Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.
Afternoon: Arrivals and transfers to the hotel in the afternoon. Check-in is 3:00 p.m. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet at the front desk.
Dinner: Buffet at the hotel restaurant.
Evening: We’ll start with Orientation and get to know each other as well as review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes. We’ll go over important information as well as have time for questions. 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. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.
Activity note: Walking about 1 mile; approx.1.5 hours; groomed trails; some rocks or exposed roots. Use caution at all times in MacMillan Park; stay on the marked trail to prevent damage to the fragile environment. Driving about 90 miles, approximately 2 hours (not including ferry crossing). Ferry to Nanaimo is approximately 30 nautical miles; about 1.5 hours.
Breakfast: Buffet in the hotel dining room.
Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll transfer via motorcoach to the ferry terminal where we will board the ferry to Nanaimo 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, we’ll enjoy the beautiful scenery and be on the lookout for seabirds, seals, and whales. Upon arrival to Nanaimo, we’ll dock and transfer by motorcoach to Coombs Country Market on Vancouver Island, a place renowned for artisanal foods, in-store baked goods, and ice cream.
Lunch: At the country market, we’ll pick up our lunch from the deli and restaurant which feature fresh produce (and a goat on the roof!).
Afternoon: We’ll then transfer via motorcoach 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, we’ll learn from our Group Leader about the rich biodiversity of the West Coast rainforest and ongoing efforts to protect the old growth forests on an expert-led walk. Next, we’ll visit the North Island Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre where we will be able to see eagles, owls, falcons, hawks, ravens, and black bears in a park-like setting. As a world class wildlife rehabilitation facility, the Centre has the largest flight cage of its kind in Canada with one-way glass though which to view magnificent eagles. Staff from the centre will provide interpretive commentary and answer questions. We’ll then transfer to Parksville and check into our hotel.
Dinner: Buffet in the hotel dining room.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Walking about 2 miles; approx. 2.5 hours; groomed trails and pathways. Driving approx. 50 miles, about 1 hour.
Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.
Morning: Transfer to Deep Bay Marine Field Station for an expert-led exploration of the facility and discover why this is such a special place. At the three touch tanks, we’ll discuss the local species as we interact with sea stars, sea cucumbers, crabs and more. We’ll also learn about the research going on at the station and see the grey whale skeleton on display. There will be some free time for independent exploration.
Lunch: At a local restaurant.
Afternoon: Next, we will transfer by coach to the Milner Gardens and Woodland for a field trip with a local expert. This seaside garden in Qualicum Beach on the east coast of Vancouver Island, BC was voted as one of the Top 10 Best Public Gardens in Canada by Canadian Geographic Travel. While here, we’ll explore some of the 70 acres of unspoiled natural beauty that is perched on the edge of an oceanside bluff overlooking the Strait of Georgia. With expert commentary, we’ll stroll along the winding pathways lined with rhododendron, cyclamen and trilliums beneath the towering trees of an ancient coastal Douglas fir forest. Then, we’ll take a break for afternoon tea served with assorted baked goods and freshly baked scones, and jam made with fruit from the garden. We’ll then transfer back to the hotel.
Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. 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.
Activity note: Early hotel check-out and transfer via motorcoach to Port McNeill; about 200 miles; approximately 4 hours with stops. Getting on/off a ferry; crossing to Alert Bay is approx. 75 nautical miles; less than 1 hour (each way). Walking about 1 mile; about 1.5 hours; gravel paths and grassy areas.
Breakfast: En route, we’ll have packed breakfasts from the hotel.
Morning: We will continue by coach, travelling to northern Vancouver Island where we will board a ferry for transfer to Alert Bay.
Lunch: We’ll stop along the way to pick up lunch.
Afternoon: We transfer by ferry to Alert Bay where 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 sides.
Evening: We’ll then head back to the ferry to continue our transfer to Port McNeill where we will check into the hotel.
Activity note: Walking about 1 mile over the course of the day; pavement and boardwalks. Driving to Telegraph Cove is about 16 miles; approx. ½ hour (each way). Getting on/off the boat; whale watching is approximately 4 hours, distance will vary depending location of sightings; vessels carry up to 49 passengers and have on-board washrooms. Bring a light jacket or rain gear.
Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.
Morning: In a presentation focused on marine life given by a local expert at the hotel, we will 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. Then, we’ll transfer by motorcoach for a field trip 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.
Lunch: At a local restaurant in Telegraph Cove.
Afternoon: From Telegraph Cove, we’ll 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. There will be a brief on-board presentation about the whales and other marine mammals. The captain and naturalists will be happy to answer questions throughout the day.
Dinner: At a popular restaurant built over the water known for its yellow cedar post and beam style construction, we will dine on beautiful copper tables surrounded by one-of-a-kind stained glass windows and doors.
Evening: During an evening presentation on grizzlies, a local expert will serve to dispel a lot of the myths and misunderstandings people have not just about grizzlies, but about bears in general. It will reinforce that these magnificent creatures often needn't be feared but rather simply respected and appreciated.
Activity note: Early transfer to the dock in Telegraph Cove of about 16 miles; approx. ½ hour (each way). 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: En route to the dock, we will have a packed 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, we will 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 make our own sandwiches. 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! At the conclusion of our viewing time, we’ll board the water taxis for the trip back up Knight Inlet to Telegraph Cove where we’ll then transfer by coach back to our hotel in Port McNeill.
Dinner: Buffet dinner at the hotel in Port McNeill.
Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.
Activity note: Walking about 1 mile on field trip; approx. 1 hour. Drive from Port McNeill south to Campbell River is approximately 125 miles; about 2.5 hours. Afternoon drive to Parksville is about 75 miles; approx. 1.5 hours.
Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.
Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll transfer by motorcoach from Port McNeill to the city of Campbell River. Along the way, we’ll make a stop to get some fresh air and stretch our legs.
Lunch: At a local restaurant in Campbell River.
Afternoon: Continue via motorcoach to the museum in Campbell River. The Museum collection comprises ethnographic, historic, archaeological and archival material of the northern Vancouver Island area. With a museum expert, explore the various exhibits of the museum, from exploring the rich cultural traditions and dramatic art forms in the First Nations gallery, to experiencing unique working methods and coastal lifestyles of Pioneer life, logging in the “Jungles”, the salmon industry, sportsfishing, and floathouse living. Afterwards, we’ll continue our transfer to Parksville. Upon arrival at the hotel, we’ll check in and take some time to freshen up before dinner.
Dinner: At the hotel in Parksville, we’ll enjoy a delicious buffet farewell dinner. Share your favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.
Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out, transfer and departures in the morning.
Activity note: Early morning hotel check-out. Driving about 35 miles to the ferry dock in Nanaimo; less than 1 hour. 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. 11:30 a.m.
Breakfast: Aboard the ferry, we’ll have a cafeteria style meal.
Morning: Once we reach the dock, we’ll get off the ferry, and board a motorcoach for transfer to Vancouver Airport, expected arrival around 11:30 a.m. 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!