Spirit Bears of the Great Bear Rainforest Workshop Information
Workshop Dates: Oct 5 – 11, 2019
Welcome to the 2019 Spirit Bears of the Great Bear Rainforest workshop! I hope you are as excited as I am for this trip. Below is some important information that will help you prepare for our adventure. Please take some time to carefully review it and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions:
The workshop begins at 3pm on Oct 6 and ends upon our return to Prince Rupert on the afternoon of Oct 11 (we will be back in time to catch the evening flight out of Prince Rupert). ***IMPORTANT UPDATE – Due to changes in Canada’s flight schedules, we will no longer be back in Prince Rupert in time to catch the last flight out on Oct 11. Please book your return flight for Oct 12. ***
We will overnight in Prince Rupert on Oct 6 and travel to the First Nations Gitga’at community of Hartley Bay by water taxi the following morning (Oct 7). We will check into the newly built Hartley Bay guesthouse, which will be our base of operations for the remainder of the workshop. Each morning, we will travel by boat from Hartley Bay to one of several sites where we hope to find and photograph bears fishing for salmon in the streams. We will pack a sack lunch each day to eat in the field. Breakfasts and dinners will be at the guesthouse. Wi-Fi is available at the guesthouse. Cell phone service in Hartley Bay exists, but may or may not work for you depending upon your carrier.
TRAVEL TO/FROM PRINCE RUPERT
Arrival - Air Canada operates 3 flights daily to Prince Rupert (YPR-aka Digby Island) from Vancouver. Plan your arrival for Oct 6 by ~1:00 pm.
Note 1 – if you are not a Canadian or American citizen, you will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travel to Canada. Most applications are approved within minutes and costs only $7. Americans do not need an eTA, but a valid passport is required.
Note 2 – The town of Prince Rupert is on Kaien Island, but the airport (YPR) is on nearby Digby Isand. Upon your arrival at the airport, a free shuttle/ferry service will take you and your luggage to the shuttle station in town. It is about 1 mile from the shuttle station to Eagle Bluff B&B. Taxi service is available or you can walk (note: Uber/Lyft is NOT available in Prince Rupert).
Lodging in Prince Rupert – We have reserved a block of rooms at Eagle Bluff Bed & Breakfast for the night of Oct 6 but you must make your own reservation to confirm your stay. Please let them know you are part of ‘Ken Lee’s Spirit Bears Tour’ when you make your reservation.
Note: Accommodations and meals in Prince Rupert are NOT included in the workshop fee. Staying at Eagle Bluff would be most convenient but there are other options available also.
Departure – We will be back in Prince Rupert in time to catch the evening flight (~8 pm) out of Prince Rupert on Oct 11. ***IMPORTANT UPDATE – Due to changes in Canada’s flight schedules, we will no longer be back in Prince Rupert in time to catch the last flight out on Oct 11. Please book your return flight for Oct 12. *** You will also need to book your accommodations fo the night of Oct 11
The remainder of your workshop fees are due by July 14. You will receive an invoice by email in early June for your outstanding balance. We accept Visa, MasterCard & PayPal.
Below is a list of recommended photo gear. In addition to the actual equipment, the main things to consider are the low light and possibly (very) wet conditions. If you are tempted to buy new gear for this trip, make sure to give yourself enough time to get to know it before you leave home. You don’t want to be fumbling through camera settings or an owner’s manual when a bear pounces on a salmon in the river. Also, consider renting instead of buying…there are several excellent services out there including lensrentals.com and borrowlenses.com that rent camera bodies and lenses at reasonable rates.
Camera – pretty much any modern dSLR or mirrorless body will do the job. Good low light performance is a plus…we will frequently be shooting at ISO 1000 and above when we are under forest canopy.
Lenses – you definitely want a telephoto lens with a focal length between 200-500mm (ideally 300mm+) for longer range wildlife photos, but don’t forget to bring wider lenses (≤28mm) for landscapes and closer wildlife encounters, which happen frequently. I like zoom lenses for their versatility, but that’s just a personal preference. I would recommend bringing no more than 3 or 4 lenses. Make sure your rain protection is compatible with all your lenses.
Camera Rain Protection – is essential. It’s called a rainforest for a reason. There are many choices available and I’ve tried quite a few, but I haven’t found anything better than O/P Tech’s Rainsleeve, which happens to be one of the least expensive options. Make sure to get the right size(s) to fit all your lenses.
Extra Memory Cards Batteries & Charger – you will be shooting a lot, as many as 1500-2000 images per day and there is no place in the field to charge batteries or download memory cards. It is critical that you bring enough spare batteries to make it through each day and enough memory cards for the entire trip. I highly recommend NOT erasing/formatting memory cards until you are back home. Don’t forget your battery charger!
Laptop – is not required, but highly recommended. A laptop lets you download/backup cards and review images in the evenings. It also facilitates group image reviews/critiques. Make sure you have enough available space on your internal hard drive or bring a small external drive. Here is one that I like because it doesn’t require external power (runs off laptop’s usb port).
