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British Columbia

Wildlife of British Columbia: Whales, Grizzlies and Ancient Forests

Program No. 21819RJ
Explore mountains, coastal estuaries, wild beaches and a northern rainforest as you learn about British Columbia and the First Nations people who have long called it home.

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DATES & starting prices
Aug 7 - Aug 14, 2023
Starting at
Aug 21 - Aug 28, 2023
Starting at
DATES & starting prices
Aug 7 - Aug 14, 2023
Starting at
Aug 21 - Aug 28, 2023
Starting at

At a Glance

On this wilderness adventure, explore winding coastal trails, the protected waters of the Inside Passage and the Great Bear Rainforest for unparalleled opportunities to learn about wildlife and Pacific rainforest ecology. The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest remaining intact coastal temperate forests in the world and home to the highest density of grizzly bears in North America. Ferry along the nutrient rich waters off Telegraph Cove in search of Killer Whales; watch for porpoise, dolphins, seals and sea lions.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Active program with daily field trips. Walk up to two miles daily.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Visit the Great Bear Rainforest to look for bears in their natural habitats and learn about the importance of Pacific salmon to First Nations communities.
  • Examine the biodiversity of the NE Pacific Ocean with a local expert then embark on a whale watching trip to search for Orca whales.
  • Learn about the First Peoples of Vancouver Island at the Royal British Columbia Museum and then experience the living culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw people in their traditional territory of remote Alert Bay.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
John Adams
John Adams is the author of “Old Square-Toes and His Lady: The Life of James and Amelia Douglas.” Part historian and part storyteller, John has turned a passion for the past into a long career in history. His family-owned business, Discover the Past, provides a variety of historical educational programs for the community. His natural, lively, humorous and clear style makes his presentations both informative and memorable.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of John Adams
John Adams View biography
John Adams is the author of “Old Square-Toes and His Lady: The Life of James and Amelia Douglas.” Part historian and part storyteller, John has turned a passion for the past into a long career in history. His family-owned business, Discover the Past, provides a variety of historical educational programs for the community. His natural, lively, humorous and clear style makes his presentations both informative and memorable.
Profile Image of Jackie Hildering
Jackie Hildering View biography
Jackie is a biology teacher, cold-water diver, underwater photographer and whale researcher living on Vancouver Island. She is the co-founder of the Marine Education and Research Society and winner of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Murray A. Newman Award for Excellence in Aquatic Conservation. Jackie was recently featured on Animal Planet’s “Wild Obsession” and in the BBC production “New Threat to Canada’s Pacific Humpback Whales?” She is passionate about telling “the story of mystery, fragility and wonder of the life hidden in the cold, dark Northeast Pacific Ocean.”
Profile Image of Routes Adventures Mobile Phone
Routes Adventures Mobile Phone View biography
Please call the toll free line at 1-866-745-1690 during regular business hours or for non-urgent matters (Mon - Fri 8:30 - 4:30 EST). The mobile phone #1-613-331-5777 is for after hours and weekends for emergency use only. The phone is carried by a staff member.
Profile Image of Lynne Brookes
Lynne Brookes View biography
Lynne Brookes has taught courses in biology, ecology, and environmental studies as well as teachers’ workshops in the U.S., Latin America, and Canada. A former president of an Audubon Society chapter, she served as president of the Arrowsmith Naturalists from 2014-17. “Retired” on mid-Vancouver Island, Lynne is a volunteer teacher focusing on native plants, ecology, and wildlife-friendly gardening for the Vancouver Island University ElderCollege program. She also conducts programs and workshops at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington, British Columbia.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Last Great Sea, A Voyage Through the Human and Natural History of the North Pacific Ocean
by Terry Glavin, Carl Safina (Introduction)
A wide-ranging conservation history of British Columbia and the North Pacific Ocean. Glavin lives in the Gulf Islands, where he writes frequently about fisheries and environmental issues facing the region.
The Island Within
by Richard Nelson
A beautifully written tribute to the Pacific Northwest. Drawn from the author's journals, this is an account of the natural and cultural history of an island in the waters of Haida Strait, with emphasis on the relationship between people and the land.
The West Beyond the West, A History of British Columbia
by Jean Barman
A fascinating history of the Canadian province from the 18th century to the mid-1990s. The author weaves portraits of major personalities and events into a readable overview of the cultural and social influences that have shaped the region.
Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest
by Katharine Berry Judson
Presented here with 52 photographs, these traditional stories, first collected in 1910, reveal myths and traditions of creation, alongside noted geographical features of the territory.
DK Eyewitness Top Ten Vancouver & Victoria
by Eyewitness Guides
A compact, illustrated guide in the popular series, featuring favorite attractions in Vancouver and Victoria.
Mark of the Grizzly
by Scott McMillion
McMillion gives readers a thorough understanding of the behavior of these magnificent, yet deadly creatures through examples of encounters gone very wrong.
Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast
by Bill Richardson
Lake Woebegone goes British Columbian in this humorous slip of a novel about an unconventional Vancouver B&B, which features twin bookworm brothers, a talking parrot and a motley crew of hotel guests.
Great Bear Wild
by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (Introduction), Ian McAllister
A colorful photographic journey through the Great Bear Rainforest that follows the coast from Vancouver Island to southern Alaska; McAllister captures the spectacular landscapes and wildlife, including wolves, whales and bears.
The Great Bear Rainforest, Canada's Forgotten Coast
by Ian McAllister, Karen McAllister, Cameron Young
An environmental history of coastal British Columbia featuring handsome color photographs.
Grass Beyond the Mountains, Discovering the Last Great Cattle Frontier on the North American Continent
by Richard Hobson
Hobson's classic memoir of his cross-country trek and pioneering days as a rancher in British Columbia's undiscovered remote north.
The Raven Steals the Light
by Robert Bringhurst, Bill Reid (Illustrator), Claude Levi-Strauss (Introduction)
A classic collection of 10 Haida myths and legends with accompanying black and white etchings by Vancouver artist Bill Reid. These stories capture the storytelling traditions of the Haida.
Whelks to Whales, Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest
by Rick M Harbo
This revised second edition of Harpo's popular field guide covers 400 species from northern California to Alaska.
Field Guide to Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast
by Sarah G. Allen, Joe Mortenson, Sophie Webb
Sophie Webb, director of Oikinos, contributes the exquisite paintings for this outstanding field guide, the 100th in the California Natural History Guides series, perfect for the Sea of Cortez.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest
by Peter Alden
A compact photographic guide to the wildflowers, trees, mosses, butterflies, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals of the Pacific Northwest.
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8 days
7 nights
18 meals
7 B 5 L 6 D
Check-In, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Vancouver, BC
Radisson Blu Vancouver Airport

