Monday, November 05, 2012

An Adventure into the Great Bear Rainforest (Part 1)

In the last week of September I had the opportunity to visit a rare corner of BC, the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR). Getting to Vancouver and attending the prep briefing went all as planned. The next morning we were supposed to leave very early through a chartered flight to Bella Bella where we would switch into a smaller amphibian plane (Goose) for transport to a lodge reachable only by air or waterways.

Due to heavy fog at destination our take off was repeatedly delayed until it was decided to change the plan and fly us to Terrace. From there we made our way by bus to Kitimat (about 1.5 hours) where  boats would be waiting for our group. The boats turned out to be two speedy launches with covered cabin and one open boat for the luggage.

The final leg of the travel started around 3:30 pm making for a long day of travel. Fortunately, the weather was reasonable (cold but no rain). The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. In one spot I saw an area without any vegetation that looked odd. It turns out that's what a logged area looks like.

 We were also lucky to encounter two pods of Orca whales on the way to the lodge that made us forget the long day of travel. They are such majestic and graceful animals. It's not easy to capture the whales on a photo with a point-and-shoot camera on a wobbly boat, but I did see them come up and blow and dive again less than 20 yards away. The blow noise from a near distance sounds almost human (a giant swimmer coming up for breath).  I did capture one at the tail-end of diving (literally!).

We finally arrived at the lodge, which turned out to be quite a luxurious and interesting operation. Here is a view from the air (coming back from a helicopter exploration of the surroundings). The actual lodge is to the right. The building on the left houses all staff and personnel.

The lodge operates within the Gitga'at First Nation Reserve and hires at least one third of its personnel from the local community. I was very impressed with the level of knowledge and environmental commitment of all the lodge staff. I was told that their CEO speaks to staff every year about the Triple Bottom Line concept. To what extent that commitment went, I couldn't have guessed.

As I discovered later both buildings are actually on floating barges. I was told that the lodge was built on a retired Navy crane barge. At the end of the season (mid September usually) two tug boats tow the buildings, the docks, and all the rest to Prince Rupert Island, where the barges are maintained in sea worthy condition. Nothing is left on site. The barge has it on-board power generators, 3-stage drink water filtering system, and a gray water processing. You can see the barge carrying the lodge and some mooring cables on the right in the picture below.

Click here for the official  King Pacific Lodge site.In the next installment of this blog, I'll be writing about my visit to Hartley Bay and Whale Point, two interesting and learning rich visits on the same trip.

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