By Bernhard Krieger
The 18th-century explorer George Vancouver hated the fjords north of Canada’s Sunshine Coast. There was hardly any wind to sail and the water was too deep to anchor. Frustrated, the naval officer wrote in his logbook that he had seen “not a single prospect that was pleasing to the eye.”
Vancouver gave the newly discovered arm of the Pacific the name Desolation Sound. In reality, it is a natural paradise. And while the Canadian metropolis named after the explorer – and the offshore Vancouver Island – are overrun in summer, the 180km-long Sunshine Coast is relatively quiet.
Those who don’t fly in from Vancouver with a seaplane or the propeller planes of Pacific Coastal Airlines need a car, two ferries and five hours.
“Seclusion can be an advantage,” says Lance Holroyd with a smile. He is also a captain. But unlike George Vancouver, he loves the fjords north of the towns of Sechelt, Powell River and Lund, which reach deep into the country like the tentacles of a huge octopus.
“When we have bathing weather in midsummer, it’s full of boats. Otherwise it’s incredibly peaceful,” says Holroyd at the wheel of the Pacific Bear. The fishing cutter glides smoothly out of the harbour of Lund. Orcas, humpback whales and seals can often be seen here.
Waterfalls cascade over steep rock walls, dense forests climb the flanks of mighty mountains. What was Captain Vancouver thinking back then?
About 1,000 photos and three hours later, the Pacific Bear moors at Homfray Lodge. The log cabin at the foot of Mount Denman, almost 2,000m high, is a home port for Pacific Coastal Cruises, and it’s located in a true wilderness.
A maximum of 16 passengers jump from the ship onto the jetty of the lodge, where kayaks for paddling tours and bigger boats for whale-and bear-watching trips lie moored. The orcas sometimes approach to within a few metres of the rubber dinghies, and the grizzlies also come pretty close on land, especially in the Toba Inlet.
The observation area at the shimmering green Klite River is one of the newest in British Columbia. It is run by First Nations, as the original inhabitants of Canada call themselves.
“There are four observation towers along the river,” says Alesta, who has First Nations ancestry. She works as a bear guide to subsidise her studies on Vancouver Island.
As soon as she and her group have positioned themselves on a bridge over the Klite River, the first grizzly appears, wading comfortably through the shallow water. “It’s a medium-sized female,” says Alesta.
Two hundred metres downstream, we meet the bear again. Right in front of one of the towers, she skilfully pulls one salmon after the other out of the river with her mighty paws. “The bears need 20,000 calories a day, which means catching up to 20 fish,” explains Alesta.
On the Sunshine Coast, there are many guides like her who bring visitors closer to nature and culture. The Sunshine Coast has more artists per capita than any other region in Canada. The work of the totem pole carvers is particularly impressive.
The charming name of the Sunshine Coast has nothing to do with the First Nations. In 1914, a settler pioneer came up with the name “Sunshine Belt” as a slogan to lure summer vacationers to the area.
When a ferry connection was established in 1951, the company took up the idea and promoted the new destination as the Sunshine Coast. The grumpy Captain Vancouver would probably never have thought of that. – dpa