Tripod – also highly recommended but not required. Something that is both relatively sturdy and lightweight with a ball head and quick release camera plate is ideal.
Camera bag or backpack – there are an infinite number of options out there – it’s really a matter of personal preference. My advice is to choose something that is no bigger than it has to be. It should be able to hold your camera gear, a sack lunch, a water bottle and possibly your rain jacket. The jacket and bottle typically go in exterior pockets or attach by straps.
Polarizing filter – helps reduce glare on water and foliage which adds richness/saturation to colors and removes distracting highlights. It’s very handy but a polarizer also reduces light hitting your sensor which can make shooting in dark environments even harder. Overall, well worth having on hand when conditions allow its use.
UV filter – to protect the front of your lens from moisture including sea spray and rain. Small Microfiber towel(s) – a couple of these inside zip-loc bags will ensure you always have a dry towel to wipe moisture from cameras and lenses. Large Silica Gel Pack - is an optional item you can throw in your camera bag to absorb excess moisture.
CLOTHING & OTHER ITEMS
You must have some kind of waterproof footwear. We will be getting in and out of boats at the water’s edge and walking through shallow streams. In addition, trails are often muddy and wet.
Knee high rubber boots are the simplest and most cost effective solution. The higher the boots, the better.
Other Footwear Options
Hiking boots alone are not a good substitute for rubber boots. If you feel you really need the ankle support of hiking boots, then we recommend getting a pair of Neos overshoes to help keep you dry. There are times when you may get wet feet with rubber boots or hiking boots with Neos (i.e. water over the top of your boots). If you think this will make you very uncomfortable and unhappy, then consider these options:
If you own, or can borrow, a pair of breathable waders and wading boots (or just a pair of old running shoes that you don’t mind getting wet) that you can walk in and wear comfortably all day, then they can be a great solution. As a bonus you won’t need to bring additional rain pants. These ones are good value
Dry pants with built-in waterproof socks are another option. They are a bit less bulky than chest waders to wear, and pack down smaller than waders or rubber boots. Lastly, they double as rain pants. Here is another option.
Also bring second pair of comfortable footwear for around Hartley Bay. Shoes are better than sandals in Oct
A good rain jacket and rain pants are essential. If you are not sure if your rain gear is waterproof, put it on in the shower for a few minutes to test it
A small collapsible umbrella can also provide much added comfort if we get stuck in a downpour while waiting for bears to appear. Black is the best color to reduce the impact of our human presence
Light and heavy warm layers (Note: please avoid cotton as it doesn't dry quickly, or keep you warm when wet. Wool layers are excellent. Fleece and other synthetic garments are also very good)
Suitable long outdoor pants (e.g. tough quick-dry nylon pants are best). Avoid cotton pants and jeans.
Long-underwear layers (top and bottom). Merino wool or synthetic materials recommended.
One hat for sun and one for cold
Warm sweater • Warm jacket
Gloves or mittens (form fitting gloves help keep bugs off your hands while still allowing you to operate your camera can be handy)
Spare eyeglasses and contact lenses
Personal medications labeled clearly. Consider bringing Dramamine (or similar) if you are susceptible to seasickness, as we will spend time in boats
A book for pleasure reading, or a notebook for sketching or taking notes
Small water bottle
A small amount of bug spray
If you think you’d like the security of a walking stick, you can bring a collapsible model or we can find you one in the forest
A small leak-proof thermos mug if you want to bring a hot cup of tea or coffee with you for the day
Things to Do in Prince Rupert - This Google Map contains a few points of interest in Prince Rupert. Click on the pins for more information. I suggest a trip to Cowpuccino’s cafe followed by a visit to the Museum of Northern BC and a stroll around the docks. If you’re eager to experience some temperate rainforest, then go for a hike on the Butze Rapids trail. It is a five km taxi trip to the trailhead, but there is also local bus service as described in this government brochure. The trail itself is 5 km (1.5 hours) and will take you through some lovely old forests, coastal wetlands and interesting forest bogs.
If you have more time, some guests really enjoy a trip to the North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site. The history of the salmon canneries on the BC coast is fascinating. Public transportation is available and departs from the Museum of Northern BC in Prince Rupert.
Hartley Bay – is a very small isolated residential community in the heart of the Great Bear Rain Forest. There are no roads or services here. The only access is by boat or seaplane and members of the Gitga’at First Nations tribe get around by walking or with ATV’s on elevated boardwalks. The environs around Hartley Bay also happen to be the best place in the world to see Spirit Bears.
Gratuities – are appreciated, but not required. The amount is completely at your discretion but many guests ask for guidance, so something in the range of $15-$25 (CAD) per day is reasonable. All tips are shared among the naturalist guides & staff (boat driver, cooks, guesthouse staff). Gratuities for Ken are not expected.
A final word - Lastly, and most importantly, please bring your enthusiasm and appreciation for wildlife, natural beauty and First Nations’ culture. As with any wildlife trip, it is always an asset to bring along a good dose of patience and an ability to appreciate your surroundings. Again, if you have any questions about the information contained here or any other aspect of this workshop, please contact me.
I look forward to meeting you in Prince Rupert,