GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST KAYAKING TOURS

Embark on an Unforgettable Adventure into the Heart of British Columbia’s Central Coast

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

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Excursions
Whale
Watching
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Staterooms

ABOUT OUR GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST KAYAKING TOURS

Embark on an Unforgettable Adventure into the Heart of British Columbia’s Central Coast

The Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia’s central coast offers some of the most spectacular and varied sea kayaking in the world. This remote wilderness contains ecosystems rich with wildlife and is the largest remaining intact temperate rainforest left on the planet. Wolves, spirit bears, grizzly bears, humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, sea otters and many seabirds are all inhabitants of the forests and ocean here.

With its huge distances, rugged terrain, and less predictable weather, the Great Bear Rainforest is where the ‘mothership’ concept truly shines. We will journey the many miles in complete comfort aboard the Columbia III as we travel to new and varied paddling areas each day. There are countless options, so we design our days depending on the wildlife, the weather, and the preferences of our guests.

During your week aboard the Columbia III, we will kayak among the islands and islets of the outer coastline where exquisite white sand beaches dot the open edge of the Pacific Ocean. We’ll experience the gentle ocean swells where sea otters float in the kelp beds and observe the vibrant intertidal and bird life that thrive on these exposed shores.

As we head to the inland waters, we will visit dramatic steep-sided fjords piercing deep into the Coast Mountain range. The granite cliffs are a stark contrast to the lower windswept landscape of the outer coast. Our chances of seeing bubble-net feeding humpback whales, black bears, grizzly bears and the elusive spirit bears increase the further inland we go towards the fresh water rivers that drain into this region.

During the early summer months of June and July, the broad river estuaries in these fjordlands are bright blue with glacial runoff. Carpets of wild lupines bloom in the rich soil, a beautiful sight to see! Wolves also often wander through these estuary meadows and grizzly bears dig for roots and graze on the sedges.

In August and September, wolves, grizzlies, and eagles all congregate in search of salmon along the rivers. Often called the ‘backbone of the coast’, salmon are an important keystone species, feeding innumerable other species as they arrive at their rivers of birth each year to spawn.

This is truly a paddler’s paradise. The diversity of landscapes, abundance of wildlife, and endless opportunity for exploration makes the Great Bear Rainforest a superb sea kayaker’s destination.

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TRIP OVERVIEW

Day 1 of Great Bear Rainforest Kayaking Tour

The Columbia III will be waiting for you at the government dock in the First Nations village of Bella Bella where you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome from the captain and crew. Our departure time coincides with the arrival of the daily Pacific Coastal flight from Vancouver (their summer schedules are not confirmed until April). Once all our guests have boarded, we’ll untie the lines and head into the wilderness of BC’s Great Bear Rainforest. Our kayak guides will give an introductory paddle and safety talk, fit everyone to their kayaks, spray skirts and life jackets, and soon we’ll set out on our first paddling excursion of the trip.

Day 2 - 6 of Great Bear Rainforest Kayaking Tour

Each morning after breakfast, we’ll launch our kayaks and begin our day of paddling and exploring the wilderness of Canada’s central coast. Delicious lunches and snacks are packed into the kayaks to be savoured on a sandy beach or rocky knoll. Later on in the afternoon, the Columbia III will be awaiting your arrival in a completely different place so we never have to backtrack. After a day of paddling, it is a welcome sight to kayak around a point of land and see the Mothership tucked into a sheltered anchorage. When the kayaks are aboard and guests are relaxing in the bright and cheery salon, the Columbia III will pull anchor and head off towards the next day’s paddling location.

The Great Bear Rainforest is vast, and so we have almost limitless possibilities and choices for where we’ll paddle. Some of our favourite areas include the maze of spectacular rocky islets and white beaches of the Hakaii Conservancy, Goose Islands and Spider Islands. One could spend months exploring the narrow channels and tucked away coves of these remote islands. Paddling is also at its best in the beautiful outer islands of the McMullens and Stryker Island. There is nothing like landing on the smooth sand of an isolated beach where the only tracks are wolf tracks!

Closer to the mainland we’ll head to the river estuaries of the steep fjords. These fjords cut miles into the coast mountains, with waterfalls and mountain goats and snowy peaks – it is utterly beautiful to kayak along the sheer cliffs.

At the heads of the fjords are the estuaries, in the early summer they are brilliant blue with wild lupins. Grizzlies, black bears and spirit bears roam here and we’ll keep a watchful lookout for them. Later in the season when the salmon have arrived to spawn, the estuaries are alive with wildlife, all excited to partake of the annual feast.

The weather will determine which days are best to explore each area, and with the Mothership it is easy to be flexible. As we paddle and travel aboard the Columbia III, we may see humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, eagles, wolves and harbour seals, as well as the huge diversity of intertidal creatures that make the Great Bear Rainforest their home. First Nations pictographs are regularly spotted on the cliffs and boulders, and shell middens give evidence to hundreds of years of habitation on this coast.

