scenery brings us to the mouth of the Orford River. From here, we take a short bus journey inland, where there are five viewing platforms from which to spot the bears. We visit one or sometimes two of these platforms, where we hope to observe the bears catching and feeding on salmon, sometimes with cubs in tow. On the boat journey to and from the Orford River, we may also see black bears, orcas, humpback and grey whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea lions. Stay: Painter's Lodge (or similar) (B/L).
Board a ferry for a 10-minute journey across the Discovery Passage to Quadra Island, where we spend the day exploring the island trails and beaches by foot. Our leader will determine the best trail based on the group's preference and ability, but options include the Shallaligan Pass Trail along Quadra Island's coastline, which offers panoramic ocean views, or the Heriot Ridge Trail that passes through the bush and out onto a ridge for coastal views galore.
There is also an optional three-hour sea kayaking excursion from Quadra Island. Accompanied by kayak and marine life observation guides, there is never a dull moment as we paddle by kayak around Quadra Island – we could see soaring eagles, oystercatchers, herons, cormorants, gulls and, if lucky, seals, sea lions, dolphins and porpoises. The mountain views offer a stunning backdrop to this excursion, which is suitable for beginners. Stay: Painter's Lodge (or similar) (B/L).
We drive for around four hours to Victoria, capital of British Columbia, stopping along the way to enjoy the scenery of Vancouver Island for the last time. We have a few hours to explore Victoria before boarding the ferry. Victoria is well-known for its colourful gardens, British architecture and arts scene. Take a stroll along Fisherman's Wharf or visit the impressive British Columbia Parliament Buildings. In the early evening, we board a ferry across the Strait of Georgia, admiring the small islands and breath-taking panorama of Vancouver as it comes into view. Stay: Holiday Inn & Suites Vancouver Downtown (or similar) (B/L).
The adventure ends today and we make our return journeys home. Alternatively, speak to your sales representative if you'd like to extend your stay.