First light found us cruising the wild coast of Princess Royal Island, home of the famous and elusive spirit bear, or the white black bear, found only in this particular part of the world. Princess Royal Island is huge (80 kilometers long) and has been caught in a struggle between logging and conservation for many years. Recently, the Killisnoo Conservation Area was established to protect a large area of old growth forest and the salmon habitat for the spirit bears and other wild denizens of this special place.

Midmorning, we boarded our Zodiacs for a closer look at this remote area. Puffs of breath from numerous humpback whales floated above the western red cedar lined channel. White heads of bald eagles dotted the trees, and raucous calls of ravens entertained us while we marveled at the numerous waterfalls cascading down the steep faces of these fiord lands. Several groups of Zodiac cruisers witnessed the remarkable strategy of humpback whales bubble-net feeding. A whale blows a ring of underwater bubbles and flashes its pectoral flippers to concentrate a group of small schooling fish before it explodes at the surface with its gigantic, open mouth filled with tiny, terrified fish.

Green Inlet offered a wilderness exploration by rubber boot and by sea. Kayakers and Zodiac cruisers paddled up the fiord while a group of intrepid bushwhackers climbed the steep, mossy slopes and pressed through the old growth forest to find, at last, a beautiful chicken-of-the-woods fungus glowing orange in the soft wet afternoon light.

Photo caption: Visiting British Columbia’s Inside Passage. Photo by Bette Lu Krause