Day 7 of Great Bear Rainforest Kayaking Tour

On the last day, our return to Bella Bella depends on the Pacific Coastal Airlines schedule. We always make sure our guests arrive at the airport at the correct time and plan the morning accordingly. If there’s time, there may be an opportunity for an early riser to paddle before breakfast. The Columbia III then makes her way back to Bella Bella as we watch for wildlife and experience the beautiful forests, sea, and mountains of the Great Bear Rainforest one last time before leaving the region.

Night 9 of Great Bear Rainforest Kayaking Tour

We also offer a 9 night Great Bear Rainforest tours starting and finishing in Bella Bella. As well as paddling the outer islands and the steep-sided inlets, the extra few days gives us more time to explore the remote corners of this wilderness and more time to devote to wildlife viewing, especially one full day for hopefully seeing the elusive Spirit Bear.

“What a trip! We can never thank you enough for all the memories we will carry with us from the great adventure to the Great Bear Rainforest. The food, the music, the kayaking and the education of land and sea. We will remember you always. Thanks again for such a wonderful trip.”

– Koger and Marcie, Colorado

PLANNING FOR
YOUR TRIP

Be sure to go through this list carefully so that you are prepared for every day of your adventure. 

Print These Instructions

Embarking Details

Your Great Bear Rainforest Kayaking Tour begins in the remote town of Bella Bella, about 250 miles north of Vancouver on British Columbia’s Central Coast

Important Points

  • On the first day of your tour, the Columbia III will meet guests at the Bella Bella fuel dock between 4:30 and 5:00 pm. We will depart Bella Bella at approx. 5 pm. Rest assured, if your flight is delayed, we will NOT leave without you.
  • You may board in either Shearwater or Bella Bella.
  • The taxi meets every flight (there is only one taxi in town). The driver knows us and will deliver you to the fuel dock (a 10 minute drive) where you can catch the water taxi to Shearwater or meet the Columbia III.
  • A water taxi has regular sailings between Bella Bella and Shearwater.
  • On the last day of the tour the Columbia III returns to Bella Bella in time to meet the first flight of the day south, usually about 10am, but depending on the airline’s (Pacific Coastal) schedule.
  • The Columbia III cell phone number is 250-202-4745 (The ship is only in cell coverage on the first and last day of each tour)

Getting Here

Mothership Adventures operates from our remote location on the west coast of British Columbia near the communities of Bella Bella and Shearwater.

Travelling By Air

Pacific Coastal Airlines runs daily flights from Vancouver, Campbell River and Port Hardy. 1-800-663-2872.

Travelling By Ferry

B.C. Ferries travel between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. They also travel from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, stopping in Bella Bella (called McLoughlin Bay on ferry schedule) on their way. Crossing time is approximately 7 hours. Contact B.C. Ferries for schedule. 1- 888 223-3779 or outside B.C. 250-386-3431. Unfortunately the B.C. Ferry schedule to Bella Bella rarely coincides well with the Mothership Adventures’ schedule.

Bella Bella and Shearwater Information

A water taxi makes regular trips between Bella Bella and Shearwater.

Bella Bella/Shearwater Accommodation and Services:
Shearwater Resort 1-800-663-2370
Whiskey Cove Bed and Breakfast (Shearwater) 250-957-4234
Annette’s Beach House (Bella Bella) 250-957-2206

Shearwater also has a restaurant, pub, grocery, laundromat and hardware store.

Bella Bella has a grocery store.

ALL ABOARD THE
COLUMBIA III

Contacting Columbia III

The Columbia III can be contacted at 250-202-4745.
The Mothership office can be reached at 1-888-833-8887 or 250-202-3229 or 1-250-202-8773.

In an extreme emergency, the boat can be contacted directly by calling the Canadian Coast Guard in Prince Rupert at (250) 339-3613. Ask them to send a message to MV Columbia III (quote this number: MMSI# 316-003-614) sailing in the Central Coast area. We are often off the boat so expect a response to take 12 hours. The ship’s phone is not for guest use.

For more contact information, visit our CONTACT page.

Meals, Medical, Allergies, and Other Concerns

We will do our best to accommodate personal dietary restrictions, including vegetarian and vegan. Wine will be served with the evening meal. If you would like an alternative to alcohol, please let us know. Please note: any food allergies or needs must be listed on your medical form well before your departure date to ensure the cook has time to shop accordingly.

Mail us your completed Medical Form ASAP. Your tetanus and COVID 19 vaccinations must be up to date (less than 10 years old for Tetanus) before you leave.

