PRINCESS ROYAL ISLAND
& THE GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST
At 870 sq miles, Princess Royal Island is the 4th largest island in British Columbia, Canada, and is located amongst the isolated inlets and islands, off its North Coast. This extremely remote area, in the heart of the renowned Great Bear Rainforest, is only accessible by float plane or boat. Aside from the Tsimshiam, who once inhabited a coastal village on the island, almost no people have entered the inland rainforest of Princess Royal Island.
The island is best known for being home to the legendary white Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus “kermodei”) or Spirit Bear, which lives in its deep rainforests, and is found nowhere else on earth. For centuries the Gitga’at First Nations people have revered and protected the spirit bear as a symbol of the rainforest and their great respect for the land on which they live. This magnificent and extremely rare bear is not an albino, but just a pale color form of the black bear. Its unique color results from a double-recessive gene - the union of recessive genes from both parents.
While black bears are predominantly black, they also come in shades of brown, blonde, cinnamon, auburn, smoky grey, and white, and black bears may have offspring and siblings of varying colors.
Other wildlife on the island includes grizzly bears, deer, wolves and foxes, and nesting populations of golden eagles, bald eagles, and the endangered marbled murrelet. Marine life around the island includes abundant salmon, elephant seals, humpback whales and orcas, Dall’s porpoise and the Pacific white-sided dolphin.
This beautiful island has a diverse habitat, including sandy beaches, lowland old-growth rainforest, sub-alpine meadows, and alpine tundra, interspersed with estuaries, and lakes. Its centerpiece is the Laredo Inlet, a 60km long fjord, which almost bisects the southern two thirds of the island. It offers some spectacular scenery and an estuary at the Bay of Plenty. Many of the island’s salmon spawning streams and lakes drain into this inlet, providing essential nutrients for the island’s inhabitants. The long shoreline has significant salt marshes, kelp beds, and other habitat for aquatic life.
The Great Bear Rainforest is a vast area of pristine wilderness, about the size of Ireland. It is home to some of the oldest and largest trees on earth including Sitka spruce, red cedar, western hemlock, amabilis and Douglas fir, which can reach a height of 300 feet and live for more than 1,500 years. These coastal forests make up a quarter of the world’s coastal temperate rainforests, and are the perfect place to soak up nature and the solitude for a brief while.
WHEN TO GO
June to August are the warmest months to visit the area. Bear-viewing season runs from June to October. Spirit bears are highly elusive, but the best chance to see bears is during the annual salmon run from late August to early October, when they hunt for fish.
June to August is an incredible time for sighting humpback whale, orca, Dall’s porpoise, and Pacific white-sided dolphin.