Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Great Bear Rainforest

Last September I spent a week on a sailboat off the coast of British Columbia, looking for wildlife to photograph. The main goal for the week was to find and photograph the spirit or Kermode bear which are only found in the Great Bear Rainforest.

The Great Bear Rainforest - British Columbia, Canada

The ancient Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world (2 million hectares), and is home to thousands of species of plants, birds and mammals. Each year millions of salmon return to the streams and rivers of the forest, providing food for magnificent creatures such as orcas, eagles, wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and the rare spirit bear.

After three days of searching with no luck whatsoever, we heard about a white bear sighting and quickly made plans to visit the same area the following day.

The next morning we met with Marvin who is one of the local Gitga'at spirit bear guides. He took us to an inlet called Cameron Cove and after walking along the beach for a while, we turned and headed into the rainforest.

It was clear that a bear had been in the area due to all the half eaten salmon carcasses that were covering the forest floor. Marvin also found a bite mark and some white hairs on one of the trees so we knew we were in the right place.

Now we must wait...

After several long hours sitting in the rain, staring at the same stretch of river waiting for something to happen, someone whispered, 'spirit bear!!'

We all turned and were completely amazed by what we saw...

The Spirit bear - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada

The spirit bear walked straight towards us through the river and then paused to look at us. He was only a few feet away yet he acted completely natural. He walked along a fallen log and splashed about in the water as he tried to catch a salmon for lunch. This unbelievable encounter lasted only a few minutes but it was the most adrenalin fueled bear encounter I've ever had. These animals are so rare that there are believed to be fewer than 300 in existence!

After this encounter, the rest of the week was spent photographing some of the other amazing animals along the coast.

Here are a few of my favourites from the week...

Orca spyhop - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
Grizzly bear fishing - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
Coastal sunset - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
Peeking pine marten - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
Harbour seals - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
Humpback whale tail - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
Bald eagle - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
Spirit bear fishing - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
Humpback whale spyhop - Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada

After an incredible week of wildlife photography, I flew back to Vancouver before departing Canada altogether and heading home to Wales. This trip was easily one of the best that I've done and that was on a year when the salmon run was poor. Hopefully I can return to do the same trip again when the run is strong and the spirit bears are easier to find.

The Great Bear Rainforest is under threat from logging and hunting, but the main cause for concern right now is the oil tankers. The oil company 'Enbridge' plans to ship thousands of galleons of oil to China using tankers that would have to navigate between the jagged islands along the BC coast. This means a spill would be inevitable and the consequences would be horrific.

The entire Great Bear Rainforest would suffer as well as the thousands of First Nations people that live there. These people rely on the sea just as much as the other animals in the rainforest. If this wilderness is to remain as wild and as beautiful as it is now, then this plan must be stopped.

To find out more about these tankers from coming to the Great Bear Rainforest, please watch 'spOIL'. This great documentary will teach you everything you need to know about this proposal, as well as telling you what you can do to help.

As I was watching this film, I was surprised to see myself pop up in it briefly! At minute 21:47 you can see me walking along the beach with my camera gear as we made our way into the forest. The incredible spirit bear encounter that I had was also filmed and you can get a real idea of what I experienced when you watch this.

All photographs are available to purchase. Please send me a message via my website if you have any questions.

Thank you for reading,


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