I went to Africa for a wilderness vacation and to see amazing animals (here are my tips on how to choose the best safari, by the way). But I didn’t realize that I could have a wilderness vacation in my own backyard in Canada, see amazing animals, escape the crowds and, surprisingly, do it all in luxury too.
Now seeing the wilderness in Canada isn’t really that difficult. The majority of our cities are near the US border (it is estimated that 75% of us live within 100 miles of it!). There is vast open space between cities and about 2800 miles from our southern border to the north. So it is pretty easy to find a beautiful forest, river or lake, maybe a mountain, beach or even a desert depending on where you are.
But if it is easy to find, there will be other people there. And sadly, most of the animals that were so easy to spot when I was a kid have retreated to far more isolated places than I usually get to.
So, you need to compromise: difficult to get to means a much better chance of spotting animals, and a much better chance of spotting them without crowds of other camera-snapping people. But difficult to get to also means not much chance of sleeping in comfort. And if you, like me, have reached the stage in your life where that matters, what are you to do?
Answer: Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort.
The resort is a bit difficult to get to. It is on mainland British Columbia in the Great Bear Rainforest, but you need to first find your way to the very top of Vancouver Island to get there. You can’t drive there, just fly (helicopter or float plane) or take a boat (wise captains cruising the BC coast plan for a night or two at Nimmo Bay to enjoy not only the spectacular scenery but the incredible meals prepared by chef Sandi Irving).
And once you’re there, you’ll have more wilderness than your wildest dreams.
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort specializes in wilderness adventures.
They began as a heli-fishing resort and you can take a helicopter up to a gorgeous stream empty of people and full of fish (salmon — coho, chinook, pinks — steelhead, rainbow and cutthroat trout, and Dolly Cardena). The Nimmo Bay fishery is 30,000 square miles.
But the resort is growing to specialize in wilderness activities. Take the helicopter to go hiking, beachcombing, waterfall spotting and bear watching.
Or if you prefer a quieter pursuit, take a hike or borrow a stand-up paddle board or a kayak and see the animals from eye level. In this part of beautiful British Columbia you can see grizzly bears (July 25 to October 31), black bears (May 1 to October 31), orca (July 1 to October 31), humpback whales (July 1 to October 31), as well as sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, seals and eagles. There are moose, wolves, deer and goats hiding in the woods too.
Even from the dock to the resort’s floating restaurant you can see starfish and sea stars!
And speaking of the restaurant…. A day spent in the wilderness, especially hiking or on the water, works up an appetite. While cooking something over the campfire will suffice, the day is so much more enjoyable if it bookended by deliciousness, especially when well-matched with wine.
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort’s restaurant surpasses expectations. Not only does the resort offer incredible meals, they all feature British Columbia’s local fish, seafood, veggies and fruits. I feasted on ling cod, scallops, bouillabaisse with spot prawns, Saltspring Island mussels and sable fish, Kusshi oysters, sockeye salmon, Dungeness crab, and albacore tuna, wild mushroom soup and more local fruits and veg than I can remember. Dining at Nimmo Bay features that perfect combination of top-notch service and relaxed friendliness, thanks to Hayley Van Wieren.
And while you’re enjoying your meal, enjoy the views from the floating dining room!
As the sun goes down, relax with a drink by the fire pit on the dock, and cuddle up in a Nimmo Bay fleece blanket before you retire to your two-bedroom chalet, either near the hot tub and waterfall, or looking out over the 18-foot tides of Nimmo Bay.
This is my kind of wilderness.
Read more about what you can expect at Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort.
Article and photos by Johanna Read, with the exception of:
– whales, bear, paddle boarders: by Jeremy Koreski, courtesy of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort
– rainbow: by Jim Feltman