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program registration begins at 4:00 pm. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: Enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel at 6:00 pm.

Evening: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Ferry to Vancouver Island, Victoria, Historic Walk
Victoria, BC
The Huntingdon Manor

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles; approx. 2 hours; city streets, pavement. Driving about 72 miles, approximately 3.3 hours including 1.5 hour ferry crossing).

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel

Morning: After breakfast, board the ferry to travel to Victoria on Vancouver Island. The largest Island on the west coast of North America is separated from the Canadian mainland by the Georgia Strait, Johnstone Strait, and Queen Charlotte Strait. En route, enjoy the beautiful scenery and be on the lookout for seabirds, seals, and whales.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in downtown Victoria.

Afternoon: We’ll embark on a walking field trip in Victoria’s Old Town and Inner Harbour and learn about well-known and hidden treasures along the way from an historian. Get a first-hand look at some of the best of the city’s Victorian architecture along Wharf Street. We’ll see the British Columbia Parliament Buildings and the historic Empress Hotel. After the walk we will check-in to our hotel with some time to freshen up before dinner.

Dinner: Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

Salmon and Bears of BC, Royal BC Museum, Free Time
Victoria, BC
The Huntingdon Manor

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile on pavement; some standing at museum.

Breakfast: Breakfast at a local restaurant.