Be sure to bring enough of your required medications as you will be far from any drug stores. We may encounter minor ocean swells, so if seasickness is a concern, please bring anti-nausea medication. But rest assured, we travel in very sheltered areas and overnight in calm, protected bays. We do our best to avoid swells and waves!

Liability Waiver

Please read our liability waiver closely. We require a signed waiver for you to be able to join our tour. You can send a copy to us by email or regular post. Your signature must be witnessed but not notarized. A friend, partner or relative can be your witness.

Download Liability Waiver

Packing for
your trip

Weather, Clothing, and Packing

Our skipper and certified guides will not take you in any weather conditions that are dangerous to you or the group. We will likely encounter some wind and waves (the ocean is not always flat!), but nothing that would compromise the safety of a beginner kayaker.

Apparel Selection

For maximum comfort, a layering system of lighter “quick-dry” and warmer fleece clothing works best. Merino wool is excellent as well. Avoid cotton which stays wet for a very long time. Waterproof rain gear is essential. When getting in and out of your kayak on shore your feet WILL get wet. We suggest a pair of sturdy water sandals/ shoes. Sports gloves for paddling may add to your comfort and help prevent blisters. Proper protection from the sun is essential so bring sunglasses, a sun hat, sunblock and lip screen. Bring a water bottle. Staying hydrated in the outdoors is very important. When aboard the mothership, comfortable casual clothing is nice to change into after paddling.

Consider bringing the items listed on the packing list we provide.

We have waterproof bags (dry bags) onboard that you can use for your cameras or other small items in your kayak if you like. Large Ziploc bags work as well. Hard suitcases are difficult to fit into the small storage compartments on the Columbia III, so if possible, bring your things in soft duffle type bags.

NOTE: Although not required, if you’d like to express your appreciation to the guides through a gratuity, such recognition would be enthusiastically received. The industry standard for tipping is approximately 5-10 percent of the trip cost. All tips will be equally distributed among your crew.

Packing List

  • Sun Hat / Warm Hat
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Windbreaker or Shell
  • Waterproof Rain Gear (jacket and pants)
  • T-shirts, Shorts, Swimsuit
  • Warm Layered clothing
  • Shore Shoes (for walking or hiking)
  • Sturdy water sandals/shoes (for kayaking)
  • Toiletries
  • Medications, prescription and non prescription
  • Day Pack
  • Sunglasses, Spare pair of Eyeglasses
  • Sun block, Lip Screen
  • Insect Repellent
  • Water Bottle
  • Sports Gloves (for use while paddling)
  • Binoculars, Journal, Sketchbook (optional)
  • Waterproof Bag
  • A Good Book

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why do I need to sign your liability waiver form?

Our insurance provider requires all our guests to complete a Canadian industry standard waiver. You will receive this form once you have reserved. See the Liability Form here for reference.

Can I bring a personal drone for aerial photography?

No. Many First Nations on the coast prohibit the use of drones in their territories and we are bound to this restriction with our protocol agreements with the Nations. Additionally, there are government restrictions on the use of drones around marine and terrestrial wildlife. Sorry!

What do I need to bring on a mothership kayak tour?

Our tours are all inclusive. We supply the kayaks and related gear (paddles, spray skirts, lifejackets), meals, bedding, shower towels, and wine with the evening meal. When you book, we will provide you with a packing list of the personal items you will need to bring.

Do I have to be an experienced kayaker to come on a mothership kayak tour?

You do not need any previous kayaking experience to come on our tours. Our certified guides give a thorough presentation regarding paddling safety and technique before we launch our kayaks on the first day. They are always available throughout the tour to answer your questions, demonstrate strokes or help you out with any paddling concerns.

What happens if I tip over in my kayak?

First of all, it is very unlikely to happen. If it did, our guides are trained, practiced and tested on their rescues, so you would be back in your kayak in minutes. Then we’d paddle to shore to warm up with dry clothes and a cup of hot tea before heading on our way again.

How many hours do we kayak each day?

Every day is different depending on the weather, the location, and the wishes of the group. Typically, we paddle for two to three hours before lunch and another two to three hours after lunch with the option to paddle more or less. That’s the benefit of a mothership style tour.

Is there the option to use a single kayak?

Yes, we carry four single guest kayaks. They are shared amongst the guests though most people prefer doubles, so if you are a “single” lover, you’ll likely be able to paddle a single all week. Occasionally due to safety reasons, the guides may request everyone to be in doubles.

Can I charge my camera batteries aboard the Columbia III?

We have both 117 VAC and 12 VDC cigarette-lighter style systems aboard with ample power for charging camera batteries and related equipment.

Do I need to bring my own binoculars?

Although the ship carries several pairs of binoculars, it is always best to bring your own if possible. This will insure that you have the binoculars handy at the critical moments of wildlife viewing.

Do you supply maps of the areas we visit?

