Skip to Content

Nimmo Bay Resort, a Wilderness Lodge in the Great Bear Rainforest

Imagine your favorite zoo and your favorite aquarium smashed together side by side. Take away all the walls and all the people, then add a stunning wilderness backdrop. Now throw in a quaint resort and a spectacular helicopter ride. That should give you a pretty good idea of what it’s like to visit Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort in British Columbia, Canada.

Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort in British Columbia
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort in British Columbia

Nimmo Bay is a floating lodge on the edge of two worlds. Behind is the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest in the world: The Great Bear Rainforest. In front lies the inland fjords of the wild Pacific Ocean. Together, they hold nearly all of North America’s most spectacular land and marine animals, from grizzly bears, wolves, and cougars to humpback whales, killer whales, and dolphins. There are very few places like it on the planet.

Welcome to Nimmo Bay, where orcas and bears live side by side
Welcome to Nimmo Bay, where orcas and bears live side by side

After spending two and a half months traveling around North America’s wildlife hotspots, Nimmo Bay Resort was the grand finale on our American Safari. We had high hopes of seeing wolves, whales, and bears all from one location. And even though one of these creatures did not end up cooperating, we did have many other great surprises along the way.

Our wildlife sightings at Nimmo Bay Resort

On our first day, Nimmo’s owner Fraser Murray took us out to look for whales. We boarded The Dance, a comfortably enclosed 12-seat touring boat, straight from the dock in front of the lodge and entered a world of criss-crossing bays and narrow inlets weaving between mountainous forested islands. Like a taxi driver on the back streets of New York City, Fraser knows every turn and nook and cranny of this marine maze, having been guiding here since he was eight years old. I searched the hills carefully but found no sign of human development except the occasional floating house tied to shore. There are no roads leading to this part of the world. The only access is by boat, float plane, or helicopter. But at this time of year, early October, we were the only humans to be seen in any direction.

Nimmo Bay Resort, Where the Great Bear Rainforest runs into the wild Pacific Ocean
Where the Great Bear Rainforest runs into the wild Pacific Ocean

Fraser navigated us to one of the larger open bays in the direction of Vancouver Island where the wind stirred up the waves into a choppy mess. “Full breach! Right there!” Fraser shouted pointing straight ahead at our first humpback whale sighting. We would become very familiar with Fraser’s enthusiastic exclamations that day. Even after all these years, his child-like excitement still takes control of him when he’s showing guests the amazing creatures in his corner of the world.

A humpback whale breaching next to a fishing boat during a Nimmo Bay whale watching tour
A humpback whale breaching next to a fishing boat during a Nimmo Bay whale watching tour

Suddenly it seemed we were surrounded by whales. In all directions there were blows, backs surfacing, tails slapping the surface, fins in the air, and yes, full-grown humpback whales leaping clear out of the water in full breach. It was an incredible spectacle. What made the moment even more special was that we were not surrounded by other whale-watching boats. Though we did glimpse the occasional fishing boat in the distance, not a single tour boat made an appearance. We had this world-class whale show entirely to ourselves.

A humpback whale heading for the sky
A humpback whale heading for the sky

There were none of the nagging feelings of guilt that I experience in crowded whale-watching areas. These whales were not being chased or harassed or overpowered with propeller noise. They were simply going about their business, which on this day seemed to be – having a lot of fun. We also witnessed a humpback “gape-feeding” or surfacing from beneath a fish bait ball with his ridiculously huge mouth wide open. It was my first time every seeing such a behavior and it was definitely the highlight of my day.

A humpback whale "gape feeding" with his mouth wide open and showing his huge tongue and baleen!
A humpback whale “gape feeding” with his mouth wide open and showing his huge tongue and baleen!

On the way back we passed large noisy Steller Sea Lion colonies where massive bulls bellowed and roared at each other, while their smaller female counterparts lounged upon the rocky islets.

some of the great bear rainforest wildlife
A large male Steller Sea Lion roars while the females look on.

We caught brief glimpses of tiny Harbor Porpoises which grow to be no more than five or six feet long.

A shy Harbor Porpoise makes a cameo appearance near Nimmo Bay in British Columbia
A shy Harbor Porpoise makes a cameo appearance

The waters around us were filled with oceanic birds. Gulls perched on floating logs, while swarms of Murres, Guillemots, Red-necked Phalaropes and Rhinoceros Auklet paddled the surface. Swirling clouds of Cormorants squawked noisily beside the soaring rock faces of their nesting cliffs.

