Road Scholar 21819

Jacques Cousteau referred to the calm waters of the Pacific Rim National Park as the most wildlife-laden he had ever seen. The park is a magnificent amalgam of mountains, coastal rainforest, wild beaches and marine landscapes. Bald eagles soar overhead, herds of one-ton sea lions sun themselves on rocky outcroppings, orcas and Pacific gray whales migrate by, and otters frolic offshore. Further to the east on the mainland lies the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest remaining intact coastal temperate forests in the world and home to the highest density of grizzly bears in North America. On this wilderness adventure, explore winding coastal trails, the protected waters of the Inside Passage and the Great Bear Rainforest for unparalleled opportunities to observe and learn about wildlife and Pacific rainforest ecology.

I had thought about doing this one twice back-to-back but decided that it wasn't another $2700.

• Explore coastal estuaries and salmon-spawning streams to observe grizzly bears as they hunt for salmon, and learn about the importance of Pacific salmon to First Nations communities.
• Navigate open water with a local expert and learn about marine biology as you encounter resident orcas, grey and humpback whales, sea otters, seals, porpoises and sea lions.
• Learn with expert naturalists about coastal rainforest ecology on display in Pacific Rim National Park and study the rich history of Pacific Northwest First Nations.

Itinerary Summary
1 Arrival Vancouver, Lodging: Best Western Sands by the Sea
2-3 ferry and coach to Bayside, Lodging: Quality Resort, Bayside
4-6 coach to Port McNeil/Telegraph Cove, Lodging: Telegraph Cove Marina
7 back to Bayside, Lodging: Quality Resort, Bayside
8 ferry and coach to Vancouver, (Lodging: Best Western Sands by the Sea)

The map above is for the 2016 routing but covers the same areas.

DAY 1 Arrive Vancouver
Hotel Check-in: Available from 3:00 p.m. Complimentary hotel shuttle service. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff, get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule and other important information, and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session.

Enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, and answer any questions you may have. During scheduled free time, the Group Leader will often be available to accompany informal excursions, activities, or meals that have been excluded from the program cost. Hotel: Sheraton Vancouver Airport

DAY 2 Vancouver Island Ferry, Cathedral Grove, Parksville BC
Activity note: Check out of hotel. The ferry crossing to Nanaimo is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Use caution at all times in MacMillan Park; stay on the marked trail to prevent damage to the fragile environment.

Breakfast on the ferry. After checking out of the hotel, we transfer by coach to the ferry terminal in Horseshoe Bay and take the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island (scheduled to depart on the 10:15 a.m. ferry) This 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 Coombs Country Market. Renowned for artisanal foods, in-store baked goods, and ice cream. There is also a deli and a restaurant featuring fresh produce (and a goat on the roof!)

Once on Vancouver Island we head for 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. Learn about the rich biodiversity of the West Coast rainforest and efforts to protect the old growth forests on a guided walk. Then we visit the North Island Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. The Center is in a park like setting where you will be able to see eagles, owls, falcons, hawks, ravens, and black bears. The center is a world class wildlife rehabilitation facility; magnificent eagles can be viewed through one way glass in the largest flight cage if its kind in Canada. Transfer to Parksville and check-in to hotel. Dinner at the hotel in Parksville. Hotel: Quality Resort Bayside (2 nights)

DAY 3 Deep Bay Marine Station, Milner Gardens (Parksville)
Breakfast in the hotel dining room. On a field trip to the Deep Bay Marine Station, discover why this is a special place. Visit the aquarium and touch tanks with an interpreter who will discuss the local species. Get hands-on at three touch tanks where you can interact with sea stars, sea cucumbers, crabs and more. Learn about the research going on at the station and see the grey whale skeleton on display.

Lunch at the research station. Next, we visit Milner Gardens and Woodland. This seaside garden in Qualicum Beach on the east coast of Vancouver Island, BC was voted as one of the top ten Best Public Gardens in Canada, by Canadian Geographic Travel. Explore 70 acres of unspoiled natural beauty perched on the edge of an oceanside bluff overlooking the Strait of Georgia. Stroll the winding pathways and the towering trees of an ancient coastal Douglas fir forest. The woodland gardens are lined with rhododendron, cyclamen and trilliums. Dinner In the hotel dining room.

DAY 4 Coach to Telegraph Cove, Alert Bay, U'Mista Cultural Centre
Activity note: Early check out of hotel before our 6:30 a.m. departure. We travel north on Vancouver Island to Telegraph Cove, a prime spot for whale and bear viewing. Travel time is approximately 4 hours; we will make some stops along the way.