Yes. We offer beautiful charts free of charge.

Can Mothership Adventures accommodate my special dietary restrictions while on tour?

Yes, we can usually accommodate most dietary restrictions and food allergies. You will be able to indicate these on our pre-trip medical form.

Is alcohol provided or should we bring our own?

Wine or beer is served with each dinner. If you would like other types of alcohol, please bring your own, providing your consumption is moderate.

What are the sleeping arrangements aboard the Columbia III?

Five private cabins accommodate two guests each. Three staterooms have double beds for couples and two have single bunks for single passengers. Three toilets and two showers are shared between the five staterooms.

Should I be concerned about seasickness?

Seasickness is rarely a problem. The Columbia III travels for the most part in very protected waters which are not exposed to the ocean swells, but if you are prone to seasickness, then please do bring your medication.

Will there be additional costs on the tour that I don’t expect?

No. If there are any costs during the normal itinerary such as museum admission fees or costs for a BC First Nations feast or performance then Mothership Adventures pays for these at no extra charge to you. Any personal purchases you might make at shops or with artisans during the tour would, of course, be your responsibility.

Is it mandatory to go on all kayak outings?

The beauty of the Mothership is that you only do what is comfortable for you. If the weather turns foul and you want a quiet day aboard the Columbia III then snuggle in! This is your holiday. Relax and enjoy yourself.

Ask us a question

Rates & Dates

2024 Great Bear Rainforest Kayaking Tour

Jun 20 - Jun 26, 2024

6 nights

CDN $5820

Ship has sailed!

Jun 27 - Jul 3, 2024

6 nights

CDN $5820

Ship has sailed!

Aug 22 - Aug 28, 2024

6 nights

CDN $6210

Aug 29 - Sep 4, 2024

6 nights

CDN $6210

Sold Out Sep 5 - Sep 14, 2024

9 nights

CDN $9250

Sold Out Sep 15 - Sep 24, 2024

9 nights

CDN $9250

Sold Out Sep 25 - Oct 4, 2024

9 nights

CDN $9250

2025 Great Bear Rainforest Kayaking Tour

Jun 13 - Jun 19, 2025

6 nights

CDN $6395

Jun 20 - Jul 26, 2025

6 nights

CDN $6395

Jun 27 - Jul 3, 2025

6 nights

CDN $6395

Aug 22 - Aug 28, 2025

6 nights

CDN $6775

Aug 29 - Sep 4, 2025

6 nights

CDN $6775

Sep 5 - Sep 14, 2025

9 nights

CDN $10175

Sep 15 - Sep 24, 2025

9 nights

CDN $10175

Sep 25 - Oct 4, 2025

9 nights

CDN $10175

Want to book a different tour?

TESTIMONIALS

Over the years, we've provided ‘trips of a lifetime’ for countless travellers from around the world. See what our past guests have to say about their experiences with us.

View Guest Book

“Trips on the COLUMBIA III have now become a necessity rather than a passing fancy. Thanks to the splendid crew, the wonderful chef and of course, my esteemed Captain Ross. I will rise again and organize another venture!”

– Paddy Victoria BC Whole boat charter, 2011, 2015

“We are truly in awe of the experience you shared with us. The attention to detail and the quality of care you show your guests is outstanding. Fern, the food was incredible, kayaking will always bring back memories of the smells coming from your galley and the camaraderie shared at the table. Ross, your love and enthusiasm for the COLUMBIA III and Mothership Adventures always shows in the stories and knowledge you so freely share. Thank you all for one of the best vacations we’ve ever had, along with the opportunity to share a week in your lives. We can’t thank you enough.”

– 2012 Joan and Michael Collins, Publishers, Sea Kayaker Magazine

“Another amazing trip aboard my favorite boat. It’s like taking our home into the middle of a vast, wild, beautiful wilderness, and then getting to quietly be a part of that natural world. A gentle spirit bear, sparring grizzlies, breaching whales and gorgeous paddling water! And then great food, good humor, amazing stories and wonderful friends. Thank you everyone for a unique and fantastic trip.”

– Mary, Cour D’Alene Idaho. 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and whole boat charter 2018, and returning in 2022

“So we travel all the way from England with hope and expectation for a great adventure and what did we get? A bl**dy fantastic adventure! The mix of wildlife, including the elusive Spirit Bear, grizzlies, black bears, wolves, sea otters, eagles and all the rest. Plus guides who know everything about everything!!!!! Plus food that was so, so, so, good, never a scrap was left, plus such great friendship and humour from all the guests and crew. Shame about the Skipper, but can’t have everything I suppose! So many thanks to Ross, Luke, Steve and Farlyn for the best time ever. Such great friends.”

– Steve & Anne, Steve & Carey, 2008, 2009, 2016 and Vince and Jacky, England

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