Mergansers and gulls squabble over a perching log
Mergansers and gulls squabble over a perching log

We floated slowly past groups of cryptically-colored Harbor Seals, Fraser’s personal favorite. They lolled about on low rocks and peeked out of the water with their cute puppy dog faces.

spotted Harbor Seals blend in well with their haul out rocks near Nimmo Bay
spotted Harbor Seals blend in well with their haul out rocks near Nimmo Bay

But the highlight of our marine mammal sightings was definitely the day we encountered the transient Killer Whales (aka Orcas). There appeared to be about 5 in the group, including a large male with an incredibly tall dorsal fin, probably taller than me. They sliced back and forth across the surface as though they were hunting, mere feet away from the steep rocky shorelines that plummet into the deep inlets. It was a great honor to watch them, as they had only made one other appearance near Nimmo Bay that year.

The fin of a male orca is substantially taller than the female's!
The dorsal fin of a male Orca (or Killer Whale)  is substantially taller than the female’s!

Land animals proved to be a bit trickier. The impenetrable forest stands like a wall at the water’s edge, a mossy mix of old growth cedars and deadfall giants lying in tangled piles upon a thin layer of spongy soil that clings tenaciously to the stony slopes. Nimmo has a hiking trail that winds through the jungle along the edge of the bay and it’s a great place to immerse yourself in the beauty of this ancient habitat. But to safely view the forest’s largest creatures we return to the sea, this time in Nimmo’s smaller boat, the Danny Boy. At each low tide, large expanses of rocky beach and tidal mudflat are exposed, creating excellent feeding opportunities for bears. Black Bears patrol the shore, tipping over rocks and slurping up the crabs that scurry away.

Black bears search for crabs beneath rocks at low tide in Big Nimmo Bay
Black bears search for crabs beneath rocks at low tide in Big Nimmo Bay

Grizzly Bears also make appearances along the waters edge. Another guest at the lodge, Mark Lender (writer & photographer for NPR’s Living on Earth) had a good look at one less than a mile from the resort. Generally, visitors have their best odds of seeing grizzlies on Nimmo’s inland helicopter tours (see below). As for Wolves, we tried and tried but to no avail. A wolf had made an appearance on the shoreline near Nimmo just two weeks earlier, but the fellow stubbornly refused to emerge during our visit. Ah well. Next time.

Our favorite moments were spent boating and hiking and kayaking around the river mouth in Big Nimmo Bay, where spawning salmon fill the channels and their half-eaten carcasses litter the forest floor.

Salmon spawning channel in Big Nimmo Bay
Salmon spawning channel in Big Nimmo Bay

This is the main food source for black bears and grizzly bears at this time of the year, and for the numerous Bald Eagles and Ravens which call from the tree tops over head. The forest here pulses with life and energy and it is a thrill to walk the well-worn bear highways that wind through the dark magical woods and to watch the salmon carry out their astounding cycle of life, death, and re-birth beneath the shade of these mighty trees.

A bald eagle perching above the salmon spawning channels in Nimmo Bay
A bald eagle perching above the salmon spawning channels in Nimmo Bay

We placed our camera trap here along the bear trails and captured dozens of images of black bears and their cubs, as well as bald eagles feeding, and even a few pine martens!

My favorite surprise of the trip was the incredible abundance of spectacular underwater invertebrates that I had never before seen. There were mountains of bright purple Ochre Sea Stars alongside huge Sunflower Stars with up to 16 legs.

In the open waters we saw beautiful jellyfish of all colors, shapes and sizes including the largest species in the world: the Lion’s Mane Jelly. Their tentacles can grow to be longer than the length of a blue whale, and one of the individuals we filmed had a body the size of a garbage can lid! In another sheltered spot we saw dozens of California Sea Cucumbers which look like bright red foot-long pickles covered with big orange spikes. And in one particularly peaceful shallow lagoon, with a native name that translates ironically to “Lifeless Lagoon”, we saw the most amazing assortment of underwater creatures.  There were Dungeness Crabs and Stone Crabs and Hermit Crabs, there were starfish galore, but my favorites were the Nudibranchs.

Snorkeling at Nimmo Bay
What the heck is a Nudibranch you ask? Find out at Nimmo Bay Resort!

Nudibranchs are a group of whimsical-looking sea slugs, often ornately colored and decorated in the most unlikely ways. I’d never seen one outside of an aquarium before, but here we saw them by the dozens. We saw the flamboyant Giant Nudibranchs in red and in white, we saw the dazzling Alabaster Nudibranchs waving their silvery tipped lobes, and most numerous were the alien-looking Hooded Nudibranchs with their bizarre satellite dish heads. I filmed an underwater timelapse of Hooded Nudibranchs feeding and in it you can see the incredible variety of life that frequent these waters.

The Lodge

The cabins at Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort
The cabins at Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort

Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is a luxury destination. This is not your run of the mill fishing lodge. Here you get a beautiful cabin to yourself overlooking the water.

One of the nine luxury cabins at Nimmo Bay Resort
One of the nine luxury cabins at Nimmo Bay Resort

You get three amazing meals a day prepared by excellent chefs. You drink well, dine well, and relax in a hot tub next to a waterfall.

Outdoor hot tub by a waterfall
Hot tub next to a rainforest waterfall anyone?