Breakfast to go. We will travel to north Vancouver Island and take a ferry to Alert Bay. Lunch in Alert Bay. At the U'Mista Cultural Centre, learn about First Nations traditions and totem pole burial ground interpretation. We travel by ferry and coach to Telegraph Cove, arriving around 7:00 p.m. Dinner on your own. Hotel: Telegraph Cove Marina (3 nights)

DAY 5 Marine Biodiversity, Whale Centre, Whale Watching Cruise
Activity note: 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 are happy to answer questions throughout the day. Vessels carry up to 49 passengers and have on-board washrooms. Bring a light jacket or rain gear.

Breakfast in the hotel dining room. Re-group for a presentation by a local expert on the marine life. Learn about biodiversity and the remarkable adaptations in invertebrates and fish of the NE Pacific Ocean and how little we know about these marine mammals. The focus will be on killer whale and humpback whale research. Discuss life-sustaining value of the NE Pacific, conservation concerns (includes Sea Star Wasting Syndrome), and solutions. Then visit the Whale Interpretive Centre. The waters between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia are home to magnificent Orca (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.

Lunch in Telegraph Cove. Embark on a whale watching cruise from Telegraph Cove, 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 orca 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.

We dine this evening at Telegraph Cove’s historic Killer Whale Café on the far end of the boardwalk. In addition to its tasty local fare, the café is notable for cedar post-and-beam construction, copper tables and fittings, and stained glass windows and doors. An evening presentation on grizzlies with 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; to reinforce that these magnificent creatures needn't be feared but rather simply respected and appreciated.

DAY 6 Full-Day Grizzly Bear Habitat Field Trip, Telegraph Cove, BC
Activity note: To access the grizzly bear hot spot, we travel 2 hours by boat in 12 passenger aluminum water taxis, they are intimate vessels with onboard toilets. Sit inside in comfort, or outside in the back deck! Once in the viewing area, watch for bear activity from the viewing skiff. We recommend dressing warmly in dark layers with a waterproof shell; bring a hat and a water bottle. No perfume/aftershave.

Breakfast at the hotel. Today we embark on a bear and wildlife journey by boat at Knight Inlet, due north of Johnstone Strait and Telegraph Cove. Travel to the bear viewing hot spot in aluminum boats (approximately 2 hours each way). The bear viewing is done from large flat bottom viewing skiffs, former herring fishing boats modified for wildlife viewing in shallow estuaries. Their shallow draught gets us in close to the action. Knight Inlet cuts eighty miles through the remote Coast Range of mountains to Mount Waddington, the highest mountain in British Columbia. Under expert guidance, we explore the hidden habitat of bears, learn about the ecosystem, and how bears play an integral role in sustaining the bioregion. Knight Inlet is prime black bear and grizzly bear habitat. 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 stay 50 meters from the bear as per recommended guidelines; no perfumes or aftershave on the bear viewing trip.

Lunch is a sandwich spread and you make your own sandwich. We eat lunch after our morning viewing experience, out on the float away from the bears. 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. Our west coast Grizzly bear adventure continues amid great towering mountains rising out of the sea, cascading waterfalls and waterslides. While we make our best effort to get you to the best places for bear viewing, we cannot guarantee sightings – we would like to be able to book an appointment with the bears but they sometimes do not show up! Dinner at the hotel in Telegraph Cove.

DAY 7 Coach to Parksville, Campbell River, Maritime Centre
Activity note: Today we travel south to Campbell River (approximately 3 hours); after lunch and our field trip we continue to Parksville (approximately 1 hour 15 mins).

Breakfast at the hotel followed by check-out. We depart by coach from Telegraph Cove to Campbell River; we will stop along the way to get some fresh air and stretch our legs. Lunch in Campbell River.

EXTRA ACTIVITIES TODAY – THE FERRY RIDE ISN’T UNTIL TOMORROW. On a field trip to the Maritime Heritage Centre, learn about the rich maritime history of the area. The centre's mission is to foster educational, historical and social activities relating to the maritime heritage of the Campbell River area. It is home to many marine documents and artifacts. Farewell dinner at the hotel in Parksville. Hotel: Quality Resort Bayside

DAY 8 Ferry to Vancouver, Program Concludes
Activity note: The ferry crossing from Nanaimo to Vancouver is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Breakfast at the hotel. Coach to Nanaimo to catch the 7:45 ferry back to the mainland and Vancouver. Approximate arrival at Vancouver airport is 10:45 a.m. With the "late" arrival at the airport, I will have a very late arrival back in Houston - actually tomorrow about 5AM.