Morning: A morning presentation will introduce us to the "Salmon and Bears of British Columbia". Learn about recent research that reveals just how interconnected salmon are with the wildlife that surround them and specifically bears. Research continues into gaining a better understanding of where bears are eating the most salmon so that conservationists can determine which regions need more attention. Next we will take a short walk to experience the Royal British Columbia Museum and Art Gallery. Through unique galleries, the museum showcases the human and natural history of British Columbia and temporary exhibits from other countries and cultures. Authentic artifacts and specimens are displayed in highly realistic settings, giving visitors the experience of another time and place. Researchers at the museum, throughout British Columbia and around the world use its collections to reveal new insights into the natural world and human cultures of British Columbia.

Lunch: On own in Victoria.

Afternoon: Free time in Victoria. The group leader can provide suggestions.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy local cuisine. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for an early check-out and transfer in the morning.

To Telegraph Cove, Pacific Rainforest, Cathedral Grove
Telegraph Cove, British Columbia
Telegraph Cove Resort

Activity note: Early hotel check-out and transfer via motorcoach to Telegraph Cove; about 316 miles; approximately 6.3 hours with stops. Walking about 1.5 miles; about 2 hours; gravel paths and grassy areas.

Breakfast: Early morning breakfast at the hotel (6:00 a.m.)

Morning: We will depart by coach, travelling to northern Vancouver Island and our destination of Telegraph Cove. Keep your eyes out for local wildlife as you pass through forests, small towns, and coastlines that wind in and away from the road. We will pick up our presenters who will provide an on-board lecture as we make our way to Cathedral Grove at Cameron Lake within MacMillan Provincial Park. This beloved place protects giant Douglas fir trees, some more than 800 years old, plus groves of ancient Western red cedar. While here, learn from our local experts about the rich biodiversity of the West Coast rainforest and ongoing efforts to protect the old growth forests on an expert-led walk.

Lunch: Lunch will be at Coombs Country Market. It is renowned for artisanal foods, in-store baked goods, and ice cream. Not to mention the goats on the roof .

Afternoon: We continue our journey to Telegraph Cove, tucked away on the eastern coast of Northern Vancouver Island in one of the last virtually untouched areas of the North American continent. This tiny sawmill and cannery community was important to the development of the North Island and has a rich and colorful history and is one of the last boardwalk communities of eastern Vancouver Island,

Dinner: At a restaurant in Telegraph Cove.

Evening: At leisure.

Whale Museum, Ferry to Alert Bay, U'mista Cultural Centre
Telegraph Cove, British Columbia
Telegraph Cove Resort

Activity note: Getting on/off a ferry; crossing to Alert Bay is approx. 7.5 nautical miles; less than 1 hour (each way). Driving about 4 hours total. Walking about 1 mile; about 1.5 hours; gravel paths and grassy areas.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel

Morning: This morning we will walk to the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove for an expert-led exploration. The waters between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia are home to magnificent orcas (killer whales) from early July through October. These protected waters are an ideal location to view and listen to orcas and other marine mammals as they feed, socialize, and raise their young. The center therefore, thanks to its location, is home to one of the best collections of marine mammal skeletons in British Columbia including those of whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals. The center was established to provide public awareness about the biology of marine mammals as well as about the biology, habitat needs and threats posed to local marine mammals. Then we will board a ferry for Alert Bay.

Lunch: Lunch to go from a local bakery.

Afternoon: Arriving in Alert Bay, we will visit the U'Mista Cultural Centre and learn from a local First Nations’ member about their traditions and how to interpret totem pole burial grounds on an expert-led exploration. The centre’s mission is to ensure the survival of all aspects of cultural heritage of the Kwakwaka'wakw peoples. Afterwards, there will be time for self-guided exploration of the museum, totem poles and big house.

Dinner: At the U’Mista Cultural Centre, we’ll be treated to a traditional seafood and fish dinner with side dishes

Evening: Return to Telegraph Cove around 7:15 p.m. Remainder of the evening at leisure.

Grizzly Bear Field Trip by Boat, Pacific NW Marine Life
Telegraph Cove, British Columbia
Telegraph Cove Resort

Activity note: Getting on/off 12 passenger aluminum boats; approximately 2 hours each way; vessels are covered and have onboard toilets. Dress warmly in dark layers with a waterproof shell; bring a hat and a water bottle. No perfume/aftershave. We will always stay at least 50 meters from bears.

Breakfast: Early breakfast.

