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NEW! British Columbia

Birds & Bears on the North-western Frontier!

2025 Dates
  • 18 Aug - 02 Sep 2025
Duration16 Days
2025 Price
£8495 pp
£1530 single supplement. Deposit £1200

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

2026 Dates
  • 15 Aug - 30 Aug 2026
Duration16 Days
2026 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size10
Secure your place with an initial low deposit of £500pp! Second deposit payable 12 months prior to departure. 

Arguably one of the most spectacular places to view wildlife in the Americas, the coastline and islands off Canada’s Pacific coast are a land where superlatives quickly become obsolete! At 460 km long and 100 km wide and brimming with wildlife, Vancouver Island will be the main focus on this gentle paced holiday and it is home to iconic wildlife such as Black Bear, Orca, Grey Whale, Steller Sea Lion and Sea Otter – also known as the "Vancouver Big 5"! This is a tour where mammals are important targets just like the birds, we enjoy several boat trips and hope to see Grizzly Bear, Humpback Whale, Dall’s Porpoise and California Sea Lion too.

Birding around the coasts, flocks of breeding plumaged Surf and White-winged Scoter, Harlequin Duck, Pacific Diver and Red-necked Grebe are likely. On a dedicated pelagic trip, we hope to see Black-footed Albatross, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklet, Marbled Murrelet, Tufted Puffin and other seabirds. Birds on the beaches will include huge flocks of migrant waders, with Surfbird, Black Turnstone, Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorant and numerous gull species such as Glaucous-winged Gull on rockier coasts.

The protected woodlands, regional and national parks are home to some brilliant west coast species such as Anna’s Hummingbird, Hairy and Pileated Woodpecker, Chestnut-backed and Black-capped Chickadee, Hutton’s Vireo, Western Flycatcher and a range of American wood warblers. We hope to find Red-breasted Sapsucker, plus high elevation forest dwellers such as Canada Jay, Sooty Grouse and Northern Pygmy Owl, while species such as Bald Eagle, American Robin and Belted Kingfisher will be seen regularly. If you have always wanted to visit Canada or simply go wildlife watching on the Pacific coast for iconic species, then this is the perfect Heatherlea trip for you!

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1: Mon 18 August 2025 - UK to Vancouver
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly from London to Vancouver, likely arriving in the afternoon. There may be time for some local birding, though resting for the exciting days ahead will be the priority. We stay at an airport hotel for one night.   

Day 2: Tue 19 August - Reifel Bird Sanctuary and ferry to Victoria
Fully recovered after travelling, we visit one of Vancouver’s most well-known birding hotspots - the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary. Home to a wide variety of resident and migrant bird species, Anna’s Hummingbird, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker and Bewick’s Wren will be among our early targets. Wildfowl and allies around the pools might include Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Virginia Rail and Belted Kingfisher with a broad selection of migrant waders likely in estuarine habitats. Sandhill Crane and raptors such as Northern Harrier may be seen around the fields, and other passerines on our first day might include Rufous Hummingbird, Warbling Vireo, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing and our first American wood warblers such as Common Yellowthroat, Yellow and Myrtle Warbler.

After spending some time getting familiar with the local avifauna, we board the ferry for the 2-hour voyage across the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island. Encountering our first seabirds, we look out for Rhinoceros Auklet and Pigeon Guillemot before arriving into Victoria where we stay for the next three nights.

Days 3 & 4: Wed & Thur 20 & 21 August - Victoria
Over the next two days we explore a variety of habitats in and around Victoria, which despite being the region's capital city supports a wealth of birdlife! With many miles of coastline and an abundance of natural areas we have plenty of options. At Esquimalt Lagoon, large concentrations of gulls will keep us busy, perhaps including Glaucous-winged, Short-billed and California Gull, and we keep a keen eye out for the scarcer Western and Heermann’s Gull. Along rocky coasts we look for Black Turnstone and Surfbird, with a number of other shorebirds likely around the tidal lagoons and beaches. Inland destinations we plan to visit include Panama Flats, Uplands Park, and Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary, and among a variety of birdlife we hope to find Barred Owl, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and perhaps Red-breasted Sapsucker. Around the city reserves, Cooper’s Hawk can be especially numerous with Turkey Vulture and other raptors overhead as passage begins.