And in the evening you watch the stars come up while chatting by the fire on a floating dock.

The floating fire dock in front of Nimmo Bay lodge
The floating fire dock in front of Nimmo Bay resort

And the kicker is, you get to go for rides in helicopters. Thanks to the magic of helicopter travel you can sip wine on top of a glacier, have a picnic next to an unspoilt salmon stream in the center of the Great Bear Rainforest next to grizzly bears, and you can watch the sun set as you hover over the snowy peaks of nearby Mount Stephens. If you’ve never ridden in a helicopter before, you’ll discover that it’s even better than all those IMAX movies where you fly over rugged mountain tops.

Take a helicopter tour of the Great Bear Rainforest at Nimmo Bay
Searching for grizzly bears by helicopter at Nimmo Bay

You don’t even need to bring your own outdoor gear. Nimmo Bay staff will outfit you with all the equipment you need, from waders, to boots, to foul weather gear and wool socks. And when you come back on a rainy or chilly day, you’ll be thrilled to change out in the super-heated dry room.

Sure, you can still partake in some world-class fishing at Nimmo Bay (they only allow catch and release), but there are plenty of other activities beside wildlife watching to keep you entertained. You can go for a paddle in a kayak, take a yoga class, get a massage, play pool in the billiard lounge, cruise on a paddle board, do some guided rock climbing, or snorkel a lagoon. That is, if you find time between all the whale and bear-watching.

Paddle boarding in the Great Bear rainforest
Take out one of Nimmo Bay’s paddle boards and maybe Fraser’s dog Neepah will join you!

The Verdict

Not surprisingly, Nimmo Bay was our favorite place we stayed during our three month North American Safari. Truthfully we were a bit flabbergasted by the prices when we first looked them up online, but once we added up all the services provided, a large private cabin, three gourmet meals a day including alcohol, guided private whale watching and bear watching tours every day, all the resort’s included amenities and activities and equipment, transportation from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, top-notch service from Nimmo’s staff, and even helicopter tours with some packages, we realized that it was actually a fair price.

Enjoy your morning coffee at the floating deck of Nimmo Bay resort.
It’s not often you get to dine in a floating lodge in the middle of the wilderness.

Nimmo Bay provides a unique product, a chance to experience the remote pristine wilderness of the Great Bear Rainforest in a personal way and to live comfortably in the process. We would certainly go back again and we hope to do so soon. To learn more about Nimmo Bay, visit their website Nimmo Bay Resort.

Nimmo Bay at dusk

Experience the Great Bear Rainforest while staying at Nimmo Bay, a luxury resort. Go whale watching, bear watching, snorkeling in the Great Bear Sea, kayaking, heli hiking! Explore the canadian wilderness at Nimmo Bay. #Wilderness #Lodge #BritishColumbia #Canada

Disclosure: Our lodging was generously provided by Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, but the opinions expressed within this article are entirely our own.

Cristina Garcia

Zoologist and wildlife photographer. She has worked in the field with jackals, wolves, cheetahs, & leopards. She serves on the Board of Directors of SEE Turtles, a non-profit sea turtle conservation organization.

Read her posts at Travel For Wildlife and see more of her work at Truly Wild, & Our Wild Yard.

Kelly Stilwell

Tuesday 14th of August 2018

Your photos are absolutely stunning! I'll be visiting in October and can't wait, especially after reading about your experience!

cristina garcia

Tuesday 14th of August 2018

Hi Kelly!

I am so glad you'll be able to experience Nimmo, its people, and its wildlife! Such an incredible place. Enjoy! - Cristina

Ted Wrenches

Thursday 17th of November 2016

Hi, when do you recommend that I take a trip to Nimmo Bay? The summer months or middle of winter?

cristina garcia

Tuesday 22nd of November 2016

Hi Ted,

Nimmo Bay is not open during winter. We went in the fall and it was fabulous. If you are looking for wildlife, I would go in september, when the bears are searching for salmon. But I would check with the guys at Nimmo first to make sure. - Cristina


Saturday 14th of March 2015

Wonderful pictures.


Monday 11th of November 2013

Wow! This place looks incredible! I want to be in that hot tub next to the waterfall right now! And I can't even believe all the wildlife it's possible to see here.

Cristina Garcia

Monday 11th of November 2013

I couldn't believe it either! Nimmo Bay is a fantastic place to relax and enjoy the wilderness.

Mary @ Green Global Travel

Monday 11th of November 2013

Wow! I am absolutely floored! I can't imagine a detail that would make this more perfect! Extraordinary wilderness, amazing wildlife (that humpback whale image! incredible!) and a serene hot tub next to a rainforest waterfall! And that doesn't even began to touch on how extraordinary Nimmo Bay really is! Thank you for sharing it with us!

Cristina Garcia

Monday 11th of November 2013

One of my favorite moments was kayaking. I loved to disappear by myself in those little bays and listen to sound of nature. It was a bliss!