Morning: After boarding aluminum water taxis at the dock, we’ll continue traveling toward Knight Inlet, due north of Johnstone Strait and Telegraph Cove, for our exciting bear and wildlife spotting adventure. Once we reach a bear viewing hot spot, we will transfer to large flat-bottom viewing skiffs, which have an elevated platform on the bow as well as a crow’s nest up above for the bear viewing. These are former herring fishing boats that have been modified for wildlife viewing in shallow estuaries. Their shallow draught serves to get us in close to the action. Knight Inlet, a prime black bear and grizzly bear habitat, cuts 80 miles through the remote Coast Range of mountains to Mount Waddington, the highest mountain in British Columbia. Under expert leadership, explore the hidden habitat of bears, learn about the ecosystem and discover how bears play an integral role in sustaining the bioregion. Bald eagles, orcas and other wildlife are abundant, and the river system supports a phenomenal fall salmon run. Needless to say, the opportunities for nature photography in Knight Inlet are superb. As a courtesy to the bears and to ensure the longevity of viewing for years to come, we will always stay at least 50 meters from bears as per recommended guidelines; please do not wear perfumes or aftershave on the bear viewing trip.

Lunch: On the float back away from the bear viewing area, we will enjoy a spread. Eating in the bear viewing area is not bear friendly; we cannot have these bears associating the smell of people with the smell of human food.

Afternoon: Our west coast Grizzly bear adventure will continue amid great towering mountains rising out of the sea, cascading waterfalls and waterslides. While our local experts will make their best effort to get us to the best places for bear viewing, they cannot guarantee sightings – they would like to be able to book an appointment with the bears but sometimes they do not show up!

Dinner: Enjoy dinner at local restaurant.

Evening: An evening presentation on marine life will be given by a local expert at the hotel, learn about the biodiversity and remarkable adaptations invertebrates and fish of the NE Pacific Ocean have. It is always surprising to discover how little we know about these marine mammals. The primary focus, however, will be on orca and humpback whale research as we discuss the life-sustaining value of the NE Pacific, conservation concerns (includes Sea Star Wasting Syndrome), and solutions.

Whale Watching, Coach to Nanaimo
Nanaimo, British Columbia
Coast Bastion

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile over the course of the day; pavement and boardwalks. Getting on/off the boat; whale watching is approximately 4 hours, distance will vary depending location of sightings; vessels carry up to 74 passengers. Heated indoor cabin, two open air decks, on-board washrooms and snack bar. Bring a light jacket or rain gear. Hats, gloves and jackets provided for all passengers on request. Driving approximately 221 miles, about 4.25 hours.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel

Morning: From Telegraph Cove, embark on a whale watching study cruise in the “whale watching capital” of British Columbia. In addition to whales, there is a great diversity and abundance of marine life in local waters. The cold, oxygen and nutrient rich waters fuel one of the most vibrant eco-systems on earth. While orcas are the primary viewing experience, we may also encounter humpback whales, Dalls porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and occasionally Harbour seals and Steller sea lions. To enhance our field trip, the boats are equipped with underwater microphones (hydrophones) so we can listen in on the squeaks, whistles and echolocation that allow orcas and dolphins the ability to communicate and locate their food. The boat has a range of educational materials from ID catalogues to maps, charts and books on the local area and marine life. The captain and crew will be happy to answer questions.

Lunch: Lunch at a restaurant in Telegraph Cove.

Afternoon: We will board the coach and travel south on Vancouver Island to Nanaimo, with some stops along the way.

Dinner: Enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel in Nanaimo at 7:00 p.m.

Evening: Reminisce with your fellow Road Scholar travelers and share your favorite memories during our final evening together.

Ferry to Vancouver, Program Concludes
Nanaimo, British Columbia

Activity note: Early morning hotel check-out. Getting on/off the ferry; crossing from Nanaimo to Vancouver is approximately 30 nautical miles; about 1.5 hours. Arrival to the Vancouver Airport approx. 12:00 noon.

Breakfast: Aboard the ferry, we’ll have breakfast (boarding at 8:45 a.m.)

Morning: Once we reach the dock, we’ll get off the ferry, and board a motorcoach for transfer to Vancouver Airport, expected arrival around 12:00 noon. If you are departing, please plan flights accordingly. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.