Day 5: Fri 22 August - Salt Spring Island
Transferring to Salt Spring Island on the morning ferry, we spend the rest of the day exploring this laid-back island community. Scanning from the shore, sea-duck including Surf and White-winged Scoter are likely, as are Pacific Diver and Pelagic Cormorant. We should also have time to explore a few forest trails, where we hope to find species such as Pileated Woodpecker, Hutton’s Vireo and Western Flycatcher. We stay in a hotel at the small community of Ganges for one night.

Day 6: Sat 23 August - Whale Watching boat trip and Nanaimo transfer
An exciting day, beginning with our first eagerly anticipated boat trip for marine mammals. Dedicating the morning to cruising around the Gulf Islands, we search for Orca, Dall’s Porpoise, Harbour Seal and California Sea Lion, while bird species we can expect to see include Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Rhinoceros Auklet and Pelagic Cormorant. After our morning on the water, we work our way back to Vancouver Island and take the scenic drive north to Nanaimo where we stay for one night.

Day 7: Sun 24 August - Nanaimo and transfer to Tofino
If the tides are favourable we can visit the Nanaimo River Estuary, a great location for migrating shorebirds. Least and Western Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are likely, as are hirundines which often gather here en masse before moving south. Their number may include Tree and Violet Green Swallow, while sparrow flocks on the move may contain Dark-eyed Junco, Savannah and Lincoln’s Sparrow. After lunch we begin to cross the island from east to west, making a stop at Cathedral Grove on the edge of Cameron Lake. One of the last remaining tracts of old-growth Douglas Fir Forest on Vancouver Island, walking the trail may yield Hairy Woodpecker, Stellar’s Jay, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper and Red Crossbill, while American Dipper may be found on fast-flowing streams. We then continue to Tofino where we stay for the next three nights.

Day 8: Mon 25 August – Whales and Black Bears
Focusing on some of British Columbia’s most iconic mammals, we take a boat trip starting around inshore waters for Black Bear. Coming down to quiet shorelines and tidal pools to feed, viewing from a boat offshore can often yield good views of the bears without disturbing them as they fatten up for the autumn. Being so rich in marine biodiversity, the Tofino/Ucluelet area is also great for cetaceans, Grey and Humpback Whale being the two species we hope to connect with today. Naturally we lookout for birds too, Tufted Puffin and Marbled Murrelet both likely on the water, with Black Oystercatcher, Wandering Tatler, Surfbird and Black Turnstone perhaps present on the shores and islands.

Day 9: Tue 26 August – Tofino Pelagic boat trip
Another day brings another boat trip, and this time we venture further out to the continental shelf at Clayouqout Canyon with pelagic seabirds in mind. Sooty Shearwater may well be our first tubenose as we reach open water, and once at the shelf we are likely to see Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Fork-tailed and Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Grey and Red-necked Phalarope, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklet, Marbled Murrelet and Tufted Puffin. Every pelagic trip is different, and if lucky we may encounter any of the regularly recorded skua species, Sabine’s Gull or Arctic Tern. These waters also have a growing reputation for rarities, with Short-tailed and Laysan Albatross, South Polar Skua, Scripp’s and Guadalupe Murrelet just some of the species seen on previous trips at this time of year. While in deeper water we have chances of cetaceans too, and we keep a sharp eye out for Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion around the rocky coasts and islets. After most of the day at sea, we arrive back in Tofino mid-afternoon and enjoy a relaxing evening in this picturesque west-coast town.

Day 10: Wed 27 August - Pacific Rim NP and transfer to Campbell River
Working our way slowly along the west coast, we visit hot-spots for migrant waders and gulls such as the beaches within the Pacific Rim National Park. Anything can turn up, and among the more regular Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling, Western and Least Sandpiper we look out for Baird’s and Semipalmated Sandpiper plus Bonaparte’s Gull. We also spend time birding at higher elevations today with hopes of seeing Sooty Grouse and Northern Pygmy-Owl, though both can be notoriously tricky to find with some luck needed! Late afternoon, we drive to Campbell River where we stay for two nights.

Day 11: Thur 28 August - Grizzly Bears
Planning to spend the full day out the water, we slowly navigate local rivers in search of Grizzly Bear. To get to the best places for this iconic predator please be prepared for a long day in the field, with an early morning departure from Campbell River and not returning until the evening! The bears here take advantage of spawning salmon traveling up the rivers, so we have good chances of success. We will also be joined by a local guide from the Homalco First Nation, to learn about the traditional culture and historical significance of this region.

