The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.
Nature lovers and wildlife buffs probably already know all about the sensation that is British Columbia in spring and summer, but for those people who only consider B.C. as a winter destination for experiencing the best skiing and snowboarding, take note -- there's so much more for you to see and do once things start warming up.
B.C. is a haven for bird watchers. It's estimated that over one million birds use the Pacific Flyway. For larger mammals, moose, mountain goats, black bears, grizzly bears Rocky Mountain elk, deer, woodland caribou, bighorn sheep, cougars, and hoary marmots abound. Marine life is equally abundant in B.C. coastal waters with regular sightings of Pacific gray whales migrating along the west coast of Vancouver Island, orcas (killer whales) on the east coast of Vancouver Island, occasional minke and humpback whales, and plentiful Stellar and California sea lion colonies. For those who prefer to kill and possibly eat rather than admire the wildlife, hunting is a popular pursuit and the region is famous for fishing including five different species of salmon that live in local Pacific waters, plus several varieties of trout among others.
Of course, there's also Vancouver, a cosmopolitan city with many "natural" attractions of its own to lure the visitor for a spring break or summer getaway. Not only is it close, but you can drive across or take a reasonably priced flight, plus your U.S. dollar will buy you more here (don't forget to claim your government taxes back at the border). Here are a few suggestions for getting away from the hustle and bustle of your regular life for a bit of tranquil R&R in B.C.
Gulf Escapes (tel. 877/537-4777; www.gulfescapes.com) offers a variety of independent fly-n-drive vacations to the Canadian Gulf Islands, Vancouver island and the Charlotte Islands. Their eight-day "Exploring the Pacific Gulf Islands" trip includes visits to Galiano, Mayne and Saltspring and is priced from $830 per person based on double occupancy. The tour starts in Vancouver and includes seven-nights' waterfront accommodations (where available) in selected B&Bs, ferry transfers on BC ferries between the mainland and the islands, a full breakfast each day, hotel and sales tax on all accommodation, plus an On-The-Road-Kit with itinerary, maps, ferry schedules, detailed driving instructions and local information. Bring your own car or Gulf Escapes can arrange car rental at competitive rates for you.
The "Vancouver Island and Grizzly Bear Tour" is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities to see these magnificent creatures in an intimate natural environment. The four-day trip is priced from $1,325 per person based on double occupancy and runs from mid-May to mid-October each year. The tour starts from Campbell River on Vancouver Island, but transportation to and from the starting point is not included. The package price does include airport transfers, three-nights private double stateroom accommodation aboard the Lasquiti Star, all meals from the time of arrival until breakfast on the day of departure, unlimited use of 15-foot power skiffs to let you get up close and personal with the wildlife plus fishing gear (subject to the Captain's discretion). Visit Glendale Cove and Knights Inlet, two favored Grizzly bear areas, the Broughton Archipelago, Alert Bay and Sointula, a 19th century Finnish community. This tour departs each Wednesday and Saturday during the grizzly bear viewing season which peaks between May 15 and June 30 and again between August 4 and October 13.
Located in the center of British Columbia, in the heart of the Cariboo, Echo Valley Ranch and Spa (tel. 800/253-8831; www.evranch.com) opens for operation each year in April. To kick things off, they are having a special for the month of April with the price of accommodation and all meals reduced to $149 per person. This price also includes free pick up transfer service from Kamloops Airport; full use of the ranch facilities including an outdoor hot tub, sauna, indoor heated swimming pool, fitness center and pool table; access to a personal fitness instructor; daily Ruesri dat ton (gentle Thai stretching classes); wireless Internet access; hiking trails; planned evening entertainment; the chance to assist with the ranch animals (collecting eggs, feeding the horses); and roping and horse training demonstrations. Horseback riding is additional. Bracewell's Wilderness Alpine Adventures (tel. 250/476-1169; www.bracewell.com) is based out of Bracewell's Alpine Hunting Lodge, located at Tatlayoko Lake between Tsylos and Nuit Parks, in the Chilcotin region. It's run by a Canadian family of professional hunters with 75 years' background in big game guiding in the same area, but I am too much of an animal lover to write about their hunting trips. Instead, let me tell you that they also feature a six-day "Adventure Couple" package that promises to get you back in touch with the cowboy within. Enjoy three days of Alpine exploration on horseback, seeing 75-million-year-old fossil beds, fields of flowers, wildlife, and uninterrupted views of the coast range. Spend two nights in a two-story mountain top cabin and three nights at the lodge with guided trips exploring lower elevations including old mining activities, lakes and fishing. All transport, accommodation, adventures and meals are included for a total cost of $1,091 per person including taxes.
Their "Pioneer Adventure" includes a five-day ride though Potato Mountain, Lingfield Lake, Chilco Lake, Tsuniah Lake, Nemaia Valley, Tsylos Park, Marmot Basin, Tatlayoko Lake, Niut Mountain, Echo Lake and Gillian Lake. Stay in a mountain top cabin for four nights and a further two at the lodge with all meals included. The cost is $1,063 per person which also includes all taxes, a guide, a cook and horses. You can drive or fly in to Tatlayoko Lake and Bracewell can arrange transportation.
Awesome Kayak Adventures (tel. 877/736-2147; www.awesomekayak.com) has four-day luxury camping Gulf Island kayaking trips that depart from Vancouver every Tuesday from June through September. The trips are priced at $944 per person plus tax and include transfer from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver Harbour, round-trip float plane transfer to Valdez Island in the center of the Gulf Islands chain, all meals, an introductory kayaking lesson to ensure all participants are confident, all kayaking equipment, expert guides, three nights at an island marine access wilderness campsite with solar-composting outhouse, high quality two-person weatherproof tents, inflatable Thermarest sleeping mattresses with pillows and sleeping bags provided, three days of kayaking in pristine waters where you will have a chance to visit coastal caves and stunning sandstone cliffs, seeing migrating grey whales, resident Orcas and porpoises, bald eagles, seals and sea lions and an optional hiking trip to explore the islands of Thetis and Kuper.
Vancouver is the stepping off point for most of these adventures, although you will likely have to take additional modes of transportation to get to some of the more remote locations -- by ferry, regional flights, charters, boats or by car.
Travelocity (tel. 888/872-8356; www.travelocity.com) is currently featuring a "Canada Spring Airfare" sale with discounted flights on American Airlines. Travel is valid through April 29, 2006. Fares shown are valid for travel Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. A seven-day advance purchase is required. Sample round-trip fares to Vancouver include:
- From Los Angeles: $270
- From San Francisco: $272
- From Chicago: $373
- From New York: $388
- From Miami: $402
Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262; www.aircanada.com) has an "April One-way Fare" sale that allows you to purchase now for travel in the month of April and throughout the spring. Tickets need to be purchased seven, 14 and 21-days in advance to get the best rates. Sample one-way fares include:
- From Los Angeles: $146
- From Houston: $180
- From Miami: $216
- From Boston: $219
- From Washington, D.C.: $232