Day 12: Fri 29 August – Campbell River coast and transfer to Nanaimo
Leaving Campbell River and working our way south along the coast towards Nanaimo, we make multiple birding stops along the way. On the beaches, we hope to see migrating shorebirds while in sheltered bays, Surf and White-winged Scoter, Harlequin Duck, Great Northern and Pacific Diver, Red-necked and Slavonian (Horned) Grebe, Double-crested, Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorant plus a variety of auks will perhaps feature. Around rockier coasts, we look out for groups of Steller Sea Lion if we haven’t already seen them, with Great Blue Heron likely in the same habitat. Large numbers of gulls concentrate in this area, flocks of Bonaparte’s, Short-billed, Ring-billed, California, Glaucous-winged and plenty of hybrids testing our identification skills (and patience!). After a good day birding, we stay at Nanaimo for one night.

Day 13: Sat 30 August - Nanaimo and ferry to Vancouver
We will spend a few hours in the morning exploring more regional parks and marshes near Nanaimo, on the lookout for any species we may have missed. The ferry to the mainland leaves in the afternoon, giving us one last chance to see Steller Sea Lion and seabirds before we arrive in Vancouver, where we stay at Richmond for three nights.

Days 14 & 15: Sun 31 August & Mon 1 September – Birding Vancouver
There are lots of great birding sites in Vancouver, and we specifically look for species as yet unseen on our tour. While keeping these two days largely flexible, we will certainly plan to visit Boundary Bay in Delta. A mecca for waders, thousands may be viewed feeding on the mudflats and rarer species (yet recorded here frequently...) have included American Avocet, Willet, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel (Hudsonian), Short and Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Snipe, Sharp-tailed, Pectoral and Spotted Sandpiper. Wildfowl will be numerous too, with Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall and Pintail all likely, and with such an abundance of prey, raptors including Northern Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine are attracted to the area too. Cypress Provincial Park is another likely destination, with chances of higher elevation specialists such as Canada Jay, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Northern Pygmy-Owl plus raptors migrating over the hills. Wherever we go on these two days, the birds we see will be a great way to conclude our tour!

Day 16: Tue 2 September – Fly back to UK
We say our goodbyes to British Columbia, transferring to Vancouver airport for our international flight back to the UK.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • return flight from London – Vancouver, baggage up to airline included limit.
  • Accommodation and all meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • ground transportation in comfortable min-bus.
  • the services of Heatherlea leaders.
  • All boat trips and ferry journeys.
  • Entrance fees to parks and reserves.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more...

Free Field Guide! - Sibley Birds West is included in your holiday price. One copy per room booked.

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • travel to and from departure airport before and after holiday
  • incidental tips, expenses of a personal nature including drinks and personal insurance.

More holiday information:

Accommodation is in hotels or lodges with all rooms en suite. Some of the lodges are remote, and have simple-style rooms. All are spacious, have en-suite facilities and are very comfortable to a good standard.
Food is usually served as a buffet, with a wide choice. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. There may be some uphill track and road walking, though generally an average level of fitness is required.
Weather will be mixed, with rain, cool winds just as likely as blazing sunshine! It will be the end of the summer in British Columbia, but on the coasts the temperatures are cooler, usually ranging from 15 - 22ºC. We can expect a bit of everything, and we suggest bringing waterproofs, good quality footwear and hats and gloves for boat trips.
Insects There are biting insects, though not usually as a major problem.
Group size is restricted to 10 clients maximum.
Flights are direct from London. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.

Your Leader:

Gavin McKinnon: Gavin has a passion for birding and also enjoys sharing his love of birds and nature with others. He has made it his mission to create exceptional birding experiences for birders of all levels. From an early age, Gavin developed a deep fascination for birds after he visited Point Pelee National park on a family holiday. Since then, he has traveled extensively in Canada and to numerous locations in the tropics and around the globe in search of unique birding opportunities. In addition to leading tours, Gavin is actively involved in the local birding community, serving as a volunteer eBird reviewer. We are delighted to welcome Gavin to the Heatherlea team for this trip! Gavin will be joined by another from the UK based guiding team on this tour. 

Gavin McKinnon



Other birding and wildlife holidays in Canada

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in the Americas?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248